Supporting carers in these exceptional timesPublished on: 18/06/2020
‘Carers’ are the unpaid army of family and friends who spend many hours caring for and supporting people with physical and mental illness and disability. All this caring is done above and beyond the services that statutory, private and/or charitable health & social care organisations provide.
The week of 7th-13th June is national Carers Week, with a rallying call of ‘Make Caring Visible and Valued’, it’s designed to raise awareness of the estimated 6.5 million people who have unpaid caring responsibilities across the UK.
Wirral Hospice St John’s spiritual care coordinator, Heather MacLeod (a little more about her later), reminded me of these lyrics, famously sung by Celine Dion*, to capture all we contemplate during national Carers Week.
You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ’cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you love me
Carers will often class themselves as, just, a wife, husband, partner, son, daughter, grandparent or other family member or friend. Their care comes from a sense of duty and a deep well of love.
We see this, close up, every single day at Wirral Hospice St John’s.
Supporting and caring for people with life limiting illnesses is at the heart of everything we do and, in order to really know our patients, to extend the care and support we provide for them, we also offer services designed to help their carers, practically, spiritually and emotionally.
In normal times we’ll see and work with carers in all of our settings, Inpatients, Outpatients, Wellbeing Centre (day services) and Hospice at Home.
The current coronavirus crisis, calling on all of us to limit direct contact and minimise all but essential travel, has inevitably altered our ways of reaching out to carers.
Early on in the pandemic even visiting in our Inpatients ward was severely restricted. We managed ways to allow a small number of closest relatives to visit loved ones by supplying face masks and other personal protective equipment and reinforcing hand washing and safety recommendations.
For the wider family we’ve been providing patients with electronic equipment, such as IPads, if they don’t have their own, so that they can see each other and chat.
Although some of the patient and family services team are working from home they are set up to continue working with patients and their carers. Where we can’t meet with carers, which is in most services just now, we’re staying in touch through telephone calls and other electronic communications.
Enquiries about welfare benefits and signposting to emotional and psychological support, including liaison with other local agencies, while agreeing plans of action are still being handled by our professional social workers, James and Ann-Marie.
Bereavement support, facilitated by the most accomplished listener, Stella, also continues in what are especially psychologically distressing circumstances for families.
Our counsellors, Emily and Elizabeth, provide emotional and psychological support to those experiencing the difficulties that can be associated with having a life-limiting illness, and to their relatives/carers.
Occupational therapist, Katy, alongside physiotherapists and exercise co-ordinators, Miriam, Elizabeth and Tracy continue to work with patients and source instruction videos for those at home with their families and other carers.
Wirral Hospice St John’s aromatherapy service, delivered by the most soothing and empathetic practitioner, Lindsey, is being provided to patients and some family members will be able to take advantage of the therapy soon, too.
And, of course, the wonderful Heather MacLeod, (our spiritual care coordinator,read a little bit more about Heather here), is available to provide her heartfelt comfort and advice to people who are sometimes struggling to find meaning or peace in what are really the most challenging time of their lives.
To all those families and other carers of our patients, your loved ones, please know Wirral Hospice St John’s is here for you.
Author: Billy Howard
*Words to ‘Because you loved me’ written by Diane Warren © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management
All photos taken pre-COVID social distancing regulations.