Caregiving Collaborative planning Health and wellbeing

The potential benefits of community support in action

Caregivers must not be a marginalised or neglected group. They should have access to high-quality communal support.

Frank O’Hagan


The consequences for carers being occupied in meeting the daily demands of their routines and household duties, often both hectic and nerve-wracking, require close attention. Problems may include low self-esteem, stress, anxiety or depression. Let’s face the grim fact that social care has been neglected, locally and nationally, and is in need of urgent reform. Be sure to access and consult civic authorities, websites and other sources of information to remain well advised and updated. It is crucial for you, and persons for whom you are caring, to be fully notified about mutually agreed plans, formal procedures, financial entitlements, and available resources. (As one dedicated carer who had tried hard to seek advice remarked, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”)

Overall, there has been a lack of means and relevant occasions – for both caregivers and persons in need of care – regarding the organising of training sessions and the managing of social activities. Nonetheless, there are many examples of a very high standard to be found. Improving and extending opportunities for carers, not only to engage in boosting their knowledge and skills, but also to have time for relaxation and for completing essential chores are among the many aspects of importance calling for scrutiny. A collective challenge must undoubtedly be to identify best practices and to replicate them across communities.

The main objectives of this brief article are to encourage caregivers to: (1) seek out the various helpful facilities which exist in their localities; (2) evaluate how applicable they are as regards meeting the personal, emotional and social needs of those for whom they are caring; (3) make sure that the necessary steps are specifically included within care plans in order to attain the most relevant and appropriate provisions; and (4) foster cooperation along with colleagues, charities and altruistic associations in publicising examples of wholesome interests and schedules which enhance enthusiasm, wellbeing and inclusiveness among those in most need.

Some examples of communal involvement

Information and training events – It is imperative that, from the initial stages of assuming their responsibilities, carers enquire about and ascertain the full range of professional and voluntary facilities which are available to assist them. They must not hesitate to take the necessary steps to ensure that they are given expert advice and detailed facts about amenities and opportunities for well-targeted instruction. When possible, listening to and learning from the experiences, tribulations and successes of others can be extremely advantageous. By making good use of relevant organisations and websites, there are openings to remain apprised about beneficial interventions and projects. It also is important that caregivers are considerate and thoughtful as regards their own general health and welfare.

Friendship gatherings – Since the time of Samuel Smiles (1812-1904) there have been many publications, and more recently items on social media platforms, emphasising the importance of self-help. Given the dangers of burnout and ‘compassion fatigue’, carers ought to safeguard times for resting, investigating and fact-finding. Regular get-togethers, perhaps even timetabled coffee and lunch appointments, not only possess the capacity to strengthen camaraderie but also to be instructive and empowering. They create platforms for conversation and debate within safe and casual settings. In a real sense, they incorporate the characteristics of informal counselling and learning, resulting in constructive perspectives and insights on the problem-solving solutions which have been adopted by acquaintances.

Social outings – Visits and day expeditions can offer periods of leisure and respite. They also may be convenient for sharing ideas and considering future collaborative enterprises and networking. However, caregivers may find it difficult, even be affected by a sense of guilt, when they leave on an excursion without those whom they support. Good planning, including timetabling and suitable cover for their dependents if not in attendance on a trip, is vital. Three brief illustrations: (1) a national charity arranges a bus journey for carers to visit and enjoy afternoon tea in a historical building, allowing time to appreciate the congenial surroundings, make new contacts and discuss concerns; (2) volunteers from a local church energize bonds within their care group by means of undertaking a soothing and interesting voyage by barge on a nearby canal; and (3) professional trainers set up a series of outdoor walks in tranquil, open spaces to raise spirits and give time for meditation.

Recreational activities — Commendably, accessibility to engage in their preferred forms of recreation – at their own individual levels of ability and within a friendly atmosphere – are now available in a wide variety of locations for those experiencing physical and mental disabilities. These include rambling, gardening or working in allotments, dancing, bowls, tennis and other pursuits. For example, the advent of walking football has provided refreshing possibilities for exercise and involvement at sports centres and outdoor facilities. Since its introduction, it has gained in popularity for persons with ailments, such as poor coordination. It has a set of rubrics which, for those requiring additional aid, can be applied in a flexible manner to suit the competences of participants and their prevailing conditions.

