This Carers Week 2020 we are joining the nation in recognising the amazing work carers throughout the UK do and highlighting the challenges they face in these uncertain times.
Every day the team at St Margaret’s are privileged to support families and carers across Somerset. Our Carer Support Coordinator Babs provides help and support to those who care for a friend or family member with a life-limiting illness. We caught up with Babs to talk about her role and how our carer support has changed since the coronavirus pandemic began…
Carer Support Coordinator, Babs
What does St Margaret’s do to support carers?
Supporting carers is an important part of the work we do. We provide support to families and carers over the phone, in the community, at outpatient appointments and on our In-patient Unit. This can be in a variety of ways, looking at their practical, emotional, or spiritual needs. Finding out what local support they have around them, what they know about and what might be available that they didn’t know about, we help them find other sources of guidance and support that will help their personal circumstances. Often, we gently help with conversations about advance care planning or planning ahead for the future and what to expect as they care for someone they love who is coming to the end of their life
St Margaret’s also hosts drop-in coffee mornings, self-management workshops and often links with Talking Cafes and GP surgeries across the county.
How has this changed during social distancing?
Due to the coronavirus pandemic our face-to-face appointments, groups and outpatient services like the Sunflower Centres have had to change to keep our patients, families and carers safe. We have faced many challenges during social distancing but still endeavour to reach our carers. Supported by our spiritual care team volunteers, I continue to contact carers as it’s so important to touch base with them and offer all the support we can. We have been adapting to use more technology to help us engage with our carers, for example I have recently joined a Live Facebook Talking Cafe in Bridgwater for a Q&A session.
Over the past few weeks St Margaret’s has created a COVID-19 Resources area on our website, which has a Carers Resources section we would encourage all carers to visit. It offers practical guidance to support them in helping their loved ones as well as videos and tips on how they look after their own wellbeing at this difficult time. We are continually adding to this and welcome any suggestions of things that carers would find helpful.
What do carers seem to be struggling with most during social distancing?
A lot of the carers I have spoken to are experiencing an increase in their caring duties, as visits from nurses and community teams are limited at this time. Some I have spoken to are shopping for a few households at a time, washing everything and then storing it for 72 hours before taking it to those they care for.
Many also feel a responsibility to shield from the outside world to keep themselves and those they care for safe, having less contact with other people. This in turn makes them feel a lot more isolated and like many miss the comfort of a hug that family and friends can bring.
What do you like about supporting carers?
I feel privileged to support carers going through the ups and downs as they care for someone with a life-limiting illness, especially now as we all cope with this pandemic and the uncertainty it brings.
Carers have had to embrace many changes and learn new skills as they shield or remain isolated. I am always amazed how they rise to the challenge, often exhausted and perhaps unable to take breaks in the way they had before – even to do the things we have all taken for granted in the past, such as meeting with a friend for a cuppa.
I must admit, I really miss meeting up in person with those carers I support across the county. I know that our regular support calls when there are so many unknowns are welcomed by the families and carers, and form part of the holistic care we provide at St Margaret’s.
Whether you are a carer, family member, friend, patient or healthcare professional to find resources and support during the coronavirus pandemic click here.