I do a bit of everything: in terms of supporting carers I offer advice over the phone, as well as visiting them at home for longer support planning sessions.
Having been a carer myself, for multiple people, I know how tough it can be, often with no reward.
This understanding enables empathy, whilst being able to discuss the challenging aspects of being a carer: they may not have acknowledged or be struggling with the more complex feelings of guilt, anger or sadness, be it with anyone else or even to themselves. A good example of this is recognising that you can’t ‘fix’ the person you care for, and that’s ok; or coping with the effects of dementia on a loved one: you end up grieving twice. Grief in itself is a whole other ballgame…
I also work with a group of carers delivering training at Bath University. We teach Social Work Students the importance of carers, how to support them and treat them as expert partners. Leading on from this, I have been out in the community for the past couple of years raising awareness of what a carer is and encouraging agencies to refer to the Carers’ Centre. The most people I spoke to was 100, but even speaking to one person is worthwhile as they will tell one person, who will tell two people, and so on.
I also manage a team of people here at the centre. This brings its own challenges, but none have sued me for distress yet so I must be doing something right…
In 2014, the Carers’ Centre was generously donated a garden from the One Show. 18 months on, the garden looks as fresh and vibrant as ever, thanks to our wonderful team of garden volunteers. The garden volunteers meet every Thursday morning to water plants, weed flower beds and ensure the garden looks inviting for carers, staff and professionals visiting the centre.
We’re thrilled to announce that the group is now being led by John Tucker, a gardening guru, who has led many gardening breaks at our Centre. John will guide gardeners through the necessary jobs and provide expert advice on how best to do the work. He has many years of experience as a gardener and deputy manager of Prior Park Garden Centre so he really knows his stuff!
Loneliness is a growing problem in the UK, with more and more elderly people facing daily isolation. AgeUK reports that more than 2 million people aged over-75 live alone and over 1 million elderly people go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. For carers, this isolation can be even worse – the Carers’ Trust say that 83% of carers feel lonely or isolated because of their caring role. The survey also found that 55% of carers felt that they were unable to get out of the house because of their caring responsibilities, while 45% can’t afford to take part in social activities.
Caring for someone day in, day out can be exhausting and emotionally draining. With few support networks for carers around and a lack of people who can empathise, carers often feel they can’t speak to anyone about their problems. We at the Carers’ Centre want to help. That’s why we’re launching our new telephone befriending programme, which should be in full swing by the end of the month.
The telephone befriending service will enable volunteers to speak to carers on the phone every few weeks to see how they’re doing. Andy Graham, our volunteering co-ordinator and lead on the project, has been training our volunteers in telephone befriending. They will start this work in the coming weeks, to the delight of many carers. “Befriending has been shown to be a very helpful, very simple solution to ongoing isolation and loneliness”, Andy says. Many of the befrienders are carers themselves, which we’re hoping will bring a more personal touch to the service. We can’t wait for this project underway and see how many carers we can help.
If you’d like to be a volunteer befriender and help a carer in need, please call the Carers’ Centre on 01761 431388.
News and views from Bath North East Somerset Carers Centre