Monthly Archives: November 2014

Carers Rights Day 2014

matthew mckenzieWelcome to a caring mind blogsite. A site dedicated to a carer’s perspective on mental health awareness and sometimes other health topics and events. On this post I want to talk about carers rights. You see Carer’s Rights Day is on the 28th of November and I am writing this post just before the day.

 

However, what is a carer? and why is it important that carers need to be aware of their rights?

Well basically a carer is someone who looks after either a close relative, friend or neighbour who are not able to take care of themselves. The caree (the one receiving care) can either be suffering from a physical or mental health problem. Now I am a carer of someone suffering mental ill health, so as a carer I am passionate about what carers have to go through.

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Carers unfortunately do not have it easy, if you are caring for someone who is chronically ill, then as a carer you will spend more time caring than looking after your own needs. Another difficult situation is carers have to SACRIFICE so much to able to carry out their role. Carers find it hard to work normal hours, carers have to spend a lot of time and energy in their roles, plus carers sometimes have to navigate the difficult maze of confidentiality.

The problems I have pointed out above only make a small percent of what carers have to tackle. So if there are even more difficulties in a caring role, what could make the difference? What could make a caring role more easier to bear?

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The answer is carers having their needs supported, plus also having their rights protected. As of this writing we have two acts over in the UK, these are “The Children and Families Act” and “The Care Act”. The Children and Families Act 2014 introduces a system of support which extends from birth to 25, while the Care Act deals with adult social care for anyone over the age of 18. These Acts, which hopefully will become bills will help support carers in their role.

I expect Carers Rights Day to focus on these acts and help explain what rights carers are meant to be given. There are around 6 to 6.5 million carers in the UK and carers save the NHS £87 billion every year!! However looking at carers these days, you would not think anyone would notice how much value carers add to the community. The problem is that carers help save money, but if carers were buying into something then carers would be protected.

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Now we have two new acts which looks to protect carers, but this is not the end of the story, how does Carers Rights Day help in carer awareness? Well if you are a carer, you may have already known how difficult it is to get support in order to make your role easier, or make your life easier. Carer’s Rights Day makes it known that carers have a right to information that supports their role, it is also important to help raise awareness of carers rights.

Carers also have the right to have financial support and also be aware of where to get that financial support. This is because carers just do not have the time to work if they are so busy caring, which is something so many people do not understand. Carers are financially poor not because they do not work, but they just do not always have the time.

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A national carers organisation called CarersUK has released a report which examines how financial pressures affect health, wealth, and well-being of carers. It is worth reading off their site.

Carers also struggle to find information, sometimes its difficult for carers to find the right person to get such information, but What can be worse is if that the carer finally finds that person who may end up withholding information for other reasons. Carer’s Rights day should also focus on how carers can get access to information within the right context to carry out their role.

Time and time again carers can be driven back into a role that is unsafe, unhealthy and unnerving for many carers not only across the UK, but across the world. Carers need to take a step forward and be counted for their efforts. Not everyone has the time and patience to look after someone. Carers should be valued for their skill-set in keeping the family together and keeping the community together. For far too long carers have been denied access to so much support.

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Carers Rights Day should also be a celebration for carers across the UK. I for one am going to spend part of the day visiting Carers Lewisham and I am also keen to see what the other carer’s centers are up to on the day.

What amazes me as a carer is wondering what would the situation be for carers if there was no Carers Rights day? How bad would it have to be for carers to continually care for someone with little support, before that carer suffers from bad health themselves?

We can all make that difference on Carers Rights Day. As a carer I urge other carers to blog about their experience of Carers Rights day, I also hope many people attend carers awareness events and pick up information about Carers Rights Day.

Thank you for reading.

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Review of the Lewisham Mental Health and Wellbeing Day

Matthew MckenzieHello again and welcome to another blog post on a carer’s perspective on mental health and wellbeing. Talking about those two last points, there was a mental health and wellbeing day on the 20th of November over at the Catford Civic Suite in Lewisham.

 

 

 

The Lewisham Mental Health and Wellbeing Day is presented by the NHS Lewisham CCG, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Lewisham Council.

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I just had to attend the mental health and wellbeing event, this is because I am a carer of a close relative suffering mental ill health. Last year I was lucky enough to chair the 2013 event and perhaps I ll place the video of that event later on in this blog post, but what was in store for us this year?

Well this year the MH and Wellbeing stakehold event wanted to concentrate on the service user/survivor aspect. So we had Carmine De Rosa chair the event. Next was a Mental Health commissioning update for 2014 and this was presented by Pamela Martin, GP Mental Health Lead for Lewisham CCG.

