Carers Rights Day - 24 November
People who care for someone who has recently been diagnosed with dementia are being offered the chance to attend special sessions run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) which provide information, understanding and mutual support.
Taking place at the Julian Hospital in Bowthorpe Road, Norwich, the group sessions follow a structured 11-week programme, and look at everything from different types of dementia to the role of social services and the steps carers can take to look after their own wellbeing.
A further session features a carer who shares her own experiences of looking after her husband, while a range of information and advice about where to go for additional support is also provided.
NSFT is raising awareness of the sessions, which are open to anyone caring for someone receiving services at the Julian Hospital, in the run up to Carers Rights Day. Falling on Friday (24 November), the event takes place annually and aims to make sure carers know their rights and can find out how to get the help and support they are entitled to.
“We like to ensure that carers know about all of the help and support which is available at the earliest opportunity as it helps take away some of the stress they may be experiencing following a diagnosis,” said Susy Robson, Community Support Worker with NSFT, who runs the weekly groups. “It also means they will then have the tools and resources to manage when things do become more difficult at a later stage.
“We aim to make the sessions as relaxed and informal as we can, and include the chance to have tea with our doctors so that the carers can ask any questions they may have. We also signpost them to other sources of support, such as Carers Matter and the Alzheimer’s Society, as well as giving advice on benefits and explaining how they can access a carer’s assessment.
“We regularly receive really positive feedback from those coming to the sessions. They often form really good friendships with others and continue to meet afterwards and offer each other mutual support, which they find really helpful.”
In addition to the weekly groups at the Julian Hospital, the Trust has a variety of other initiatives in place to support carers. Its “Improving Services Together” strategy was launched last autumn and aims to ensure service users and carers can have their say in the way NSFT’s services are developed and delivered, while Carers’ Leads are employed across the Trust to provide dedicated support.
The Trust also uses the Triangle of Care, which aims to ensure carers work closely with service users and mental health staff and are identified at the earliest opportunity, while carers forums regularly take place across both Norfolk and Suffolk to give information and support.
To find out more about getting involved with the NSFT’s services, visit www.nsft.nhs.uk/get-involved
For more information about the sessions taking place at the Julian Hospital, email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on Carers Rights Day, visit http://www.carersuk.org/news-and-campaigns/carers-rights-day
Case study: “Accepting his illness was where my recovery began”
A former nurse who cared for her husband after he developed dementia has credited a dedicated carers group with “helping her to heal” from the trauma of watching his health deteriorate.
Chris Hutton began caring for John, 78, her husband of 42 years, around seven years ago when his behaviour started changing, driving became erratic and he struggled to find his way to well-known places. As time passed he lost his inhibitions and he became obstructive, but he refused to seek medical help until 2014, when his wife invited a doctor to the couple’s Norwich home who diagnosed Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.
Chris continued to juggle caring for her husband with her job as a nurse covering night shifts at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, but was forced to give up work when his condition deteriorated and her own health suffered.
She is now sharing her experiences with other new carers to show them they are not alone and there is support available.
“I never had any experience of this type of caring, and felt very alone when I was thrust into an unfamiliar new world I knew nothing about,” said Chris, who is 67. “I was so distressed and sought the help of my GP. Due to her intervention, John was given medication and I was introduced to the carers sessions at the Julian Hospital.
“The group really helped me to heal. It gave me access to all sorts of help and advice, and I met other people in the same situation. When you are caring for someone with dementia, you become angry and frustrated and feel that you just can’t cope. But then you meet other people who are going through the same thing and realise that it’s normal to feel all of these emotions and that others are in exactly the same position.
“Now I want to let other people who are in the early stages know that you can live through it.”
After completing the carers programme herself, Chris was asked if she would contribute to future sessions by sharing her story. In addition, she also gives a carer’s perspective to psychology students studying for PHDs at the University of East Anglia.
She is also urging anyone who cares for someone who has recently been diagnosed to find a local group where they can receive support.
“Knowing you are not alone makes a big difference and is a real comfort,” added Chris. “The groups also give you the chance to find out about things like the carer’s attendance allowance, which can help with finances. Support from the carers group also gave me a sense of wellbeing in a hideous situation, while the empathy and understanding I received from my fellow carers was also important.
“Things were incredibly hard as John deteriorated. He was no longer able to communicate or express himself, and things became very confusing for him. We lost him piece by piece.
“But accepting his illness was where my recovery began, and we are now in a better place than I ever thought would have been possible before.”
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