Connecting carers with support to help them cope with the responsibilities and challenges they face
A carer got in touch with the Dudley CVS Carer Co-ordinator after being referred by her GP practice nurse. Her husband was recently discharged from hospital and had numerous admissions in the past 12 months due to respiratory illness. She was finding caring for him stressful, she wasn’t sleeping and had low mood. She didn’t want paid carers as she could cope with providing the physical and medical support that her husband needed, but she was unaware of what other support was available.
Our Carer Co-ordinator spent time with the carer to learn more about what she would like to do. We suggested that respite during the day might be useful to start with as she had never left her husband alone or with others as he hadn’t wanted her to. We also discussed the importance of her having some time to think about what she wanted to do more long term as her husband’s illness was very progressive, and to get some sleep as she was starting to feel exhausted.
We discussed her seeking referral to Mary Stevens Hospice daycare to enable her to take a break and we also made a referral to Crossroads Care and Red Cross so that she could have a few hours to herself a couple of times per week. Finally, the Carer Co-ordinator learned about her hobbies and interests and suggested activities in the local area, including the carers walk and carers meetings.
After talking to her family about the situation with her family, the carer followed up the referral to daycare and other respite to enable her to have some time to herself. She later started dancing classes and art classes with a friend who was recently bereaved and attended Carers Amble and Carers Alliance meeting.
“After caring for my husband for approximately two years without help, I was really struggling to cope. Our GP practice nurse contacted Sharon and after her initial assessment organised a home sitting service with Crossroads Care and respite at Mary Stevens Hospice. This enabled me to have free time for myself which proved to be invaluable. Sharon was always there when I needed to talk and offered advice on both emotional and financial aspects, also links and support for myself, i.e. regular walks at our local nature reserve and various classes available. She invited me to attend carers meetings where I met other people who were in the same situation as myself, I was able to express my feelings without feeling guilty, something I wasn’t able to do previously.”
Robert had a long career in the building trade and was in a loving relationship with his partner of 15 years. Unfortunately, Robert’s partner passed away very suddenly in April 2016. Around this time, Robert also lost another family member and was having to deal with the bereavement of two people very close to him. Shortly after this, Robert was diagnosed with osteoporosis, and was signed off work. Since then, Robert’s household bills spiralled out of control, as he had only been receiving Statutory Sick Pay and his partner had previously managed all of the household finances.
Robert was referred to Integrated Plus by his GP, and he started working with a Locality Link Officer. The Officer supported Robert to access a Gateway Appointment at the local Citizens Advice, so that Robert could receive help in managing his finances and debts. Citizens Advice ensured that Robert was receiving all of the benefits he was entitled to and liaised with creditors to arrange affordable payment plans for him. Through the help of Citizens Advice accessed through Integrated Plus, Robert has been able to organise his council tax, housing benefit, bank, electric and gas debts and is now making contributions to these, which he is able to afford.
Around the time that Robert’s partner passed away, Robert had also received a parking ticket. Due to the other issues taking priority at the time, this remained unpaid, and was starting to develop into a substantial amount of debt. The Officer approached the creditors and asked whether anything could be done due to the extenuating circumstances. They agreed that Robert would be able to complete a form, send this back, and they would then consider the situation. Our Locality Link Support Worker helped Robert to complete the forms. Unfortunately, the creditors refused to take into account the extenuating circumstances, and directed the Support Worker to the Local Authority. After many long conversations and emails with Dudley Council, they agreed to waive the debt, providing the original parking ticket fee was paid within 2 weeks, which was done and the matter has now been closed. Robert said that this was a ‘massive weight off my shoulders’.
Due to Robert’s diagnosis of osteoporosis, he is unable to go back to his previous job in the building trade. However, he was successful in applying for a handyman role in a nearby shopping centre. He is due to start work full time, and is looking forward to being around customers, and being in a better position financially. Robert has also been spending time with old friends, and is now in a much more positive place. Robert has said that he ‘can’t thank the Integrated Plus team enough’ and that he finally feels that ‘things are moving forward’ for him.
Last year, Dudley CVS and Healthwatch Dudley worked with Dudley CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) to explore community support to people who are living with a wide range of respiratory conditions. In June we co-hosted an event to bring local people with breathing difficulties together and hosted weekly ‘Airtime’ sessions leading to the appointment of a new coordinator in September.
Airtime provides varied and interactive weekly activities including appropriate exercise, professional support from health experts and information and advice about keeping well. People who attend have fun too and also enjoy recreational activities including bingo, quizzes, music and craft activities which has proved invaluable for people with similar conditions to come together to support each other.
One gentleman, Charlie, has been a regular participant of Airtime since December 2016. When Charlie first arrived he was incredibly anxious. He had always worked hard for a living and had to forgo this passion when he received his diagnosis which also affected his mental health. He had lost his ‘sparkle’ and was on antidepressants. He was drinking and smoking heavily as a way to ‘blot it out’.
Our Airtime Coordinator ensured that she took the time to sit down with Charlie, listen to his story and to take a non-judgmental approach to his situation. She discussed with him the many benefits of the group, ensured he felt welcome when he first joined and promised to call him later in the week to check in. The Coordinator also encouraged other, more longstanding members of the group to support to make it easier for Charlie to return each week. We felt that he would become a valued and needed member of Airtime.
The outcome was that Charlie started attending Airtime regularly and continues to do so! Charlie has stopped smoking and really reduced his alcohol consumption. Charlie has also stopped his anxiety meds which he attributes solely to Airtime giving him renewed confidence.
Charlie has become a larger than life character in the group, is helpful, positive and very involved.
Recently Charlie has taken part in the People’s Network event where he championed the benefits of the group and also relayed his own personal experience. He also took a central role in our steering group with the CCG in order to help Airtime continue, which thanks to him and others, was a success.
“If it wasn’t for this group, I’d still be on antidepressants. I have a purpose and we have a laugh. It has changed my life.” Charlie, member of Airtime