Twelve weeks on: An update on the RUH Carer Hub

Some Carers Hub cakes made for our launch in September
Some Carers Hub cakes made for our launch in September

Twelve weeks ago, we officially opened the Carer Hub at the RUH in Bath. The Hub is located in the atrium of the hospital and is manned by trained volunteers every weekday. The Hub is a great way to meet new carers and inform people about what we offer at BANES Carer’s Centre.

Many people who enter the RUH leave with a devastating diagnosis that will change their lives forever – but what of the loved ones who accompanied them? There is so much support for people receiving bad news, but often their family members can feel lost, confused or lonely. They may enter the RUH carefree and leave as a carer, unsure of what to do next.

The Carer Hub is there to help.

Volunteers at the Carer Hub can talk to people becoming carers for the first time about what support is on offer for them in BANES. They can also signpost people to external organisations and provide a network of support for a carer who may feel lost and alone. Additionally, the Hub demonstrates the RUH’s commitment to helping carers and making sure they feel supported.

The Hub has faced some challenges – mainly that people assume it is just another seating area rather than a designated space for carers! However, the Hub is becoming increasingly popular with carers using the hospital, as it is a permanent place for carers to visit us if they need to. Volunteers have also said they’ve had many powerful and poignant interactions with carers. This is a great encouragement and we hope the success of the Carer Hub increases even more in 2016.

Growing Creativity – Our Young Carers ‘Arts Award’ Evening

The logo for the nationwide 'Arts Award' project our Young Carers are taking part in
The logo for the nationwide ‘Arts Award’ project our Young Carers are taking part in

Last night was my first experience of our ‘Arts Award’ – an after-school club for young carers held in our very own Woodlands building. We run two arts award clubs on a fortnightly basis, one for children aged 5-11 and one for young adult carers aged 14-17. This gives young carers the chance to get away from their caring role and enjoy a creative space with other kids who are just like them.

First up was a manic half hour where the children worked on their art books; some drew pictures while others stuck in photos. That sounds simple enough, but with seven of them all working on different things and shouting at each other it got hectic pretty fast! Then we had a quick snack before delving into our main activity: a photo quiz.

Steve (our young carers’ officer) had taken pictures of objects around our Woodlands building and the kids had to take exactly the same pictures, trying to copy the original image as close as possible. Every single detail had to match, which was hard to achieve when half of them were bouncing around the place! It really challenged our young carers to find the objects, achieve the right angle and stand still enough to take a non-blurry pic. Finally, we had a quick run through of the pictures, chose a winner, and the kids went home happy, leaving us with the clearing up!

Despite the mayhem had such a fun time, and the children clearly got a lot out of their activities – it’s so great to put a smile on the faces of young children going through a really hard time. Can’t wait till the next one!

“Show someone they’re loved this Christmas”: The new John Lewis ad

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The heart-warming message of the John Lewis Christmas advert

Some people may start the festive season as soon as September sets in, but many only get into the Christmas spirit once the new John Lewis ad has been released.

A week ago, the big day arrived.

The advert centres on a little girl who spots the man on the moon through her telescope. She sees that he is alone and wants to do something for him for Christmas, so she sends him a present: a telescope so that he can see earth, and most importantly the girl who has been thinking of him this whole time.

John Lewis have said that the ad aims to highlight the hardship of one million elderly people who go for more than a month without talking to a friend, relative or neighbour.

These elderly people do face extreme loneliness, and for carers the daily struggle can be even worse. Although they may communicate with the person they look after, 83% of carers say they feel isolated due to their caring role. The ad reminds people to “show someone they’re loved” at Christmas, encouraging us to remember those who won’t be surrounded by friends and family.

Though this man on the moon is not a carer, he faces incredible isolation, something the 6.5 million carers in the UK face every day. So we ask you; the next time you see the John Lewis ad, think of the carers who may feel like they are alone on the moon.

Young Carer takes time out for herself: Leeanne Roberts

Young Carer Leeanne with her dad Ray

Young carer Leeanne Roberts has been looking after her Dad, Ray, since he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Leeanne, with her mum and brother, care for Ray as a family. Through the Time for Change programme, which aims to help young adult carers to improve their health and wellbeing, Leeanne has been working with the Carers’ Centre Community Activators. “I feel like my health has improved since I started working with Jane [Harvey, Community Activator]. I have been walking a lot more and am just more active.”