After Pamela’s talk came the presentation from Sarah Yiannoullou who is the Managing Director from NSUN (National Service User Network). Her talk was on inclusion, involvement and influence of those using the services and the NSUN 4PI standards.

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Then last to speak was John Ryan talking about an alternative view of the Mental Health system, John is a comedian and his talk certainly lightened up the mood since we all know Mental Health can be a difficult subject to discuss.

Still, the event was not just about talks, throughout the day from 10.00 am till 4:00 pm the event numerous workshops, stalls, wellbeing activities, refreshments and a chance to network and most importantly gain information to aid in recovery or getting support in caring. I also noticed some members of the public attended to try find out what mental health is all about.

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Unfortunately I cannot go into so much detail about the event this time, but why is this? Well for one I was recovering from a horrible cold, so I could not gain access to the talks or workshops because I kept coughing and sneezing. Secondly I do not want to repeat what is found in booklets about the event, I perfer this blog post to be about how I experienced the event and what I got up to most of the day.

Well on that sunny morning as I entered the Civic Suite, I was greeted by friendly staff who signed me in and handed out the agenda and activity information for the day. I then explored around the building and watched the impressive presentation slide of the wellbeing event.

Unfortunately my cold was getting the better of me so I had to sit down and gobble up some oranges kindly left for visitors to take. I was then greeted by Gráinne from Lewisham CCG and a few others who were glad I attended the event.

Eventually the public were called into the main chamber to hear the talks and I also went in for around about…..5 minutes before I started coughing and wheezing again. I just managed to get some of the talk where they presented on improving recovery and challenging mental health labels in order to reduce stigma.

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Soon I had to head back out to the waiting area and check to see if I could go back in the conference chamber, but it was no good so instead I took a trip to Civic Suite’s Lower floor. There were a vast array of stalls and I could not visit them all, but I ll explain what stalls took most of my attention.

The first stall that took my attention was SLaM Stall or the South London and Maudsley Stall. I could see many booklets and information about the mental health trust and also more information on how to become a member of the trust. I also picked up a flicked through SLaM’s latest newsletter about the Happy Heads event, which is an event aimed at teenagers to promote mental health and wellbeing. I think I did a blog post about that event.

After a while I tried again to enter the conference chamber and just caught a bit of the talk by NSUN on the 4PI standards, but what is NSUN all about? NSUN stands for National Survivor User Network and is a network for mental health in England. NSUN gives and promotes a powerful voice for those using the services and their carers, but they also do a lot more.

The talk was about how their work has led to the development of the 4PI framework for involvement: a simple, yet robust framework around which to base standards for good practice, and to measure, monitor and evaluate involvement.

– Principles
– Purpose
– Presence
– Process
– Impact

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Involvement of those using the mental health services is critical not only in aiding in recovery, but reducing the isolation felt by those using the services. At the core of mental health services should be the service user perspective. Such implementations are of course not an easy thing to archieve, but must always be one of the aims of any mental health service provider.

Again my cold played up on me and I found myself beating a hasty retreat back to the lower floor again to view some more stalls. The next stall was impressive and this was the lewisham healthwatch stall. Healthwatch is an independent consumer champion that gathers and represents the public’s views on health and social care services locally or nationally. The most interesting document I picked up from this stall is their report on one of SLaM’s units, which I flicked through. What came to mind when I went through the report was transparency and cooperation with other independent organisations.

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The next stall I visited was the Samaritans stall, I have spoken to the Samaritans several times on many events. Basically the Samaritan’s are a registered charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress. I spent quite a long time on this stall swapping ideas and networks, because one of their staff is a member of the Lewisham mental health connection, which I am also a member.

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The next stall was on IAPTs (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies
), which offers a range of psychological therapies to adults 18 years and over. I glanced over a few of their leaflets to take home and read, plus I have been on many IAPTs courses in the past.

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Eventually I wandered over to chat to a the SLaM’s carers support officer who I have known for many years, she was busy minding the SLaM’s Family & Carers information stall and I could see the purple family and carer booklet which I was lucky enough to contribute to. The Mental Health Trust aims to support carers as much as they can and this stall shows they are working hard to help carers of those using the services.

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After visiting the SLaM Family & Carers support stall, I moved on to the Carer’s Lewisham Stall and spoke to Jey and her new volunteer who specilises in dementia support. I picked up one of their leaflets, which was very colourful and flicked through it. As a carer, I have been using Lewisham Carers a long time.

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Then next stall was on “Community Connections”. Community Connections is a development and access-facilitation project with a preventative health and wellbeing focus. I picked up one of their leaflets which was on a wellbeing story, just on the focus for the day. Soon I moved on to another impressive stall which is the SmokeFree campiagn for lewisham.

