St Clare marks National Carers Week

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Published on: Wednesday 08 Jun 2016 at 15:26

This national Carers Week (6-12 June) we are recognising the vital contribution made by the UK’s 6.5million unpaid carers.

As part of the national awareness campaign we want to highlight some of the ways our compassionate care extends to the whole circle of family, friends and carers, as well as the person who is ill.

St Clare’s Patient and Family Support Services team manager, Joanna Petts, said: “At St Clare we are committed to supporting our patients in every way we can and accompanying them on their journey – whatever stage they are at. A really important part of that is seeing how we can support the patient’s whole circle of family, friends and carers.”

“Caring for a loved one with a life-limiting illness can really take its toll on a person – mentally, physically and emotionally. Often people who are looking after somebody say that their friendships are affected as they are less available to socialise. Unfortunately this can often lead to the carer becoming isolated. Whilst they may have care staff coming in to provide personal care for their loved one, most care packages do not allow the staff time to just sit and have a cup of tea and a chat – which is often what the carer really needs.”

This Carers Week St Clare is highlighting our Community Friends volunteering scheme which provides support to carers in their own homes. Community Friends are volunteers who work alongside the Patient and Family Support team to offer companionship, an extra pair of hands, and social and emotional support to patients and carers in their own homes.

Joanna Petts, who runs the Hospice’s Community Friends scheme, said: “Our Community Friends visit those patients and carers who may be feeling lonely or isolated at home. Sometimes they may visit and sit with a patient so that their carer can have a break – perhaps to go to the shops, attend a fitness class, or visit friends. At other times they may visit the carer and the patient together – just providing that space to have a chat and a cup of tea with someone which can be so valuable. It’s just like having a friend round to visit really.”

Those who have experienced visits from St Clare’s Community Friends say that it has offered them a lifeline at a very difficult time in their lives.

One St Clare patient said: “The Community Friends service is absolutely excellent. We have a cup of tea, a piece of cake and a chat about all sorts of things. We have lots of laughs – it’s brilliant. I really look forward to the visits. I don’t know where the time goes when she is here. I am really enjoying it.”

Being a Community Friend is also rewarding for the volunteer themselves. Margaret Hopkinson, who has been a Community Friend at St Clare for three years, said:

“I have been visiting the same lady every Monday afternoon for the past year, keeping her company while her husband pops out to attend a regular hospital appointment. She is mainly bed-bound at home, and she and her husband both wanted her to have a visitor so she wouldn’t be alone all day.”

“When I left work, I really missed the daily interaction with people and, although I have lots of friends who I could meet for lunch and walks, I missed the routine and responsibility of work so volunteering for St Clare was such a good option for me. It feels so right for me to be involved in the local community, and being a Community Friend has also changed my idea of what a hospice can offer.”

We are currently recruiting for more volunteers to join our Community Friends team. Our team will provide full training for the role and dedicated ongoing support. For more information about the Community Friends role click here.

St Clare Hospice also runs a Carers’ Drop-in group once a month which provides the opportunity for people to meet other carers and to receive advice and support from the St Clare team in a relaxed and safe environment. If you care for someone with a life-limiting illness and are interested in finding out how we could support you, please get in touch with the Patient and Family Support Team.

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