The Community Activators programme looks at ways to improve carers’ health and wellbeing, offering health checks and advice about how to balance caring with an independent life. “Jane went through ways that I could improve my fitness, she got me involved with Passport to Health which allows me to go to the gym and exercise. I am feeling healthier and better about myself, my confidence is getting a bit better too. The best thing for me is it gets me out of the house, and I have someone to talk to about the things that I’m worried about.”

Leeanne is also making use of the breaks offered by the Centre: “My mum and I have put our names down to go on a relaxation break to the Thermae Spa to have a bit of a break. I think we both need it!”

Leeanne is one of the amazing Young Carers supported by the Carer’s Centre in BANES. To find out what our Young Carers get up to, follow @YoungCarersBNES on Twitter.

Autumn Craft Fayre 2015

Some of the adorable items featured at this weekend's Craft Fayre
Some of the adorable items featured at this weekend’s Craft Fayre

Our Woodlands centre in Bath was the place to be this weekend as we held our Autumn Craft Fayre. Despite the horrendous weather we had a good turnout, with many visitors enjoying our Carers Centre garden, eating lovely homemade cakes and buying artisan arts and crafts. The gifts on offer ranged from homemade chutneys and jams to hand-crafted cards, knitted jumpers to painted glass, and there were even some pet reindeers made out of wood!

We also had our own stall, selling beautiful arts and crafts our carers have completed on breaks and activities with us. These included our Christmas cards, which featured designs created by our Carers For Each Other group. We even held a raffle, giving out some fabulous prizes which put a smile on everyone’s face. Gifts included a festive cookbook, a meal for two at The Porter, and a voucher for Hotel Chocolat – Thanks to all businesses that provided these wonderful prizes.

The Craft Fayre helped to raise over £500, a fantastic result we are all thrilled with!! This means we can continue to support carers and give them the breaks they deserve. The Fayre was particularly special as it was held in our now purchased Woodlands building! We are so proud to have achieved this as it means we can secure a permanent place for carers. All in all it was a great success; thank you to all the staff, businesses and volunteers for taking part.

“I didn’t see myself as a Carer, I was just Mum”: Becky’s Story

Becky (middle) collecting her 'Unsung Heroes' award at our Celebrating Carers ceremony
Becky (middle) collecting her ‘Unsung Heroes’ award at our Celebrating Carers ceremony

Last week, Bath & North East Somerset Carers Centre held our Annual Celebrating Carers award ceremony, which recognises the huge contribution and sacrifice that unpaid carers make to look after their loved ones.

One category was ‘Unsung Heroes’, which awards carers who we feel deserve special recognition for their hard work and bravery in overcoming challenges in their lives. One Unsung Hero was Becky Belben, one of the 200 parent carers supported by the carers centre, and carer to her children with additional needs.

“I didn’t see myself as a carer – I was just mum,” Becky said. But with her two children, Taylor, 4, and Drew, 6, diagnosed with autism, her responsibilities are much more complex than the regular parental stresses.

“I have worked with children my whole life, so I thought, of course I can handle my own children. They are highly anxious, emotional children, but despite it being so demanding I was embarrassed, almost, to ask for help.”

After little success with another agency, Becky decided to give the Carers’ Centre a go, and made an appointment with Senior Carers’ Support Officer Lydia.

“She was just brilliant”, Becky says. “She made me feel completely at ease, and she told me I was doing really well – which I really needed to hear, at the time.”

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is not knowing what the future holds.

“The future has a big question mark over it at the moment, but we just take things day by day, week by week, really. We don’t know where we’re going to be in a year’s time. But having someone who I can email or text and ask questions, who can take some of the things off my massive to-do list, and just say ‘let me handle this,’ is a real lifeline.”

Empowering carers to recognise their role, and feel confident enough to seek help and put themselves first is one of the key missions of the Carers’ Centre. If you’re caring for someone you love and need support, contact us free on 0800 0388 885.

Celebrating Carers 2015

Group ShotWe celebrated local carers at with our annual awards ceremony, Celebrating Carers last week. Hosted by the BBC’s Ali Vowles, the evening recognised carers, businesses, volunteers and community partners who have supported carers or us as an organisation over the last year. The event was generously sponsored by Bath solicitors Stone King, with additional sponsorship from Minuteman Press, Moneywise and Gerrard Financial Consulting.

Among the winners was Tracey Seymour, who recently appeared on ITV’s Lorraine. Her husband Paul was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 54 and Tracey has become a proactive member of the community raising awareness of this disease.