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I eventually I ended up at the MyHealthLocker stall. This stall is about self empowerment using technology to monitor your own health and allow doctors and even carers to aid in your care. myhealthlocker allows you to have control over your health information. Service users can access their care plan from the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, keep track of how they are feeling, access resources and tips on staying well and manage their health and wellbeing. I was given a free T-shirt for attending the stall.

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The next stall I spent talking to the staff for a while in order to catch up with them. This stall is about the Lewisham Mental Health Connection are group of people working in the voluntary sector who are committed to improving mental health in Lewisham.

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After a few more visits to some stalls, I ended up back in the upper floor to have some nice carribean lunch and continued to network with many others.

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Unfortunately I missed out on the workshops and more talks, but I guess its impossible to be everywhere and considering I had a cold, I really enjoyed the day. I can’t wait for next years event.

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My Review on Healthwatch Southwark – 1 Year on event

coverI thought this time I would do a post on an healthwatch event. Now I have done some posts about healthwatch before, sometimes Healthwatch Lewisham and other times Lambeth, but this time I was over in the London borough of Southwark for the Healthwatch Southwark event – One Year on.

 

Before I continue on how the event went, what is healthwatch Southwark all about? Well basically taken from their site – Healthwatch gives people a POWERFUL voice locally and nationally on matters concerning health services. At a local level, local Healthwatch will work to help local people get the best out of their local health and social care services. Whether it’s improving them today or helping to shape them for tomorrow.

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Now there are healthwatches across different boroughs of London and the UK, all giving people the chance to form an opinion of the health services. Healthwatch does more than just listen and engage, they also do enter and view of health services and produce many reports. So the thing is what has Healthwatch Southwark been up to over the year they have been in action?

Well on the 22nd of November, I took a trip over to Pembroke House over in Southwark and was greeted friendly by the healthwatch staff and a staff member of “Community Action Southwark”. As a reminder, the Healthwatches are heavily volunteer focused and depend on involvement by the community, especially by those who have a passion for improving or championing the health service in the UK.

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When I entered the premises, I was glad to see quite a few stalls on display, although one of my main interest was the stall about mental health awareness and engagement. I took the opportunity to visit the CoolTan Wellbeing stall. CoolTan Arts exists to inspire and transform peoples lives though creativity and self-advocacy. The stall advertised the up and coming CoolTan Coolwalks, which I have been on several times. The stall also had booklets and information about mental health and a video about different periods the coolwalks focused on.

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20141122_132222The next stall I visited was a stall promoting sexual health research and awareness, which is one of Southwark Healthwatch’s main area on raising awareness about sexual Health. I spoke to the stall holder about her research and its main aim is to have people from the area of Lambeth & Southwark from aged 16-30 be part of an innovative sexual health study, where people can look to getting a sexual health check and tell them what they think about the service. Getting tested on sexual health is very important for many reasons.

Soon I spoke to the stall holders of the Southwark & Lambeth Integrated care where Health and social care organisations and people in Southwark and Lambeth have come together so that local people can lead healthier and happier lives. I was impressed by their display and the stall holders explained some important reasons for building a community along the lines of better healthcare. They want people to at least

– Feel they are a part of the community
– Have systems in place so they can avoid having a crisis at a later stage
– Live independently
– For carers to live the life they want to the best of their ability.
– and lots more

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Another stall I visited was the Southwark CCG stall, where they had lots of interesting information on what Southwark Doctors have been doing to improve healthcare for the borough. The CCG stands for Clinical Commissioning Group, which basically means a membership organisation of all the GP surgeries in a borough who help organise the delivery of NHS services. One of the main focus of the CCG is of the commissioning of services hence where should the money be allocated to on providers of health services.

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My main interest was the Southwark CCG summary annual report for 2013-14. I also picked up and took away people’s health information is used in the borough of southwark. I urge those interested in their health and health services to read up on such information when they can.

I also noticed stalls doing free health checks, free eye check examinations and I was also given a free health goodie bag. I guess Xmas has come early for me.

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After having some tasty lunch, which was provided free of charge by Healthwatch Southwark. We then went upstairs for the main event. The event was to hear what has healthwatch Southwark been up to? It was time to hear their story.

First to speak was Southwark Healthwatch Chair David Cooper. David spoke on the following being how much work and effort HW Southwark has been doing, The new NHS 5 year plan in south london, how financially difficult it has been for the health services and the importance of Healthwatch Southwark.

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David then moved on to the agenda of today’s speakers, which I was keen to hear from.

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We were then introduced to the new Healthwatch Southwark Manager Aarti Gandesha, now Aarti spoke about more about Healthwatch Southwark’s aims as you can see from the picture. She also talked about how people can get involved with healthwatch and there are many ways to get involved if you are passionate about your health services.