‘Tech talk’ – In recent years, there has been an explosion of ways in which the proficiency of social care has been developed through a variety of differing technologies, including pertinent searches on the internet. Joining coaching sessions, served by a facilitator skilled in handling software, holds the potential for learning about the advantages of a wide range of assistive devices. Efficient applications of technology offer much by way of discovering how assistance can be undertaken in a flexible, individualised manner. It is not surprising that caregivers often feel that they form a hidden and neglected community. Technological innovations present chances for enhancing security, strengthening inclusiveness, stimulating a genuine culture of companionship, and making learning and training occasions much more rewarding and straightforward.

Mindfulness — There certainly appears to have been a boom in the attractiveness of mindfulness as a pastime in modern society. As an activity, it has much in common with Buddhist and meditational traditions and is associated with the development of general wellbeing among both individuals and groups. It helps to ensure active, continuous, unrestricted and non-judgmental awareness being fully maintained from moment to moment. Participation in shared gatherings takes many forms depending on circumstances. A desired aim is to guarantee that everyone is in a good position to engage as fully as feasible. Supporters emphasise its usefulness in cultivating positive feelings and in alleviating various unwanted problems such as anxiety and stress. Both relevant guidance and well-directed assistance are recommended in order to reap the full benefits of its usage. As with other therapeutic methods, mindfulness is not necessarily suitable for everyone. My personal opinions about the practice are not intended to suggest that it is a panacea for all situations or challenges.

Sporting memories — There are various kinds of group activities which focus on a combination of connectiveness, conviviality and personal recollections, specifically devised for older people who are experiencing some form of memory loss.  These include: ‘football memories’ – with a focus on past football personalities, matches and associated occurrences which can be recalled and, as accustomed among enthusiasts, eagerly debated; and ‘a whole new ball game’ – a similar entertainment and interest only that it covers a wider choice of sports, for example, golf, hockey, rugby as well as football. (Stories from bygone days may turn out to be quite hilarious – a well-known character playing hockey with a cigarette in his mouth!; a goal keeper with cans of alcoholic drinks propped up beside a goal post!)

Musical moments and movements – It is no surprise to come across occasions when singing and dancing are periods of delight for both carers and those in their guardianship. For instance, membership of a choir and presence at a concert or pantomime may evoke very blissful and/or nostalgic reminiscences. Joint games, such as ‘name that tune’, can be arranged to encourage discussion and teamwork; karaoke and dancing to inspire individual or collective performances; and quizzes to foster recall of favourite gigs and musicians. One ambitious event witnessed was an online transatlantic competition – a version of ‘juke box jury’ focusing on British and American pop groups and their hit songs – between teams from USA  and Scotland.

Further references —

A related article, entitled, ‘Good Practices: Ten Things to be Getting On With?’, at:

For a more detailed post on “Technology at work on behalf of persons being cared for and their caregivers”, please use the link:

For more detailed comments on the topic of mindfulness, please use the following link:

For more detailed comments on the topic of walking football, please go to the following link:


Although the views stated in this article are my own, I am very much indebted to committed field workers who dedicate so much of their time to helping and advising caregivers. In particular, I wish to thank: Anne O’Donnell, Jo Berry, Katy Green, Douglas Kenny, Neil Stobie and Drew Wilson. 

On “Duplicating examples of positive practice” – “Many of our participants shared examples of local practice that are positive and make a difference to their lives. Most people felt that it was important to learn from these examples and understand more about what makes them work well in order to spread them around the whole country. People felt that there were missed opportunities through failing to replicate the best practice on a larger scale and developing the services that work well.”  Quotation from the Alzheimer Scotland Public Engagement Response (December, 2022).

By O'Hagan

Dr Frank O'Hagan has formerly worked as a science and mathematics teacher, social welfare officer, teacher education lecturer, university lecturer and inspector of educational establishments. Now retired, he continues to have a keen interest in education and provision for carers.