Friday, 15 March 2019
Things are looking up for carers in Bridgend thanks to a new service that puts them in touch with all the help and support they need.
People who look after their loved ones at home often struggle on alone and then have to visit their doctor when they get stressed and overwhelmed.
GPs may not have the time to give them the help they need, but now they can refer them to someone who does - a carer link worker.
Beverley Jones (pictured) has been a carer link worker covering the Porthcawl, Kenfig Hill, Pyle and Cornelly areas since the autumn. She has helped carers with practical things like getting broken locks repaired, helping to declutter their homes, securing a supply of free incontinence pads or a new commode.
But the emotional support she offers is equally important.
“The biggest thing is that they have someone to talk to and that they are not on their own, getting anxious and stressed. You know you have done your job when you leave the person in a better place,” said Beverley.
“The cared for person is always the focus of attention and has all sorts of health care professionals coming to see them, but the carer is often overlooked. They are so grateful that someone is there just for them. They say ‘You are here for me, somebody cares about me’.
There are benefits for everyone involved, however.
“The service we offer is taking the burden off local GPs and it helps the carer to carry on so that the cared for doesn’t have to go into residential care,” said Beverley.
“We also issue emergency cards to carers so that if they are taken ill, the emergency services know there is someone they care for waiting for them at home so a contingency plan set by the carer can kick in.”
Local GPs are getting on board with the new service and link workers are encouraging all GP practice managers to text known carers with their contact details.
Carer link worker Rhiannon Bowden, (above) who covers the Bridgend and Pencoed area, said: “People looking after a relative or a spouse often don’t realise they are a carer. I talked to one lady who was in tears after looking after her husband with Parkinson’s disease for 17 years. She was suffering from what we call carers’ strain and there are a lot of people suffering from it.
“We are helping carers to identify themselves as carers, so that they can seek help. A lot of people say ‘I didn’t know where to go or who to ask’. We have identified about 10 carers a month since we started. There are still quite a few who are slipping through the net, so it will take time.”
Laura Austin is another carer link worker based in the north of Bridgend covering Caerau, Maesteg, Ogwr and Garw Valleys and has had success running carers groups for those who find it hard to access transport.
As well as GPs, referrals can be made by district nurses, social services, the care and repair service, and people can also refer themselves to the carer link worker service.
In their first meeting, the link worker assesses the carer’s needs and then signposts them to all the help that is available for them.
One of their main ‘prescriptions’ is Bridgend Carers Centre, which is a one-stop shop for support and a listening ear. It offers counselling, therapies, financial advice, entertainment, companionship, with a drop-in café on a Wednesday with talks, a quiz and entertainment. It also organises trips away for both carers and cared for.
Helen Pitt, who runs the centre and also helped set up the carer link worker service, said: “We are trying to raise awareness amongst GPs of carers’ needs. It can be very lonely as a carer without any support networks there to listen and advise them. Many people have to give up their jobs to care for someone, they become isolated and they don’t know where to turn for help. Bridgend Carers Centre is there to give information, advice and to signpost to specific services.
“The carer link worker service has only been in operation for six months but it is amazing how effective it has been in such a short time.”
Simon Cash (left) from Bridgend, the full-time and sole carer of his wife, says the help he received from the carers’ centre has helped him carry on.
He said: “I first started coming here about ten years ago. I saw a poster in the doctor’s surgery. At that point I was at the end of my tether. I’d watched my wife decline very rapidly from walking to being in a wheelchair. We had three kids living at home at the time. I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t cope, but I realised I needed some help.
“I dropped into the carers’ centre one Monday morning and it was such a relief to have someone to talk to, to have someone listen to me. The staff were so welcoming and gave me all sorts of help and advice.
“I now volunteer here myself on a Monday morning and I’ve become one of the trustees of the charity.
“If we’d had the carer link workers in the early days when my wife started to get ill I am sure things wouldn’t have got as bad as they did for me. The link workers are doing a tremendous job in identifying carers in the community and helping them get all the help and support they need.”