Aarti then talked about what HW Southwark has been up to so far and many of their engagements have been on the community focus groups involving different members of Southwark’s communities. Healthwatch Southwark have also held many public forum events and community events. Plus HW Southwark have been busy collecting stories for their joint ‘1000 lives’ project.

The Healthwatch Manager then moved on to explain what Healthwatch priorities are for Southwark and there are 4 being

1. Access to GP Services
2. Access to Mental Health Services (my main area of interest)
3. Sexual Health Services
4. Social care Services

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Next Aarti talked about Healthwatch Southwark’s archievements during the past year where they have

– Engaged with a large number of people over group sessions
– Established 4 priority areas
– have 676 supporters
– received 194 info and signposting queries
– and more

After Aarti’s presentation and talk, we then got to hear a story from a carer in the borough of Southwark. The story resonated similar themes that I go through as a carer e.g. the worry of services being closed down, being able to relate to others, the hope that things will get better and having to provide advice for others.

We then got to hear a talk and presentation from Southwark CCG Director Paul Jenkins. Now Paul’s talk was on the current & Future Opportunities for locality and neighbourhood working. Paul talked about understanding Southwark’s population and health needs (shown as a tree in picture).

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Plus Paul talked about the direction of travel when people needed to access health services in Southwark. The aim was to look into providing GP practices that will work closer together in the borough, plus providing a wider range of hospital care closer to patients homes. The thing I noticed from Paul’s talk is that services will need to work together since there will be many challenges.

We were shown the different neighbourhood groups of practices and their reach into the community. Plus the explanation of the direction of travel where many schemes and projects will be set with the aim of GPs working together

The last speaker was Kerry Crichlow who is Southwark Councils director of strategy and commissioning. Her talk was about health and social care commissioning and the integration in the borough of Southwark.

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Kerry gave a quick run down on the big issues about commissioning. Those being an ageing population and responding to financial challenges, plus health inequalities. Next Kerry moved onto opportunities where a strategy developed to aid the patient’s journey through their experiences in health. Plus building a stronger framework on prevention and inclusion. Kerry spoke more about the opportunities to shape provisioning around people and maximising integration of health services.

After the presentations, the public and patients who attended got to ask some quick questions, I won’t go into the answers, but some questions were based on

What can be of assistance for those who have physical disabilities or those who have hearing impairment?
What can bridge the divide in health equalities in the borough of Southwark?
How can personalisation help those who have had bad experiences health assessment?

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The next and last stage of the event was people to seperate into groups and provide HW Southwark and their facilitators opinions on the following

1 – Service Changes
2 – HW Priorities
3 – Involvement in HW Southwark

The one I chose was the “Involvement” table on how can Healthwatch get more people to volunteer. Each person on our table talked about their role and connections and we also talked about who do each of us talk to when we experience good or bad things in health service. Usually it would be our friends, family or specific groups. For me I tend to speak about my experiences at a carer’s group.

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We also discussed the importance of social media, which is one of my area of expertise and also the purpose of volunteering since some would like to volunteer, but are not sure how much work it would involve.

After feedback from each table. David then thanked all for attending. I was particularly glad I attended the event and was allowed to even blog the event. What I got most off this event is learning more about Southwark’s Health and social care setting, learning even more about Healthwatch, networking as I got access to sit on more groups and also giving my opinions.

Thanks for reading my blog post of this event.

CarersUK National Summit Review

Welcome back to another one of my blog posts. I guess I have not done a carers post for a while, so it seems fitting to do a post on the CarersUK National Carers Summit, which was held on the 13th of Novemeber 2014. This was an impressive Summit and I do admit the Clifford Chance building is certainly stylish.

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I am sure I may have mentioned CarersUK in one or two of my posts already and you might have actually seen the CarersUK link off my carers site list, but if you are still not sure what is CarersUK all about. Let me point out a bit about the organisation.

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Basically in a nutshell CarersUK give expert advice, information and support to all different types of carers, but not only that. CarersUK fundraise, the lobby the UK government, raise awareness of carers and try to support other carers to get involved in the carers movement.

Here is a brief video about CarersUK.

CarersUK have several important messages which I heard a few times at their National summit. These being :-

“You do not have to care alone” or “If only I had known” and many more important motto’s for carers.

Now, I am a member of CarersUK myself and often pop on to their carers forum every so often. I have even phoned CarersUK for advice and even if I did not get the advice I could have hoped for, then at least someone was on the other line who at least listened to me.

So why did I decide to take some of my precious carer’s time and head off the their national summit or AGM? Well there were several reasons.

1. CarersUK is BIG, if you have been a carer for a while then you should have heard of them.  I was very curious to see what CarersUK have been up to and wanted to experience what their AGM was like.

