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The Good Care Series - Carers Support

In our latest collection of articles, named ‘The Good Care Series’ we will be celebrating good practice and championing high quality care and support. We will be talking with customers and colleagues to explore what good care looks like for people with different needs and in different settings across our organisation.

Carers Support

Our next articles focuses on the support we provide to unpaid Carers. A Carer is anyone who cares, unpaid for a friend or family member who is unable to cope without this support, due to disease, disability, mental illness, or addiction. Caring for someone can take a few hours a week to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Caring for a loved one can have many positive and rewarding aspects, but it can also at times be challenging and overwhelming. Carers need support to stay emotionally and physically well and maintain a life of their own.

“Janet has been a tower of strength to all of us in the carers group. She supports us through challenging times, works tirelessly to always be there for us and always makes us smile.” - Testimonial from a family carer

Promoting Rights and Wellbeing

Janet and Gloria are specialist Carers leads based within our Mental Health Services in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.

Upon referral Janet and Gloria will support the carers to complete a Carers Assessment, which the team have adapted to reflect the unique situation of those caring for someone who is facing mental health challenges. Janet (Community Support Worker based in the Community Mental Health Team) explains “This is a chance for Carers to look at themselves and reflect on all they are doing. Carers often want to protect their loved ones and sometimes do not realise the scale of the task they carry out. We work with them to create an action plan to make life more manageable.” The action plan identifies ways to support the Carer.
Gloria (Carers Champion in the Mental Health Team for Older People) explains “Many of the Carers we work with are struggling financially but may be too proud to seek help. We support them to fill in claim forms for Carers or Attendance Allowance and other benefits to support with the costs of care.”

Carers often face increased costs of living, from equipment costs to increased utility bills and costs of paying for care assistance

Gloria adds “The majority of people I work with are caring for someone living with dementia. I help families to put in place Lasting Power of Attorney, in preparation for when the person is unable to make their own decisions, helping reduce stress and concern later in the dementia journey.”

Janet facilitates a monthly Carers Support Group, she explains “The group have become a bit of an extended family and they respect and care for one another. They kept in contact with each other during the lockdowns, when we were unable to meet in person. Sadly, there is still stigma surrounding mental health and families can feel isolated. The support group offers a space where Carers can talk and feel understood. A place where they can realise that it is natural to feel cross, frustrated or upset. They begin to learn that they can’t fix their loved one and can gain the confidence needed to let go. We also arrange for guest speakers to attend the support group, from psychology to pharmacists. The more you educate Carers the easier it is for them to cope with their situation.”

The team engages with Carers to champion service improvements. They supported Carers to contribute their views towards the local Carers Strategy. They have also worked with Carers to develop resources for other Carers, including an Information Pack offering help and advice if a relative is admitted to a mental health hospital. Janet continues “We are working hard to make things better for future Carers that come along”.

Tailored Practical and Emotional Support

With caseloads that can fluctuate from anywhere between 48 and 110 Carers at any one-time. Janet explains how she adapts her approach. “People will need varied levels of contact and support. I develop an agreement with each individual, this might be one hour every week, or a phone call once a month. I’m often able to sense if they need me to step up or step down my support. Sometimes it can be something the Carer says and sometimes it can something that they do not say.”  

Gloria adds, “I support Carers of people who are over 75 or those with early onset dementia, whereas Janet supports Carers of working-age adults with mental health issues such as psychosis or depression. The needs of each group are different, so we offer different advice and support. I offer an ‘Understanding Dementia’ course to support Carers to understand the progression of dementia and how to support their loved ones through their dementia journey. People often want to do things for their loved one to help and protect them, but early intervention helps them to learn not to take over and de-skill the person.”

“Gloria has been very supportive and able to coordinate services, when required. The sessions have been therapeutic, and she helps me to maintain my role as a full-time Carer. Additionally, I am confident she will be able to mobilise resources in times of crisis, especially as we are on our own.”  Testimonial from a family carer

Establishing Trust and Confidence

Janet and Gloria provide their Social Worker colleagues with regular Carers Awareness training. The team uses the Triangle of Care Approach, as a way of involving the Carer in the support provided to individual. Gloria explains “We have been using this approach for over ten years. If you include Carers, you get more information and a better picture about what people need and what they are struggling with. This also helps us to build trusting relationships with Carers, who feel listened to and valued as expert partners in their loved one’s care.”

Janet concludes, 

“There are some Carers that I have worked with for 19 years. I always think, how would I like to be treated? I have personal experience of caring for my own family members. I try to show that I understand their fears and concerns. I share a bit about myself and show them that I am human too. It’s important to recognise the important contribution Carers make and look after them, so that they can sustain their vital role.”

Claire’s Story*

“I have been attending the support group since 2005. There are so many things Janet has supported us with over the years. I found the talks/training about the mental health issues our relatives were going through a great help.

There have been so many times when just talking with Janet helps me to decide how ‘manic or depressed’ my husband really is. When you live with someone, you can get things out of proportion or ignore warning signs by mistake.”

*name changed

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