“I can empathise with carers because I’m a carer myself”

News and Blog

Steph is our new Carer Support Worker. Here she shares more about her role and the work she’ll be doing to support people who are caring for someone they love.

“I joined St Catherine’s a month ago this week as the hospice’s Carer Support Worker.

I have a nursing home background

And worked as a carer at a residential care home before I started working here.

While I was there, I worked with St Catherine’s and I always thought the hospice was amazing at helping us support people when they were at the end of their life. The team here were so good at giving advice. Whenever I needed something like medication if I rung St Catherine’s we always had it by the end of the day.

I thought I’d probably end up working on the wards here at some point but when I saw this role come up “I thought I could do that.”

We’ve got 1,400 carers currently on our books

My role is new so it’s still developing and evolving but I contact carers of our patients to check that they have emotional, practical and respite support in place. I also work closely with Wellbeing colleagues.

A couple of weeks after a loved one’s referral here, I send carers an information pack with details of who I am and what I can offer support with.

Quite often people don’t need too much support at the start of their illness, but things can change rapidly and people can become quite isolated.

When someone becomes a carer, they often don’t know what to do or how to access things

My support is about giving them confidence and helping them to feel less isolated. Caring for someone can be lonely, and during COVID, when many services stopped, lots of carers were left without support.

Even now as the world is opening up and restrictions are easing, many carers still don’t feel safe going out. There’s still a lot of worry.

I can empathise with carers because I’m a carer myself

I understand why people don’t like to identify as a carer, because as well as professional caring experience I have personal experience of being a carer as a Mum of two boys with additional needs. My sons are on the autistic spectrum and one of them is deaf.

When my doctor first mentioned the word carer to me, my reaction was “I’m their Mum, I’m not their carer. Looking after them is what I do” but the doctor said I was a parent carer and recommended I go to a parent carer support group. Attending that has helped me so much, and I know how support groups can help ease isolation. Support makes all the difference.

I know how hard it can feel when you’re offered respite support too as you’re handing the person you love most in the world over to someone else to look after

For a long time, I didn’t trust anyone else to look after my boys in the same way I could. I know a lot of carers find it hard to trust anyone to look after their loved one in the same way they do as well.

As part of my role, I work closely with other groups in our community

I’m trying to network with lots of organisations.

I signpost carers to West Sussex Carers and Surrey Carers and make sure they know about local support groups on offer.

In the future I hope we’ll be able to work more in partnership with West Sussex Carers and Surrey carers too. I also let people know about our Telephone Buddies service. I work closely with Jigsaw too, and I’m building a relationship with Stripey Stork.

I’ve arranged Mother Day gift bags and the team are working on young carer gift bags

I’m having a tour of the Stripey Stork warehouse this week and they’ve offered toy baskets for our carer support groups when we do them.

They’ve also donated Mother Day gift bags so families under our care have some gifts to help them celebrate Mother’s Day at the end of the month.

We’ve also had items donated by Tesco for young carer gift bags

These include fidget toys, colouring books, pens, journals for young people to write their memories or frustrations, and hot chocolate. I’m currently working on an information leaflet to include, with information about carer apps they or their parent/guardian can download for support, and then the nursing team will be taking them out to people when they go out and visit.

It’s lovely because as soon as I say I work with St Catherine’s people want to help.”