Caring for someone who is unwell can be difficult at any time but, with the current coronavirus pandemic, feelings of worry, stress and isolation have significantly increased for the huge number of people caring for loved ones at home. To mark Carers Week (8-14 June 2020) and to recognise the particular challenges that lockdown have had on carers across Hampshire, Southern Health is highlighting the measures that it has put in place to support them.
Amongst other initiatives, the local NHS Trust has introduced weekly Zoom meetings for carers across Hampshire to combat feelings of anxiety and loneliness and to allow carers of all backgrounds to share, support and talk to each other.
Niamh Dalziel, Service user and patient involvement facilitator commented:
“We thought it was really important to create a safe virtual environment where our carers could come together and support each other. Very early on in the pandemic two carers shared that they were really worried about the weeks ahead and how they would cope without their usual support networks, such as carers groups, or even getting out of the house with friends for an hour. I thought if they are feeling like this I’m sure many others are too.
“It’s been really great coming together with carers every week, who would never have met one another, or myself. The zoom sessions give them a chance to share with one another what they are experiencing and chat about their experiences; it is a real privilege to facilitate this peer support.”
The session involves a friendly discussion on a variety of topics including things that affect caring roles. These discussions often provide a safe space to connect with like-minded individuals and share stories.
Jan, who is one of the attendees to the virtual carers group, explained:
“Talking to others who understand what it is like to care for a loved one with mental health challenges has helped me through some very difficult times. Sharing insight, experiences, empathy and respect has helped me cope because I have felt listened to and understood… The Covid-19 pandemic has heightened the ongoing feeling of isolation that carers can face. Being able to share ideas about what can help makes a vital difference.”
Feedback from the sessions have led to the development of a new relationship between Southern Health and the Princess Royal Trust. During a Zoom session, a carer suggested that it would be beneficial to receive a regular call from peer-support workers so that they have someone to talk to who understands their circumstances.
Following this feedback, Southern Health started working in partnership with the Princess Royal Trust for Carers in Hampshire to set up a telephone support call to carers. The call offers support and welfare checks to carers as they may be under more stress and pressure both mentally and emotionally due to Coivid-19. Carers are able to receive a regular weekly call from the Princess Royal Trust at a time that is convenient to them for Carers in Hampshire to provide this support.
Kerry Hearsey MBE, Chief Executive of Princess Royal Trust for Carers in Hampshire, added:
“We are delighted to be working with Southern Health who have recognised that carers need that extra layer of support in these unprecedented times and have contacted us to provide this service.”
To refer yourself, or someone you know who is a carer to a Southern Health patient, please email email@example.com. If you would like to speak to someone urgently, call 07833 289600.
For more information on how to join the weekly zoom calls, please click here.