Making Caring Visible

Date: 08 June 2020

carers

At Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust we are proud to support Carers Week 2020 which runs from 8-14 June to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.

As carers are experiencing even more challenging circumstances this year, it is vitally important that we both recognise the contribution that they make and also connect them to support to help them manage their own health and wellbeing.

Our Specialist Dementia Service (SDS) in Haringey which is part of the Haringey Older People’s Services provides support to service users with moderate-severe dementia and their carers. The team, which is made of three part-time Specialist Dementia Practitioners, two Occupational Therapists and a Mental Health Nurse, aims to assess and understand what is happening in the situation and then works to develop ways of managing it. Typically there are multiple factors to consider in assessing the situation including the role of physical health changes, the progression of the dementia, the individual’s personality and life experience, relationship patterns within the family as well as social, cultural and environmental factors. Family carers may have been coping with changes in the behaviour of the person with dementia for many years and may be experiencing high levels of stress. They may also have their own health problems to manage or commitments such as work which can leave them feeling stretched beyond what is possible.

The interventions offered by the SDS not only include very practical steps such as Care Act Assessments in order to secure a care package and a day centre placement or respite to help stabilise the situation but they usually also address the emotional and psychological needs of the parties involved e.g. helping families change their ways of responding or thinking through difficult decisions about the person’s best interests. The needs of the person with dementia may be very complex, sometimes requiring the careful trial of medications and often making intense demands on their families and carers.  Some of our interventions are brief but others take place over many months, helping to manage an evolving situation which may include major changes such as the transition to residential care. 

We recognise that the roles of carers have been particularly challenging during the coronavirus pandemic when lockdown and shielding guidance have meant that many of their usual sources of support and respite are not available. Carers have often been trying to manage very difficult situations at home, particularly when the person with dementia may not understand why their routines and daily life has changed and they are not able to do their usual activities. Levels of frustration and anxiety may be very high for everyone involved. Our SDS team are continuing to try and support carers and families to find ways of managing through these difficult times.

In addition to the support provided by Specialist Dementia Service, we also run a START (STrAegies for RelaTives) 8-week programme for carers of people with dementia, which is offered by the Psychology Service for Older People in Haringey.

The programme involves 1:1 sessions with an Assistant or Trainee Psychologist working through a programme designed to help carers develop strategies to respond to changes in the person with dementia. This includes some practical strategies as well as space for the carer to talk through the emotional impact of the situation. The aim is to build up coping skills that will help the carer cope with further changes which may take place over the years ahead as the dementia progresses.

The majority of the carers are referred by Haringey Memory Service, sometimes at the point of diagnosis and sometimes at a later stage. We also take referrals from the Community Mental Health Team and Specialist Dementia Service. Our pathway is flexible because we recognise that the way dementia affects those with a diagnosis and their families can be very different according to their situation and it is important for families to access the support at the right time for them.

Originally the programme was developed as a face-to-face intervention requiring carers to attend sessions in person but in recent months we have been adapting it for telephone and on-line sessions. We are continuing to take referrals so that we can support carers in coping with the impact of the COVID-19 and lockdown on their situation and caring role.

The START programme is also available in Barnet and Enfield.

Useful information for carers:

BEH’s Haringey Service User and Carer Forum

Coronavirus guidance for carers

‘Are you looking after someone unpaid?’ guide

Make a pledge to support Carers Week

Carers First Haringey

 

 

 

  • Summary:

    At Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust we are proud to support Carers Week 2020 which runs from 8-14 June to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.