There’s a lot of good-natured banter between the people taking part in a brand new course that’s being offered in Forth Valley Sensory Centre.
The Camelon centre has joined forces with Falkirk & Clackmannanshire Carers’ Centre, combining their expertise to offer tailored workshops for people with extra sensory needs.
The partnership has just provided its first courses, which have been very well received.
The Falkirk Herald visited when husband and wife Michael and Betty Downie and mother and daughterIrene and Denise Silcock were attending.
They all agreed enthusiastically that the workshops were not only useful but enjoyable.
The emphasis in the workshops is on health and well-being; over the weeks, they have looked at topics such as managing stress, coping with change and getting effective nutrition.
Irene, who is blind, is unable to go anywhere without her daughter and they both enjoyed being able to go together.
Betty, who is deaf, attended with her husband Michael. He has dementia, yet is able to be part of the workshop, supported by all the others.
When I ask Betty if she has enjoyed the course, she replied: “Yes, I have – but he’s enjoyed it too and that’s the most important thing.”
It’s an attitude all too often found among unpaid carers, who put others’ needs before there own.
A carer is anyone who provides unpaid support to friends, family members or even neighbours .
However, the centre has found that very often people don’t see themselves as carers – they believe they are simply doing what anyone would do in their position, looking after someone they love.
And that can mean they are unable to access the support available to them.
Brenda Whyte, groups co-ordinator at Forth Valley Sensory Centre, said: “We know that a lot of carers out there don’t get the help and support they need until they reach breaking point.
“We also know that carers can miss out on important programmes like this because they feel guilty about leaving the person they care for to do something which they see as only benefiting themselves.”
Rebecca Fowler brings the expertise of Central Carers to the sessions.
The people attending are fully involved and there is flexibility for it to be tailored to their needs.
The relaxed nature of the course means that carer and cared for person will only be separated if they wish and many of the activities are enjoyed together.
Many of those attending carers sessions are looking after elderly parents, where sight and hearing problems are increasing.
Jennifer Thomson, who co-ordinates the activities, has found great success with reminiscence. She brings in collections of famous packaging from years gone by, bringing the memories flooding back and getting the conversation going.
When the group takes a break, Sarah from the cafe comes in to explain how to create delicious and healthy smoothies and enjoys a laugh at the same time.
It’s this conversation – sometimes friendly banter but sometimes more serious – that is actually one of the most important things to people attending. Meeting other people who understand is vital.
One person who attended a pilot course said: “It has been good meeting other people going through the same – we learned so much from each other.”
“We encourage people to come along and be social,” said Brenda. “They realise that others are in the same boat!”