Helen outlines the range of support that people caring for others with a mental illness or a learning disability can expect to receive from Oxleas, including putting them in touch with other carers and local carers' groups.
Hi, my name is Helen Dunkley and I am the Trust Carer Lead for Oxleas.
Carers are people who care for others with mental illnesses or a learning disability, usually this is family members or friends. Carers need a range of different support services, but most often they tell us that the number one thing they need is information.
When people become carers this is often their first experience of mental illness, so they need a lot of information about illnesses and treatments. They also need to know what services are available for themselves and their relatives, how these services operate, and who they can contact in a crisis or talk to if they have concerns.
Much of this information will be told to them by their relative’s care team, but Oxleas also provides written material for carers. This includes:
· a carer information handbook;
· a series of information sheets about illnesses and treatments; and
· tips on how to manage different behaviours.
A range of carers’ groups are run by Oxleas in partnership with our local boroughs. Many carers find these very helpful as they give them the opportunity to share their experiences with other people in a similar situation. Each borough also has a separate carers’ service which offers a range of services including:
Carers are entitled to a carers’ assessment, which many people find enormously helpful. This does not assess their ability to care, but rather asks them whether they wish to continue to care and what they need help with.
Young people can also be carers, caring for a parent or another adult with a disability. While helping out can help them develop skills and confidence, we need to ensure they don’t take on too much. Oxleas has information for young carers and each of our three boroughs has a young carers project where young people can get support and meet other young carers.
You can find information about carers’ groups in Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich boroughs in the Advice and Guidance section of this website.
This film is about the ways that family carers can and should be involved when a relative with learning disabilities is unable to make a decision for themselves.
For more information please visit http://www.hft.org.uk/
Oxleas governor Angela Clayton-Turner talks about caring for her husband, who has Alzheimer's Disease.
Hello, I’m Angela Clayton-Turner and my husband Ted has had Alzheimer's Disease for the last 14 years.
In 1995 Ted began to have problems with his memory and eventually had to leave work because of them. We’d been married seven years and he was just 57 years old.
In some ways I was lucky. In the 1970s and ‘80s I had worked as a physiotherapist in a psychiatric hospital and in community mental health teams so had some knowledge of dementia. We also had a very good GP who referred Ted to a neurologist who carried out tests that showed that Ted had dementia. This early diagnosis was crucial – GPs sometimes diagnose dementia as depression which can delay treatment. Ted was prescribed dementia drugs which really boosted the quality of his life.
At that time I saw myself as Ted’s supporter rather than his carer – he could wash and dress himself – and we both just got on with our lives. His dementia was fairly mild and we decided to be positive and have as many good times as we could manage. We flew on Concorde, went on a fabulous holiday cruising in Alaska and had my 60th birthday party on the Orient Express. We also took a number of canal trips on hotel narrow boats. These were great as the boats were operated for us.
In 2004 things started to change. Ted’s dementia accelerated and by the end of the year his condition was deteriorating fast. My role had changed from supporter to carer. A few days after Christmas he became very confused and following a trip to our GP we agreed that it was time to admit Ted to Green Parks House in Bromley.
Ted is now in the last stages of dementia, in a local nursing home. I visit him several days a week to feed him lunch. One of the most important ways I have coped with his illness is by taking a proactive approach. This has included acting as Ted’s advocate with his doctors and other healthcare professionals, and becoming an Oxleas governor.
I also belong to an informal carers’ group which has been an important source of support. I think it’s really important to be able to share your experiences with people who are in the same boat as you. In the early stages of Ted’s illness I desperately wanted to meet someone locally who was also a spouse of someone with dementia - rather than a daughter - and I think the carers’ groups across the trust can play a vital role in putting people in touch with each other.
Carers play an enormously valuable role supporting someone throughout illness and on the journey to recovery. They provide a range of emotional and physical supports without which many people would not be able to live independent and fulfilling lives.
Over six million people in the UK provide unpaid help and support to individuals who are ill, frail or disabled (Carers UK survey 2011) and this number is likely to increase as the population expands and people live longer. A recent report by Carers UK (2011) estimated that carers save the economy £119 billion per year, an average of £18,473 per carer, equivalent to the whole budget for the NHS.
Caring for someone can be rewarding but it can also be a challenging, demanding, lonely and stressful experience. We know being a carer can impact upon family life, friendships, health and wellbeing, finances, and the ability to work or pursue education or leisure activities. Carers may be any age and some carers are faced with additional challenges: for example carers from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities report difficulties associated with a lack of cultural understanding with some professionals, language barriers, and resistance within their own community. Young carers can find it difficult to juggle their responsibilities at school and at home, and may face social exclusion from or by their peers.
We are committed to working with, involving and supporting carers and have developed a Carers’ Strategy to focus how we will do this across all of our services – community health, mental health and adult learning disability.
Our carers lead, Anna Chan, has been pivotal in driving the importance of recording carers for patients on CPA onto our clinical system with current recording at 92.9%. We recognise that a carer’s assessment is essential for identifying a carer’s needs, and providing information and support to carers. We have trained our staff to carry out carer’s assessments and have measured implementation through monthly reports; this has helped support staff in identifying gaps in their recording and ensured they update the electronic patient.
We have a profound admiration and respect for everyone undertaking a caring role for a person with a physical or mental illness, frailty or disability. We hope our strategy meets our carers' expectations and continue to work with both carers and our local partners to improve the carer experience.