Carers’ Week 2020: Hospices support carers during Covid-19

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.
Vanessa, physiotherapist at St Clare Hospice

This week is Carers’ Week, which this year takes the theme ‘Making Caring Visible’, highlighting the vital role these often overlooked people play in society.

New research has found there are an estimated 13.6 million unpaid carers in the UK, representing 26 per cent of the population; a figure that has risen significantly since the coronavirus outbreak began.

According to Carers UK, a third of informal carers are aged 65 and over, while the number of those aged 75 and over has increased by 35 per cent since 2001.  Meanwhile those aged 54 to 65 are often looking after grandchildren as well as an ageing parent; while others are working, looking after their own children as well as an older relative or friend, or retiring early to care for someone, often affecting their financial security.

As Carers’ Week 2020 raises awareness of the challenges carers face, particularly in the face of Covid-19, we take a look at some of the new initiatives hospices have launched to support care homes and carers in their communities.

How to have difficult conversations

Compton Care in Wolverhampton has created a number of online learning resources for care home staff on topics including how to have difficult conversations and palliative and end of life care essentials. These offer guidance on how staff can support residents with incurable illnesses, and include videos of frontline staff sharing advice as well as ‘how to’ clips demonstrating skills and self-help techniques.

PowerPoint presentations on how to initiate difficult conversations are also being shared, alongside Q&A sessions with clinicians from across Compton Care. Other resources will be made available via Compton Care’s website as well as uploaded onto the CCG’s Healthzone app.

Louise Pimm, Lecturer Practitioner for Compton Care said: “By putting together a range of easily accessible online resources we hope to equip care home staff with the knowledge, advice and tools they need to be able to best support those they are caring for with incurable illnesses.

“Compton Care possesses deep experience in palliative and end of life care and the current pandemic, with its profound effect on the physical and emotional wellbeing of the British population as it wrestles with fear of infection, loss and grief, presents an opportunity for us to provide much-needed additional support and materials directly to care homes and healthcare professionals.”

Providing emotional support

Isabel Hospice in Welwyn Garden City has set up a hotline for care home staff who may be struggling with higher death rates than normal due to Covid-19.

Wendy Freeman, Isabel Hospice Care Home Educator, explains: “The feedback on the advice line has been very positive. I am also offering support via Zoom with Q&A sessions. We know that for some care home and residential homes who have cared for and built relationships with residents over many years, their death, especially of Covid-19, is very emotional because the residents can become like family members.

“Because of the pandemic, deaths in higher numbers than usual can feel like significant losses and staff and residents can be taken aback by the enormity of this. The Isabel Hospice line is there to support the staff who have told us how little time there is for reflection and asked how they can remember these residents that meant so much.

“We discussed how they can remember them with memory trees, books or posters. We encourage them to write stories about the residents’ last days which they can pass on to staff who may be returning to work after illness, leave or shielding themselves, which can be especially hard. Many of the staff come from overseas and the residents become their family in the UK, so we know how important this advice line is.”

Supporting unpaid carers

St Mary’s Hospice in Cumbria has partnered with Furness Carers, a charity established to support carers in the local area, to highlight the importance of the role that unpaid carers provide to the community.

The hospice has launched weekly “coffee catch ups” for carers using Zoom, with the aim of bringing people together to share their experiences, and offer friendship and support.

The first session took place on Monday 8th June to coincide with the start of Carers’ Week, for information on future sessions visit their Facebook group

National charity Carers UK run regular online meet ups for carers to get together and have a chat over a tea or coffee. Hosted over Zoom, they’re taking place daily during Carers’ Week.

There are also Share and Learn sessions taking place throughout the month of June, including a session on exercise for carers and another on cooking and nutrition. More information on all of the sessions can be found on their website.

Helping with self-care and wellbeing 

St Clare Hospice in Essex is marking Carers’ Week with the release of a series of online self-care and wellbeing classes. Created by the charity’s Day Therapy team, they cover mindfulness and relaxation, light physiotherapy and light cardio exercise.

The sessions have been adapted from the Day Therapy team’s regular programme of activities, and delivered by St Clare volunteers Rose and Alistair; Therapy Assistant Michelle, and Physiotherapist Vanessa. All five video classes are on the St Clare Hospice website

Carers’ Week runs until June 14

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