Hospice Care Week: Connecting Carers
The event, organised by our Family Support Team, was held at St Peter's Church in Harold Wood. There, carers were able to complete a number of exercises, aimed at helping them recognise stress and developing tools to cope with it.
This included the 'First Aid Exercise', which saw the group fill in their own first aid kit illustration with things they do to look after themselves. The object of the exercise was to highlight areas for improvement and the need to prioritise their own health and wellbeing, but also so they could share ideas with their peers of ways to do it.
Other highlights included a relaxing period of breathing exercises to help with winding down and coping with stressful situations, and a creative therapy session, as a way of proving the benefit of distractions from the day to day challenges of caring for a loved one.
Brenda Waring, from Rainham, has been caring for her husband, Brian, for the last 15 years. When he was 60 he suffered a serious brain haemorrhage, which left him on life support for eight months. Only two years later - never having fully recovered - he was diagnosed with Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB), which shares symptoms with both Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
Brenda Waring at the Stress Busting Day
"I was given the option of him being sent to a care home or the hospice," said Brenda. "But I wanted to keep him at home. Saint Francis Hospice has enabled that to happen, to this point. He's now bedridden and needs my support 24/7."
Brian is under the care of our Specialist Community and Crisis Support Team, who regularly call Brenda.
"They ask me how's Brian and I tell them how things are and I often ask them questions. They've helped me with medicines too, so I have stock here in case I need them.
"Sometimes he can get quite poorly - like last night when he got very hot and unsettled - so I always keep the Saint Francis Hospice number on my noticeboard. It's so good to know you're there, any time."
The Carers Stress Busting Day was the first event dedicated to carers that Brenda has attended. The Family Support team organise a number of support groups and events for carers throughout the year.
"I must admit, I was teary when I arrived - although I do get teary a lot. I wasn't sure what to expect as I've never gone to something like it before. But it's been extremely positive.
"It was productive, I learned a lot - and you can see others in a similar situation and it makes you feel better, in a way. I have friends that support me, but at the end of the day it's me who is there all the night. I was very enthused by the day, I must say."
Another attendee, Keith, was full of praise for the support Saint Francis Hospice gives both him and his wife. "We're both so appreciative of the support we receive," he said. "I would like to give a big vote of thanks to everyone connected to the whole hospice regime. It's a lifeline. I'd like to ask anyone who is able to help fundraise, because it's a charity and it needs all the help it can get."
The day was organised by Sandy Lawless and Briony Townsend, our palliative care social workers.
"It felt like a really positive day," said Sandy. "Our carers are supporting our patients in a way that no professional at the hospice can; they support the person they care for practically and emotionally - often 24/7."
"The support they give cannot be over-estimated and so I believe any support we can offer them should be seen as an investment and time well spent."
With the Hospice Care Week theme 'Connecting Care', it seemed perfect that the workshop took place when it did.
"One of the main benefits of the Stress Busting Day is to connect carers, and help counteract the isolation that carers often experience," said Sandy. "In the words of one of the attendees: 'the thing I enjoyed most about the day was the support from the group, from others who really know and understand what I'm going through'."