Carers shine during Carer’s Week

10 Jun 2021

This week is Carers Week and Jewish Care is celebrating the amazing contribution of the many family carers the organisation supports so they can look after those they care for and themselves, especially after such a challenging time through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rachel Shine, 42, has been supported by Jewish Care and talks about what a lifeline it’s been to have the support of Jewish Care’s Family Carer’s Team member, Tracy Ward, as well as the online groups for people living with dementia and their carers through the pandemic.

Five years ago, Rachel’s mum, Margaret, who is now 78, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Margaret was working as a medical secretary until she was 75 but finally had to retire. Rachel eventually gave up her job as a teaching assistant to care for her Mum.

Rachel says, “Five years ago Mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it was a really lonely time. You find yourself shellshocked. I felt really lost and my friends had mentioned that I should call Jewish Care.

“I phoned the Jewish Care Direct helpline and Tracy Ward called from their Family Carers Team and she told me she was here to support us through everything and we should take it one step at a time.

“Tracy came to meet Mum and get a sense of where she was. She told me about all the support groups available through Jewish Care, like Memory Way Café and Singing Together. When it was time to take next steps in terms of when Mum needed to stop work and driving, it was so helpful having that time to talk it all through with Tracy. Often she’d call and I’d talk and I just hadn’t realise how much I needed it.

“Mum would go to the Jewish Care’s Dennis Centre for people living with dementia once or twice a week which was good for us both. She enjoyed it, she took her knitting and she liked the food. We went to the Memory Way Café there and Singing Together. There were other local groups she’d go to as well. Then the pandemic hit.

“Then once the groups started on Zoom the team from Jewish Care would call me the day before to remind me that the Memory Way Café, reminiscence and chat group was on as well as the Singing Together group and it was really good.

“I needed that was support because it was an incredibly lonely time. It was made worse whilst we couldn’t physically go out, so the responsibility of caring and the worry just felt relentless. There were points when I thought, I can’t do it so I really needed all the support there was. But I’ve constantly felt that people were in touch and I always felt I could pick up the phone, nothing is a problem and everyone at Jewish Care is so quick to help.

“The Zoom groups, along with the Knit, Stitch and Natter group and Tracy’s calls and the support from Susan Dawson who runs Memory Way Café’s and Singing Together, have all been a lifeline.

“I also went to Jewish Care’s group for carers every other week which was invaluable because though everyone had different needs we could all support each other, give advice and sometimes just a chance to have a moan or cry. I literally could not have survived without all of Tracy’s support and the online sessions to look forward to which gave me hope as a way of seeing and speak to others and it has just given me such joy.

“Mum has just moved into residential care at Jewish Care’s Vi & John Ruben’s House with the support of the amazing Jewish Care staff and I start a new part-time job soon which I’m really looking forward to. My partner Steven has been an absolute star too. I know that there’s also a support group for relatives after Mum has moved in which is run by Tracy and I’m really pleased that I’ll be able to still be able to have that support.”

Lesley Wines, Manager of the Family Carers Team, says, “The most important service of the Family Carers Team is that we listen – really listen – to the voice of the carer. We are the people who ask the carer how they are, and really care about the response, as very often it is the person they care for who is the focus of everyone’s concern. Of course, that person is important, but it is our role to ensure that the family carer does not get left behind, or taken for granted, when planning future care. Each client’s situation is different, as is the amount of time that we remain involved.”

“Many carers find that it’s so helpful to speak to a total outsider to share feelings that they may find difficult to share with another family member or friends. Our team of experienced professionals have all had caring experiences as well as experience of supporting carers over many years. Family Carers are there to listen but also to advise, support and signpost. We are non-judgemental and confidential and as well as providing one to one support, we also facilitate support groups where some people find they get great benefit from peer support.”

Family Carers Support Worker, Tracy Ward, who worked with Rachel adds, “I worked with Rachel for several years and we developed a relationship and mutual understanding of what I could offer and she always knew I was there for her with support.”

If you are a family carer who needs support or advice, please contact Jewish Care Direct helpline on 020 8922 2222 or helpline@jcare.org