2. I also wanted to meet and see how many other carers turn up, I felt if there was a chance to form a network or make a connection then it has to be at this event. I have to be honest and state it is not so easy to get a majority of carers in one place. Why is this? Carers just do not have the time. Time for one thing is a precious commodity for carers, but if I at least shook a hand of another carer or spoke to a carer then at least I felt I was not alone.

3. Other reasons I wanted to attend the event is to gain information and to be part of the special occasion. I could not attend the previous event because it was fully booked, I was not happy about this, but this time I was not going to miss this AGM. I did not specifically go there to ask questions, I felt it was just nice to be there and feel part of the carers movement, it was nice to belong and to not feel alone any more.

There were numerous others of reasons why I wanted to be there, but anyway what happened at the AGM? What could I remember?

Well I met up with long time carer and carer representative Bridget Jones who has been working so hard in the field to spread carer awareness at the mental health trust South London and Maudsley, both Bridget and myself planned to attend the event a while back.

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Bridget and myself were so excited to visit the building and hear of any new developments, but in the back of my mind I knew there were going to be some difficult questions asked of CarersUK. For one I have noticed the austerity measures and cuts beginning to bite into social care.

The thing is, carers are trying to protect the vulnerable, which is their loved ones, but such cuts, bedroom tax and austerity measures always hits the vulnerable first.

As I walked into the building and collected my pass, I was impressed by the space and size of the area. The staff were welcoming and very friendly, I even bumped into fellow South London & Maudsley carer Governor Angela Flood, plus I also managed to shake hands with Heléna Herklots who is the CarersUK CEO as she greeted other carers into the auditorium, which I felt was one of the highlights since I know CEOs of big organisations can be distance or very busy to notice everyone.

Eventually Brigdet, Angela and myself sat down to hear the welcome from Professor David Greyson the chairman of CarersUK. He gave a very good speech, but a fair bit of my attention was on other carers and the surroundings. I also noticed some excellent and very challenging questions about the financial situation of carers.

We also got to hear from Heléna who gave a review of 2014 and what carersUK have been up to. I picked up a few points and those were

– How CarersUK have managed to increase their advice service from 2 days to 5 days a week
– Developed more training to NHS Staff
– Produced an e-learning package
– Plus producing leaflets for carers since not all carers have access to the internet
– CarersUK have increased membership and one of the major members is NHS England, which I was very glad to hear
– CarersUK have also made an impact on the Care act by getting parent carers included in the care act.
– It has also been a difficult year, as I have mentioned before. A lot of carers have been hit by bedroom tax, social care cuts and more cuts are on the way.

One thing that kept popping up at the AGM is that a number of CarersUK centers have closed due to limited funds or not being able to adapt systems CarersUK has tried to set up. It is important that carers who have had issues with CarersUK had to be heard and to be honest I expected the tough questions and statements to be raised at the AGM.

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We then had a 10 minute break where I spoke the Emily Holzhausen who is the director of policy and public affairs for CarersUK. I have met Emily quite a few times and she has spoken at the SLaM family and carers listening event a few times. I can certainly say that Emily works very hard for carers since it can be difficult to get someone of her stature to speak at such NHS trust events.

I also took time to make a pledge off the carersUK pledge wall and hoped to do just a bit more for CarersUK, but I know my time is very limited since not only am I still caring, but having to hold down a job and push forward carer awareness in South London and sometimes beyond.

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After the break we got to hear from more carer questions and I noticed another carer Kelvin Wheelan asking some interesting, but tough questions at the CarersUK board.

There were also questions of the trustee members and stating if they represented carers on their gender and race, which is a very difficult balance, but I did agree with the counter argument that if there were such criticisms then other carers should put themselves forward.

Next to present was Gavin Macgregor Director of communications and Engagement, plus we heard from Rucksana Mahmood who is the local ambassador in Glasgow and a member of the Carers Scotland Committee. We also heard from Denise Lee who is one of the CarersUK Adviceline volunteer who spoke passionately about her role to carers. We also got to listen to Caroline Toll who is another CarersUK ambassador in Somerset.

Unfortunately I could not stay long for the carersUK AGM, but I did get to listen to several poems from Cheryl Moskowitz and also from the short story winner Val Ormrod. As I write this blog now, I can still hear their voices as they read out their stories and poems from the AGM.

However, this blog is not mainly about what happened at the AGM, I wanted to put my 2 cents about the carers movement, I want to put my feet on the side of the fence, but which side?

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Well throughout the AGM, I did hear tough questions being asked of CarersUK. The thing is big organisations have big responsibilities and I do notice CarersUK shoulders are broad, but I also know that carers can complain and are not always silent as one may notice.