Young carers were also recognised with awards for art pieces they submitted as well as ‘Young Carer of the Year’. The latter went to 17 year old Joe Lomax, who always works to make new young carers feel welcome in the service.

The volunteering team who have kept the Bath Carers’ Centre ‘One Show’ garden in good stead were awarded with Volunteering Team of the year.

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Active Lifestyles Service was awarded Partner of the Year for their work helping carers access the time and facilities for exercise and to improve their health. In 2014-15 the service saw 128 carers, and as a group they lost 150 kilos.

Chief Executive Sonia Hutchison said the event was a great way to recognise the work of carers in our community. ‘It means so much to the people who have been awarded and that makes it very special. Carers so often go unseen day to day it’s important to acknowledge them and all the things they give up for their caring role.’

Help Us Keep Our Home for Carers: Roger & Steph’s Story

Roger Bowring – A Place for Support

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Roger cares for his wife Stephanie who has scoliosis, so she has difficulty walking, and heart problems. She’s had to have operations both for her heart and mobility. Roger cares for Stephanie by making sure she has the help she needs to continue living an independent life.

‘I look after Steph, I do all the housework and cooking and help her get around.’

Roger has learning difficulties which makes it even more challenging for him as he looks after Steph.

‘We don’t know how things will be in the future, I don’t know how much longer she will be able to walk. It’s one day at a time,’ says Roger.

Thanks to the Carers’ Centre, Roger knows he has somewhere to turn to when things get too much. A place to take time out from the stress of a caring role. He volunteered to install the new garden at Woodlands, and is looking forward to working on it in the future.

‘Gardening makes me happy and feel good in myself. I will enjoy being able to get out and about and want to learn more about gardening.’ The Carers’ Centre has also supported Roger and Steph by giving them the opportunity to do things together as a couple. Woodlands will offer a dedicated place to provide more breaks for carers and their loved ones.

Help us keep our home away from home for carers – make a £5 donation to our appeal here. Even small change makes a big difference.

Why We Need Woodlands: Rosie’s Story

Rosie Cole – A Place to Relax

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Rosie & Den.

Rosie joined the Carers’ Centre six years ago when she was struggling to care for her husband Den, who has Alzheimer’s.

‘I was caring 24/7 for my husband Den, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and I had a very difficult full-time job. I had come down with a cold – just a cold – and it was just the end of the tether for me. I was absolutely exhausted.  I didn’t know what to do with Den or how to manage being unwell for a few days,’ said Rosie.

The Carers’ Centre introduced Rosie to a peer support group where she could meet people in similar situations.

‘To see other carers in those situations really reminds you that you’re not alone or isolated. People can tell you that they know about Alzheimer’s but until you’ve lived with it 24/7, you don’t know. Speaking to someone who really does understand makes all the difference,’ she said.

‘Without the Carers’ Centre I would really be struggling. Their help meant I could keep working for a much longer period of time. It kept me sane and it allowed me to have my own life,’ said Rosie.

Woodlands provides a safe space for carers to come and take time out, even if it’s just half an hour for a cup of tea or to read a book. Things that while we may take for granted, for carers can mean the difference between coping and not.

Why We Need Woodlands: Kelly’s Story

16Kelly Warren – A Place for Opportunities

20 year old Kelly has helped care for her sister, Holly, since she was five.

“Being a young carer makes you different,” she explained. “You carry a lot more responsibility and can’t go out much with your friends. I didn’t do so well at school.”

Things got more difficult for Kelly last year as her mum was diagnosed with a serious heart condition.

“Mum spent a month in the Royal United Hospital in Bath and it was difficult to see her so poorly. As well as cooking Christmas dinner for the first time by myself, I had to look after Mum and Holly. But my turkey tasted great and the Carers’ Centre gave us a hamper of lovely treats!”

Since then, Kelly has taken part in our Time for Change and Arts Award programmes at Woodlands. She has developed her skills as an artist, and now wants to use her skills to help other young carers, starting her own art club for younger ones. She has also gained support from Clive, our Employment and Training Officer, which helped her improve her CV and get a new job.

“The Carers’ Centre has helped me in lots of ways, from improving my confidence to making new friends. Woodlands is easy to get to for most people in B&NES and to have all the support under one roof is fantastic. They’ve helped me make the most of my art skills and allowed me to do more with it.”

Woodlands can give young adult carers like Kelly a place to turn to when times are tough. We’re almost at a stage where we can buy Woodlands and secure a place for carers – can you help us? Even £5 towards our goal makes a difference. Donate online here. Thank you.