In late 2019 Karen came to see us after finding Gateshead Carers on the internet. She was asking for advice on Carers Allowance and if she should give up her full time job to look after her grandparents and aunty. They all have health conditions and she had been looking after them while she was working full time and looking after two teenage children on her own. Her aunty’s condition is a life limiting condition and her health at that time had deteriorated rapidly. She referred herself to us and was introduced to a Carer Wellbeing Facilitator (CWF).

Her first meetings with a Carer Wellbeing Facilitator
She presented herself as a carer who was reaching ‘carer burn out’ and she was struggling as a single parent, carer of three family members and working full time. In her first meeting with her CWF they discussed her options for leaving her job or reducing her hours so that she could claim Carers Allowance. This is because you are only allowed to claim CA if you only earn a certain amount of money each week. This was her highest priority on her first appointment as this was making her feel stressed, the carer had even been diagnosed with Alopecia due to stress. She then went away to think about the changes she would have to make if she gave up her job to look after her family full time and the financial sacrifice of living on benefits that she would have to make which would affect her home and family.  On the next meeting she had made a decision and she wanted to claim Carer Allowance, she had completed the form online but it had not yet progressed any further.

Gaining her confidence and having a break away
In the subsequent meetings we discussed how we could help her to have a break from her caring role and for quality time with her children. We applied for funding for her to have a break away with her family where she could relax and enjoy herself. She really appreciated this and felt that if she had not found us she would have been lost. Over the first few times of meeting with her CWF she started to gain her confidence and feel more relaxed and her anxieties and depression started to ease.

Then Covid 19 hit the world in March 2020!
Karen was struggling again as her caring role increased as she was having to do all the shopping, cooking and cleaning that she had been doing before the pandemic, but this time she was fearful of going out herself in case she caught the virus and took it back to her family that she was looking after and her children. She missed her time out with her aunt as they used to go out every day for a bit of fresh air or a coffee. Her grandparents were now in the house everyday bored of doing the same thing and she felt really stressed. Karen continued to have one to one sessions on the phone with her CWF when she needed a conversation or a different technique to help her in this strange situation. They discussed coping mechanisms for Karen to try on an evening when she could have ‘time out’ so she would have a relaxing bedtime routine; bath, chill, no TV or phone and she would read a book. This helped her to sleep better at night, and they discussed how she could start playing cards or board games with her aunt and grandparents as this would help to keep them active and not stuck in front of the TV. She was also home schooling the children which she was finding hard as they did not have the technology, but she found a way to do this. She started to feel more relaxed and in control of her life again.  

Feeling like the world was folding in again
Unfortunately, Karen’s washer broke during this time, she was in tears and felt like the world was folding in again but her CWF discussed that they could apply for funding for a new washer with another agency. She accepted this and the funding was successful. The CWF said “I have never been as happy to telephone a carer and tell them that they can order a new washer. It is a pleasure when we as an organisation can help a carer by talking to them, yes on the phone at the minute, but they know we are there for them when they need to talk and offload about their caring role and other struggles that they are having.”

Looking to the future
The team of CWFs always talk about the Gateshead Carers website to the carers and suggest that they read some of the stories, the blogs, the recipes and look at our staff avatars etc. Carers sometimes don’t think about this when they are actively working with us, but this carer did and that was how she found us and she is very grateful and appreciates all that we do for her and the whole family.