My name is Paul Ainger and I’m the Health and Wellbeing Co-ordinator in the Liverpool Carers Centre. The Centre provides support for unpaid carers in Liverpool. This involves carrying out carers assessments and providing a flexible support service that provides impartial advice and information. Part of the support we offer is the Health and Wellbeing program. Within this we organise activities for carers that are designed to reduce tension and stress, to help them carry on with their caring role.
The Care Development Workers interface with carers out in the community and they perform carers assessments. If they feel that the carer could benefit from, or would be interested in, the Health and Wellbeing activities, they will refer them to our team.
Our job is to promote our activities and encourage people to come out of their homes to get a mental break from their caring role. They can come away from all the stresses and strains of the home and then engage with other carers. We find that when different carers come together, there’s what I call a ‘Knowing’, an understanding of what it is like to be a carer. There’s a wonderful respect between everybody, so they can feel more relaxed. It is really important for carers to make these connections, as it can be difficult to talk about their caring role with their friends. People who aren’t carers can struggle to understand how intense a caring role is. From my experience speaking with carers, friends can often think that carers spend all day sitting around with a cup of tea. They don’t realise that carers can be waking up 5 times in the night to support the person they care for or having to find someone to cover just so they can leave the house. It is a 24 hour, 7 days a week commitment.
We try and tailor our activities to meet the needs of our carers where we can. One of our popular activities is holistic therapy, which is massage. This helps people to really relax. Some people come multiple times a week to engage in our other activities or just on occasion when they can fit it in, it really helps relieve tension and stress. We put on various training sessions through the year one of the favourites is the first aid training as it takes away the fear of not knowing what to do if the person they care for has a fall or an accident in the home. Other activities we organize include, arts and crafts, Tai Chi, Zumba, Yoga, computer classes and many more. These activities are designed to help carers have a break from the caring role, make new friends and have an environment they know they can feel comfortable in.
The response we’ve had from carers is that they have found “a whole other community” of other carers, which they can relate to and be friends with. Many of them have exchanged numbers and go out for coffee and shopping, outside of what they do here. It really gives them a boost. Feedback from one of our carers described how they have had the best year in 15 years because of the network of friends they have made in the carers centre.