There are of course millions of carers who are isolated and do not know of their role or do not get any support, but I could not help notice some unfair questions being thrown at CarersUK. Yes, I am sure some of the CarersUK staff get paid well for what they do, but I still feel that job is not the easiest of roles. I also notice CarersUK need support as well, but from who? you ve guessed it, us carers.

It is a shame that carers in the UK have to muster up more energy and determination to help the carers movement, but I feel its not just any carer can take up that role. I feel it takes a carer who has the energy, spirit and heart to give not only care for their loved ones, but also to support their carer organisation or centers.

If I was talking about the banker movement, then yes, it would be far easier for other bankers to support their financial sector, but alas it is us carers having to spread the message.

Its not that CarersUK is forcing people to help in the movement, but I am aware that if we are to be heard on our struggles then we all need to work together, but I am aware that the system does not work for all carers and there will be tough decisions ahead. Carers will be let down and yes CarersUK have struggled to be there for some carers, but I also know resources are hard to come by.

So I guess the side of the fence I am sitting on is to support CarersUK. I feel it does no good complaining about them or blaming them for too many things, which of course some things are clearly out of their control.

Plus thinking back to the AGM, I cannot remember any carer in the audience thanking carersUK for their hard work that they have done so far, although I could be wrong since I had to leave around lunch time.

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Overall I was impressed with the AGM and I felt all speakers spoke from their heart, which is what I want to hear most of all. I want to see the passion in the movement, I also want to see carers rally to support not just carersUK, but many other carers organisations as well. I want carers to link up and support other carers. Us carers can support fellow carers by listening, giving advice and pointing to other carers where to find good resources.

I wish to thank all CarersUK staff for running a successful AGM, which kept to its time limit and keeping my interest (which is not an easy thing to do). Us carers need to connected more than ever now because we are at risk due to cuts and the care bill although promising has not been tested in an uncertain society. With big changes in politics, the NHS and the community, we need the big organisations that cannot be so easily ignored. Us carers can usually be ignored because we are not often heard, we just continue to struggle on caring, but rest assured when carers speak, I know carersUK will amplify our voices.

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Let our caring voices ring out “We do not have to care alone“.

Edward Adamson Collection Talk at Vout-0-Reenee

Welcome to another blog post. I hope you have been checking out most of my blog site as you might already be aware that this site is aimed at those interested in mental health, however a fair bit of the blog site is about mental health through a carers eyes.

Anyway with this particular blog post, I am back over in the art world and I am not sure if you have managed to check out one of my videos on World Mental Health Day 2014, but at the last section of the video I attended a talk by Dr David O Flynn who is the head of the Adamson Collection the largest collection of Psychotherapeutic art.

I thought that this time I wanted to hear more about the Edward Adamson collection, so I attended another event on the 12th of Novemeber 2014. The event was held over at Vout-0-Reenee located over in Tower Hamlets, which is a lovely club where people can swap ideas on art and also attend events on art, poetry and creativity.

Art club

The club is run by Sophie Parkin and her Dutch husband Jan Vink. The club also has a lovely art gallery where many of the paintings I managed to view.

Matthew Mckenzie

After a while David who is a psychiatrist over at Lambeth Hospital begun his talk about Edward Adamson and Edward’s art collection, but who is Edward Adamson?

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Edward Adamson was a British artist, and he is known as the father of Art Therapy and also the creator of the Adamson Collection. Edward Adamson died 3 February 1996, but he left a legacy on Psychotherapeutic art.

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Edward main emphasis was on using art to heal people, that being where the inpatients of the asylums would use art as a way to try and slowly recover from mental ill health. The sad thing is that patients of the asylums would be closed off from the world or society and so art therapy was critical for those shut away from others.

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Edward Adamson worked alone with 100s of people where he helped them to create and express themselves in art.

The one thing I ve noticed when David does his talks is how he mentions that creativity can lead to healing and I sincerely agree with him. Edward also viewed art as something not to be over examined or analysed. The main thing was to get the patients to just create things and project themselves into their art.

The Adamson collection has had a wide media coverage, exhibition and a festival. The collection is comprised of over 5,000 paintings, drawings, sculpture and ceramics produced by patients who worked with him from 1946 to the mid-1990s.

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Talking about festivals. There was a Adamson Arts Festival held over at South London and Maudsley where the festival took placed over at the Maudsley Learning center around mid 2014.

The festival was joined by RAW Sounds, which is a project of creative media sessions for people accessing mental health services, open to young people and adults between the ages of 16-65 accessing mental health services.

David talked about how the collection was placed in Lambeth hospital, but after a while the art became in danger of being neglected. There were 4,500 unframed paintings that was needed to be placed in a safe location.

