Wednesday 24th June 2015
Mac Voice, the magazine for Macmillan professionals: Summer 2015
Macmillan Excellence Award winner Marnie Enever on volunteers and the importance of identifying carers
In October 2012, Macmillan and Crossroads Care East Kent created a new volunteer support service. The remit was broad: to meet the unmet needs of people affected by cancer.
We didn’t want to create a straightforward befriending service. There were many in the area already, so practical support was identified as the best approach. I was acutely aware, however, that out of practical tasks comes befriending and companionship.
Those needing assistance are signposted by health and social care professionals, family members or friends. We then conduct a needs assessment via a home visit, and match the need with an appropriately trained and supervised volunteer. They help with everything from pet care to light shopping, light housework and giving lifts to health appointments.
The service is successful because it is quick to respond, flexible and tailored to individual requirements. People often say this is the first time their needs have been listened to. The service is also responsive to the needs of volunteers, so they feel valued and supported.
Impact on carers
The needs of carers are complex and often acute. Through our service, carers are receiving support that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. As our volunteers help people with cancer, their carers can be identified and supported. Great needs are often uncovered. Sometimes the carer has cancer or another illness themselves and needs help. Our volunteers try and understand the dynamics of a situation. They help people realise they might be a carer.
Some carers have taken on the role of carer over a period of time. For others it has happened overnight. Often, although people won’t answer ‘yes’ to whether they consider themselves to be a carer, they can identify support they would like from us or another organisation.
We think very carefully about the language we’re using. My tip for health and social care professionals would be to listen to the message behind the words. Acknowledge the often difficult shift in perspective as people realise they are now a carer. It is also important to look out for carers who may be less apparent, for example those who aren’t the partner of the person who is ill.
‘My wife suffers from terminal cancer and is also in the early stages of dementia. Being a carer 24/7 is warring and stressful and this combined with lack of sleep night after night left me exhausted. That is until the Crossroads Care ‘cavalry’ rode in to the rescue and provided caring support, enabling me to leave the house for several hours at a time to blow away the cobwebs. Without Macmillan Crossroads support team I would by now have reached the end of my tether. Now I can at least move forward in the knowledge that this marvellous team of people can move in at very short notice to help relieve very difficult situations.’
Macmillan East Kent Volunteer Manager
Crossroads Care East Kent
Macmillan Volunteer Service