Who We Are
BAB is a partnership of individuals and organisations working together to reduce isolation and loneliness among older people in Bristol.
About the project
Carers Support Centre (CSC) was funded by BAB to set up a pilot telephone counselling service for older isolated carers, in partnership with Dhek Bhal. Carers face many disadvantages including isolation and poor physical and mental health. Carers UK’s ‘State of Caring’ report (2015) states that 54% of carers suffer from depression, 77% feel more anxious and 83% feel more stressed because of their caring role. Another report, titled ‘Half a million voices: Improving support for BAME carers’ identifies that disadvantage is even greater for carers from BAME communities, who have a greater risk of ill-health, loss of paid employment and social exclusion.
CSC had previously run a successful face-to-face counselling service which was highly valued by carers, but was forced to withdraw the service due to a lack of continuation funding.
Staff there believed that the provision of telephone counselling would provide some anonymity for carers, which can be helpful when sharing thoughts and feelings with someone. They also believed that it would reduce the barrier which many carers report about the difficulty of leaving the person they care for to access a service for themselves.
The pilot service provided six weekly sessions of telephone counselling with qualified counsellors for 38 older carers across Bristol between February and July 2017.
A carer’s story
M cares for his wife, mother and sister and before starting counselling was reporting feeling extremely isolated at times and that he had no one to speak to about his concerns. M was concerned that, “Some of my concerns might feel trivial to others, but to me they are important.” Sessions with M began slowly at first as he described not knowing how to use the time and repeatedly told his counsellor he was, “waffling on”, an indication perhaps that he undervalued what he had to say.
Over the course of the sessions M found his voice and was able to make use of the sessions with his counsellor well. M and his counsellor spent some time exploring how he could look after himself better in the future, which he reported as being extremely helpful. M said: “My isolation has improved, because I am trying to get out more when the paid carers and cleaner are looking after my mum”.
M said it made a difference to him to be able to get out, for instance to the gym, where he can talk to other people and also improve his physical and mental health. At the final session M told his counsellor: “Having the ability to speak to you has helped tremendously. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and it has made a tremendous difference.”
Impact and learning
All of the carers who accessed the service reported feeling less isolated and lonely at the end of their counselling. For many carers, telephone counselling did remove the barriers faced with accessing face to face counselling and is a model that CSC would like to continue in the future.
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