Monday 10th September 2012
Setting up and running a support group for carers.
Demand for psychological help for carers led to the establishment of the Coping with Caring group over two years ago.
The group provides a forum for carers to support each other and gives them strategies to manage stress and to look after themselves.
The service is run by two facilitators – currently a family psychotherapist and a social worker – however other members of the cancer and palliative care team are encouraged to facilitate as well.
The programme is delivered over a six-week period. Each week focuses on a different strategy and cognitive behavioural ideas are used:
- Week 1 focuses on stress and its effects.
- Week 2 encourages the use of relaxation techniques.
- Week 3 explores sleep issues and how they may be improved for carers.
- Weeks 4–6 focus on thoughts and how they can be managed to reduce stress.
Each participant records a diary of their activities, stress and mood levels. Ground rules are written by the group in the firstweek. These rules help create a safe environment to share difficult thoughts, emotions and experiences.
This element of the group is always well-evaluated andis seen as a unique space in which carers can speak and listen with others who understand their situation.
Challenges and solutions
The group has encountered some challenges over the last two years. Maintaining facilitator input has been difficult at times due to numerous commitments; however, the appointment of a family psychotherapist to the cancer and palliative care team has helped. They have led and maintained a commitment to the group with the continued support of the other facilitators.
The greatest challenge recently has been a drop in the referral rates, which has been attributed to changes in the Macmillan nursing teams. The group can run effectively with 4–8 people, with 10 as a maximum.
Marketing of the course takes time and commitment. We are currently reviewing our leaflet in an attempt to encourage more participants. We’ve always been aware that the group name: ‘Coping with Caring – a support group for carers’, may not seem applicable to many of those who would benefit from this group, primarily because they don’t identify themselves as carers.
A recurrent criticism of this group was that carers had no onward support after the programme ended. Fortunately this is no longer the case as our local hospice, Keech Hospice Care, has established a carer day and we are able to complement each others’ service. The service is also well-supported by Hospice at Home team, Macmillan, and the cancer and the palliative care psychology team ensure good communication to group members and professionals.
Good practice in running your group and Promoting your service are available at Learn Zone. Further information