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David managed to have the Wellcome Library relocate a large number of paintings to a safer storage facility.

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Throughout the talk, I was very impressed on how much David talked about the use of Art as therapy and his knowledge about Edward Adamson’s view on art. David talked more about the number of different types of art collections from Edward Adamson.

David also talked about the patients work of art and how Edward’s paintings have a strong representation of women.

At the talk we were shown a film called “Insulin Coma Dreams”, which showed more about the Adamson Arts festival, this film was directed and filmed by Andrew locke, who also gave a talk about the film and what it represents.

Andrew Locke

Andrew locke who is an expert by experience was also inspired by work of Adamson, so he made the film on the closing event of the Edward Adamson Festival.

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All in all I enjoyed the presentation and talk by David and Andrew, there was lots to learn about the collection. What is more impressive is the energy and dedication by those who wish for people’s works of art to live on.

Carers Lewisham AGM 2014 Review

Matthew MckenzieWelcome back to another of my blog posts. If you do not know already, I tend to blog about caring, especially caring for those suffering mental ill health, if I am not blogging about caring, then I review events on psychiatry, psychology or sociology, if not reviewing events, I help on mental health promotion and also review the odd audio lecture.

 

 

However this particular blog post is about the Carer’s Lewisham Annual General Meeting. This AGM took place on the 7th of November 2014 over at the Methodist Hall church in Albion Way.

Methodist Hall church

The Carers Lewisham AGM was about the recent developments Carers Lewisham have been up to, plus a chance to hear from 5 carers talking about their journeys as carers and how Carers Lewisham has helped them.

Before I continue, what exactly is Carers Lewisham? What do they do? Here is one of their videos about Philip the young carers advocate.

Now continuing about what Carers Lewisham does.  Taken from their site. Carers Lewisham supports Carers in the London Borough of Lewisham from aged 5 upwards. They provide a range of services including advice, information, emotional support, breaks, opportunities to meet other carers, time out from caring activities such as relaxation days and well being sessions; coping strategies, specialist support for parent carers, carers of people with dementia, carers of people with mental health problems, older carers and carers who are caring for someone who is nearing the end of their life.

So you see Carers Lewisham does a lot for carers and as a carer myself, all this help is appreciated, considering that us carers are often unappreciated at times. I was so pleased with all the support Carers Lewisham has given me over the years, I was more than happy to be one of the 5 carers to do a talk at their AGM.

I will not go into too much over the Carers Lewisham AGM, but what tends to happen there? Well basically we get the minutes from the previous year’s AGM. We then got to ask questions on any matter’s arising. Members are provided with the previous years Annual Report and Audited Accounts from the previous year and we get to hear any other business.

It has been a difficult year due many cuts in services and I am sure a lot of other charities are facing similar difficulties, so Carers Lewisham was no exception. I know they have been working very hard on behalf of carers like myself who also face a tough time almost trying to survive.

However from the past year, Carers Lewisham have still been very busy and have done several outstanding Achievements. They have gained the ‘Center of Excellence Award’ from Carers Trust. Carers Lewisham have also developed their social media communications and their Ebay shop is going strong. Plus they have supported hundred’s more carers and saved carers thousands of pounds of legal fees by helping them with Power of Attorney’ forms.

Carers Lewisham have done all this and more. You might have noticed I often blog about other carer centers, but being since I am from the London Borough of Lewisham, I ll always have Carers Lewisham close to my heart.

After the AGM was finished, the guests and members at the Methodist Hall Church got to hear from 5 carers stories about their journey. I felt so privileged to tell my story and journey, I felt the day was quite special to me, even though deep down my heart aches with sorrow for who I look after.

Matthew Mckenzie

Every carer who spoke at the AGM about their journey struggled to hold back their emotions, all the 5 carers let the audience know how much their caring role has affected them and how Carers Lewisham has sort to get them through a difficult and challenging role.

Another carer story told was from Kevin Wheelan who told the audience about who he is looking after and how difficult the journey was for himself. Kevin has been active with many organisations and groups. I could say that Kevin is a great spokesperson for carers.

Kevin

Overall I felt the AGM went rather well and it was with sad regret to hear the CEO of Carers Lewisham Diana Jones is to leave the charity after some months. The reason why? She is compelled to care for her close relatives.

Diana Jones

I have known Diana many years and from what I have seen and will remember of her is that smile and putting carers close to her heart.

Here is a video below with some hints and tips from Diana.

Going back to my story, I said the usual things about my journey, but if I have not thanked all the staff at carers Lewisham then I do apologize, I have special thanks for Jey Siva who has helped me through the most difficult periods of my life.

