Enhancing the Wellbeing of Carers in Cambridge

Pictured from left to right: Rebecca Browne (CTCPN), Richard Cross (CTCPN), Tara Belcher (After Umbrage) and Tracy Wilkinson (After Umbrage)

Heart warming and humbling are the words that came to mind when Tara Belcher, Founder of After Umbrage and Tracy Wilkinson, Head of Marketing Communications met the carers in Cambridge who dropped into the Carers Trust Cambridgeshire Peterborough and Norfolk (CTCPN) twice monthly meet up.

The group attracts about 20 carers who come with their loved ones who are living with dementia and it’s an opportunity for a short break and to learn from and share ideas with fellow carers. The informal atmosphere is very welcoming as the Carers Trust staff are so warm and friendly and The David Rayner Building has big arm chairs and sofas to help guests relax.

The two hour session is divided in half: time all together and a second hour when the cared for enjoy singing and telling funny stories whilst their carers enjoy a guest speaker and an opportunity to learn something helpful.

We were invited to give a talk about wellbeing to share powerful and free tips for enhancing emotional health and reducing stress. It was also an opportunity to tell the carers they can have a free four day break at our Kingham Cottage near Bath – with or without their loved one – courtesy of After Umbrage.

The informal session included lots of practical tips for self-care to help improve the emotional health of the dedicated carers. Carers in the UK contribute so much economically to our economy – £132 billion every year – but none of them were aware just how much.

The mood was warm and happy and together we created lots of laughter and some tears. One carer, Roger with a dry sense of humour delivered his hard-hitting message with a smile. He said, “It’s great to be mindful when eating but when it’s taken me 45 minutes to prepare a meal, I only had three minutes to eat it before my wife’s portion goes cold as I need to cut it up and feed her.”

Judy could feel the boost of the cuddle hormone, Oxytocin when we shared a smile and Geoff told very real stories about how he coped with his wife’s embarrassing, colourful language when in the local cafe.

It was a valuable learning experience for us too. We could appreciate that some carers’ loved ones had highly progressed symptoms whereby going away for a break with them is detrimental to their health. The cost of getting care overnight is in the thousands of pounds so, even with free accommodation like ours, it’s an expensive break. Others were at a different stage and loved the idea of a self catering cottage in the countryside less than 2 miles away from Bath.

The day was a great example of giving which is well known for enhancing wellbeing. The carers are helping us by sharing our leaflets with their fellow carers to help us raise awareness of our charity and we gave gifts of knowledge to improve their wellbeing. We thank Rebecca Browne of the Carers Trust for inviting After Umbrage to their group and are delighted to be invited to other groups around the county.

The feedback was evident in the room by the smiles and abundance of stories being shared. In addition, the key takeaways were, “To pause and smell the roses”, “To laugh more and be kind to myself”, “Mingle with positive-minded people”, “Think about things in a different way” and “It was a fun and interesting talk delivered with enthusiasm and empathy.”

After Umbrage will be ‘on tour’ around Cambridgeshire in 2018 with funding from The Big Lottery and we look forward to spreading the awareness that we offer free holiday accommodation for carers of loved ones with a life limiting condition.