Pat Vinycomb, Local Ambassador for Dorset of Carers UK, spoke at the recent Carers Meeting at Royal Bournemouth Hospital. The meeting was organised by the Patient Engagement Team and coincided with the launch of pages for carers on the Trust’s website.
Pat’s keynote address ‘Think Carer: Supporting Carers in a hospital environment’ invited the carers present to reflect on when it was that they realised that they had become a carer and the feelings associated with the realisation that life would never be the same again. In the hospital environment, said Pat, carers should be recognised for their skills and knowledge, feel valued, have the right information and advice and the choice to say no. She outlined the challenges facing carers who need to understand what has happened and where to go for further help and advice. She also explained the anxieties that carers may feel: ‘Can I ask staff a question and/ or challenge?’.
It was clear that Pat spoke from her own experience as she described a tendency for carers to feel they must hide their emotions and the inner conflict they can feel. She emphasised to the nursing staff present that little things really do mean a lot to carers: somewhere to be private, comfortable seating, refreshments, as well as kindness, empathy and hope. Above all good communication from hospital staff and being kept up to date is important for carers.
Pat’s presentation finished with a summary of the many types of practical help and support available to carers in Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole and she urged carers to remember that their own health matters. The carers then took part in facilitated discussions to generate feedback for the engagement team.
Later I talked with Pat and with our volunteer advocate Marion Summers (also a carer) about the support that Dorset Macmillan Advocacy can provide to carers. Carers can be empowered by advocacy support to know their rights and feel more in control. I was grateful to the Patient Engagement Team to be invited to the meeting and to be able to provide an information stand. After Pat’s talk I personally had a much better insight into the challenges facing carers when the person they care for is staying in hospital and we hope to involve Pat in our volunteer training in future.
During national Carers Week from 8 June Jo Lee, Senior Macmillan Advocate at Help and Care, and other Dorset Macmillan Advocacy staff attended a number of events to raise awareness of our service among carers. The Carers Week campaign this year focused on Carer Friendly Communities and produced this useful Checklist tool for carers which includes a section on Health: Carers Week 2015 Checklist.
Kathleen Gillett, Dorset Macmillan Advocacy