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Q & A with Paula, Macmillan family information and support officer

Today sees the start of Carers Week so we asked Paula Hall, a Macmillan Family Information and Support Officer, to tell us a bit about her role. Based at Bridgend Carers Centre, Paula offers holistic support to people and families affected by cancer and other life-limiting illnesses.

Tell us a bit about your role?

I’m the Family Information and Support Officer for Macmillan. I provide carers in Bridgend County Borough with emotional and practical support.

I meet people at their homes, or at the carers centre, in a hospital setting or even over the telephone. For example, I go out to the Macmillan Unit at Y Bwthyn Newydd once a week to raise awareness and to meet with families of people affected by cancer to offer information and support.

Many carers aren’t used to someone asking, “How are you?” People rarely ask about them – it is usually about the person they care caring for.

I’m there to help signpost people to expert legal support, financial and benefits advice.

When I go and see a carer, I always start the conversation by saying “Well I’m not medical. I’m not trained in the hospital setting and they say “Oh that’s nice. I don’t want to see another nurse, another doctor or another consultant!”

It’s not just emotional support and signposting that you offer is it? Tell us a bit about the organised activities and therapies that people can access at the centre?

We have a wide programme of activities and support to appeal to all abilities and interests.

There’s a number of social activities that we offer including day trips, cream teas, a weekly book cwtch, crafting and even adult colouring!

We recently had a weekend yoga retreat at the Margam Discovery Centre which was brilliantly received. Gail Needham is our amazing yoga teacher comes in and tailors her class to the ages and ability of the people here. It wasn’t just yoga there was also mindfulness, walking and breathing techniques to help people reduce stress.

We have a newsletter which goes out to 3,000 carers in the Bridgend borough. Inside there is a dairy with four months worth of activities. So in August, if you are on our database you’ll receive the September to December newsletter. It basically tells carers what is going on Monday to Friday at the centre.

You can read the latest newsletter here

We also have a fortnightly foot clinic, and a holistic therapists comes to the centre to offer treatment such as reiki and reflexology.

Can people affected by cancer access some of these in their own homes?

Yes, a therapist can also go out with me and visit families at their homes if somebody is in bed and very poorly. We get funding to provide these services so she will go out and do Reiki, reflexology.

There’s a guy she is seeing through us who has really poorly feet as a result of his chemotherapy treatment. She gives him therapy at home. She’s fantastic!

Do people gradually slip into becoming carers?

Well sometimes becoming a carer is a very, very slow and very gradual journey, and sometimes it’s ‘bang’ and it’s crisis! I see carers from both ends of the spectrum.

Sometimes the carer can be the person with the cancer diagnosis do you they face particular problems?

Yes, the carer can be the person with a cancer diagnosis – that’s not an uncommon situation. Just today I am arranging to meet a lady who is caring for her husband who has the early onset signs of dementia. She’s been caring for him for a number of years but she since has since been diagnosed with bowel cancer.  Carers can also suffer from a number of illnesses – for example depression.

Do people sometimes reject the carer label?

You’ve got to be very careful of course when you ask people if they are caring for someone.  Some people say “No, it’s my wife, it’s my job, it’s my duty so of course I not her carer.”

You have to be very sensitive around the carer label.

How can carers in Bridgend Borough get in touch with you?

The best way to get in touch is to call Bridgend Carers Centre on 01656 658 479 during office hours.

My role is part-time, and the nature of my job is that I am out and about a lot but someone will take a message and I’ll get back in touch as soon as I can.

Or drop in and say hello. We’re at 87 Park Street. Bridgend, CF31 4AZ.

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