Jey Siva

Jey has attended meetings with me and advocated on my behalf, even outside her working hours. You could say both Jey and myself have walk the journey together.

Who knows what the future may bring on our caring journeys, but one thing will always remain is that I will never forget the great support Carers Lewisham has provided for myself.

Here’s to the great memories and adventures to come.

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Caring through the stress – #NSAD2014

Welcome to another of my blog posts. Did you know that caring for someone can come with some difficulties? There are many difficulties in providing care, but one of those difficulties is stress. Did you also know that the date of this blog post is written on National Stress Awareness day 2014?

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National Stress Awareness day 2014 is promoted by many organisations, but the one that initially pushes the awareness campaign is The International Stress Management Association which is a registered charity dedicated to Promoting Wellbeing and Performance.

Well hopefully you have managed to attend some events about stress awareness or perhaps you have read up on what stress can do to people, especially workers or carers. However what exactly is stress?

Basically our thought processes control our body and this can be done at such speed, that our body quickly reacts to our thoughts. The thing is Stress happens when we feel that we can’t cope with pressure and this pressure comes in many shapes and forms, and triggers physiological responses. What are these things called pressure? How can pressure affect how much stress a person can take?

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Pressures come in many form, basically the idea that we should set out to achieve a specific task or number of tasks, but what happens if those tasks become increasingly difficult to do?

Let me go back to the world of carers, many carers find out they have to set themselves a task to provide care with almost next to no support. Of course this is depending on what care is expected from a carer, but unfortunately the tougher the aliment of the caree (person receiving care) then the tougher the caring role.

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If the task of caring seems never ending or other tasks get in the way, then the pressure increases, if a specific carer cannot cope with the pressure, then stress increases, if the carer cannot find a way to cope with the stress or no support is available to cope with the stress then the carer can suffer many difficult symptoms.

What are the symptoms of stress?

Stress can affect people differently and this can also boil down to the level of stress. Below is a small list of how stress can affect some people.

Inability to concentrate – If a person worries all the time due to stress, they can find it hard to concentrate.
Seeing only the negative – Stress can cause people to lack confidence, especially if they fail at a task. Many carers often blame themselves when faced with the difficult task of providing care.
Anxious thoughts – One of the most common symptoms of stress, we become so anxious that we cannot decide what task to achieve.
Constant worrying – Some stress can become a roundabout, we want to rid of stress, but worry about stress and eventually it can lead to worrying about worrying about stress.
Moodiness – Some people can become short tempered of moody if feeling stress.
Agitation, inability to relax – Since the body may be in ‘fight or flight’ mode, it can be very difficult to sit still.
Feeling overwhelmed – Another common symptom of stress, especially if a carer is multi-tasking, a carer would feel overwhelmed
Depression or general unhappiness – One of the most common psychological traits that can unhappiness
Aches and pains – constant stress can lead to physical problems
Chest pain, rapid heartbeat – Stress can also affect people physically.
Loss of sex drive – Things that people enjoy can also be affected, too much stress can stop us relaxing or having an interest in many things.
Frequent colds – One of the most common symptoms of stress, which affects workforce heavily, constant stress can affect our immune system, where it becomes harder to fight off infections.
Trouble Sleeping – Stress can keep the body in flight or fight mode that it can be difficult to sleep due to constant worrying.

So can you imagine some of the situations a carer may find themselves in if they take on too much within their role. It might not be so bad for carers coming from larger families, since a another member of the family might take over, but if a carer is on their own then the stress can affect a carer till they feel they can no longer carer any more. Plus coming back to larger families, I have heard some families leave a single member caring for someone because the family refuses to get involved.

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Well what can be done about this? What should a carer seek to do?

The first thing would be to understand when stress can become a problem for themselves. Here is a video I have made to explain more about National Stress Awareness day.

Other things a carer can try to get done is get a carers assessment, especially in the UK a carer can get assessed to see if their caring duties are are risk of overwhelming the carer.

The next task is for carers to try get themselves respite or a break away from the stress of caring, usually the assessment can indicate when respites are needed, a break might not solve the problems of caring but it at least it is a start.

The video I listed above can also be an educating factor for carers experiencing stress, there are steps where carers can look out for the signs of stress. The best steps are the following

– Take time out to do the things you enjoy
– Watch carefully for how you breathe, try slow down breathing during stressful situations
– Exercise whenever you can get the time
– Connect with friends, family or even other carers
– Try to stay positive.

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Stress is such a huge problem for society, no wonder there are awareness days dedicated to stress problems. Stress also is a major problem for the workplace especially the NHS and organisations need to take notice to protect their staff. Even if the stress awareness opportunity was missed, let it not be a one time event, but a nudge to implement stress awareness into policies and protect staff.