A few weeks ago, we posted a blog which described a day in the life of a volunteer peer mentor with VOCAL (Voice of Carers Across Lothian). This blog describes a day in the life of by Hazel Waddell, who co-ordinates the peer mentors for VOCAL. VOCAL provide peer support to carers of people with dementia. This service is one of the Trust’s 12 funded dementia peer support and befriending projects.
My role at VOCAL is quite complex as I wear a few hats as Carer Support Worker.
One of the newest bits of work I am involved with is VOCAL’s peer mentoring project. We had a very small pilot of this kind of work about 18 months ago and have relatively recently been awarded Life Changes Trust funding to further develop this work to support a much larger number of carers of people with dementia.
The pilot was led by my line manager and we are working together to develop the work further. Today we met to plan the recruitment of a few more carers to become mentors. We have already trained a group and as they are settling well into their roles well we are looking to expand the team to make it as diverse as possible. While there is lots of common ground in people’s stories, we are keen to ensure we have a good mix of male and female, ages and caring relationships and experiences to ensure the best possible service for clients. At today’s meeting we discussed approaching a few carers who have used VOCAL’s services previously to ask if they would be interested in sharing their stories in this way.
Next on my peer mentoring to-do list is to log in to our case management system to see if my Carers Support Worker colleagues have made a referral for a mentor. There are two referrals waiting for me which is not too much of a surprise as everyone in the team is able to see the benefits to carers of being mentored by someone who has lived experience of caring for a family member with dementia.
The Carers Support Workers who have made the referrals have read the mentor profiles and suggested the mentor they think would be the best fit for their client’s needs and have listed the times that suit their client the best. This is great and it means I can make contact with the mentors to see if they are free to meet (as always checking that the carer and mentor don’t live too close together or know each other in other parts of their life) and book a room here at the Carers Centre (the mentors and carers always meet at the Carers Centre for their first meeting and then after that meet in cafes). I send the mentors emails and wait for replies. This should not take too long as they are very good at responding (once again I think how helpful smart phones are to our work!).
Next I switch hats and contact some of the clients I am working with as a Carers Support Worker. I really enjoy the carer support work and I think it really helps me with my peer mentor coordinator role as the work, while different to the mentoring role, has some similar lessons, pleasures and challenges, all of which I can use to support the peer mentors.
By the end of the day I have heard back from both mentors and have scheduled their meetings for next week. I have also checked the case management system and am pleased to see that all the mentoring meetings for last week took place and I can see from the case notes the mentors have made that there were no issues that they are seeking my support with.
VOCAL’s Training Officer will be pleased that one of the mentoring clients is also interested in attending one of our stress management courses and that the mentor has booked them a place.
I draft a few notes for next weeks mentors team meeting and head home, happy in the knowledge that the work we do helps provide vital support to carers from someone who has walked in their shoes.