Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.
About 75% of our clients have carers that benefit as a secondary outcome from delivering our befriending service. These could be a son or daughter living apart from their parent or a partner or spouse living in the same house. But many of these people wouldn’t consider themselves a carer. Our befriending service supports carers in many ways, both directly and indirectly.
Some of our clients that we work with are bedbound. If they live with a partner or spouse then they are an unpaid family carer. Often we match a befriender with the person being cared for, easing their isolation, but there is also a benefit to the carer. For the carer this gives them an opportunity to take a break, go in the garden or use the time to do a hobby. They also benefit from conversation and interaction with the befriender and the knowledge that their loved one is supported. Occasionally we match a befriender with the unpaid family carer. They may have become socially isolated as a result of their carer responsibilities and a befriender can help them become more socially active again.
I ring my Dad every night to make sure he’s OK. We’ve run out of things to talk about.
A befriender will listen to the stories that the carer has heard many times before. They do not have to worry about practical things like shopping, medication or laundry and so have the time and space to chat. The client will also have news from their befriender that they can share with their carer. A carer may visit their relative daily but knows that when the befriender is visiting then they are safe and have had some company that day. Befriending can revitalise and refresh client’s relationships with their carers.
West Norfolk Befriending are often able to offer other services and support for our clients and carers. Our befrienders build relationships with their clients and can gently suggest changes to the client, or we can feed information to the carer. Sometimes we’ve worked really closely with family carers behind the scenes to ensure very vulnerable clients are safe, and these have been fiercely independent clients who’d reject explicit offers of help. We’re proud that our befriending service supports both clients and carers.