September is World Alzheimer's Month, which is a global opportunity to raise awareness, educate, encourage support of and demystify dementia. Today marks World Alzheimer's Day, part of an international campaign to raise awareness and highlight issues faced by people affected by dementia. It is an opportunity for people and organisations to demonstrate how we can overcome these issues and help people live well with dementia.
To mark the day, Carer Navigators at our Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service (DWS) have taken the time to discuss the Carer Support Groups they run in Bristol, and how they have adapted throughout the pandemic.
They said: "Prior to the pandemic we facilitated three carer peer support groups, which took place monthly across Bristol. Sadly due to COVID-19 restrictions, this group closed in March 2020. As part of the service’s initial COVID-19 response, the team conducted hundreds of welfare calls, and it was obvious there was a greater need for carer support. It is important for carers to be able to talk about dementia and their experiences, and share this with others who may be on the same journey.
"Once it became evident that COVID-19 restrictions were ongoing, we wanted to ensure carers still had access to the support they needed so a new monthly virtual carer peer support group was created via Zoom. Whilst some of the existing members do not have the technical equipment or capabilities to join online, it did enable us to deliver the group to a larger number of people who would otherwise have accessed this face-to-face.
"Dependent on the number of attendees, we used the break-out room facility to ensure every carer had the chance to talk. We also allocate carers to different rooms according to their caring role, for example, carers of spouses and carers of parents.
"We also include a feel-good section at the end of each session, with links to current activities that are available. The feedback we received is that the group has been invaluable and a life-line to many in a difficult time.
"We are in discussions at the moment about the possibility of re-opening face-to-face groups, so we conducted a feedback survey asking which type of group the carers would prefer. We had a mixed response but the statistics showed there is a need to continue with a virtual group, in addition to the face-to-face groups. The feedback showed that accessibility was often a barrier to attending in person or not having someone to care for their loved ones whilst they attended."
One of the service facilitators recently received the following feedback from attendees:
“A carer in south Bristol told me this virtual group is her only way of seeing and talking to other people as has she no friends. Her son, who was her only companion (as husband does not really communicate with her) has recently moved out. This lady has anxiety and does not want to meet people face-to-face but enjoys the online interactions with our service and other carers. She said the advice has really helped her.”
“A husband and daughter from north Bristol both attend our virtual carers group and I visited them in person last week. They were initially, naturally devastated at news their wife and mum had dementia but said they have found the carers support group so enlightening and educational – as it has ‘made them realise how lucky they are that their loved is not experiencing the difficulties other people have’. The daughter commented how ‘wonderfully’ the DWS staff run the group smoothly and ensure everyone has chance to speak and be heard. They also find it very useful when we break into smaller groups where groups are set up with supporters of parents and the other group is supporters of spouses or partners. Husband and daughter have both changed their ‘outlook’ on dementia and have both adapted to the situation when initially they were distraught and didn’t know what to do. They both look forward to attending the group together virtually each month.”
You can find more about the incredible work taking place at the Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service on their website.
Pictured - a Carers Group prior to COVID-19 restrictions.