With Carers Week just around the corner, Volunteer News talks to inspirational volunteers Cathie and Marysia about their innovative course for carers in Scotland - Side by Side with Parkinson's.
Cathie was inspired to start the Side by Side course after she and her husband moved back to Edinburgh and joined the local Parkinson's UK Edinburgh Branch.
After attending a carers course through the branch, Cathie was determined to make sure that other carers got the support they needed to care for their loved ones and, just as importantly, themselves. And in 2009 Side by Side with Parkinson's was born.
So what is Side by Side?
"The course runs every Autumn for people caring for someone with Parkinson's and brings them together with professionals working in the field.
"It's an opportunity for carers to learn more about the professional help, drugs, benefits and support available. And with a speech and language therapist, a Parkinson's nurse specialist, an occupational therapist and the Parkinson's UK local adviser all attending each course, there is an invaluable opportunity for carers to ask questions that they might not have previously felt able to ask.
why was the course named Side by Side?
"A lot of people don't identify with being a 'carer', especially in the early stages, so we came up with the name Side by Side.
"As a carer, no matter what relationship you have with the person with Parkinson's, you live side by side with them. You share in the struggles and celebrate the good times too."
Once the course ends, attendees are welcomed into the Edinburgh Carers group that meets monthly. The group of almost 20 people talk over coffee and enjoy Cathie's renowned home-baked scones.
There's so much help and information given to us – it's priceless!"
In 2012, Marysia attended the Edinburgh Side by Side course and was inspired to take the course to West Lothian.
"The course was so valuable to me. Being a carer for someone can be so isolating and lonely. Side by Side provides an opportunity to stay in touch with others. It's a place where you can be honest and ask how to cope.
"I knew I had to take the course to our West Lothian Support Group and in 2013 I started running it every spring in Uphall, West Lothian.
who attends the course?
"People travel quite a distance to attend. We have a mix of ages with younger people attending the sessions too. When you're a bit older you start to expect health issues but when you're younger it can come as quite a shock.
"Side by Side provides an opportunity for the group to share their stories, learn from each other and realise that they're not alone, which can be especially helpful for younger carers."
The passion and dedication Cathie and Marysia have for supporting carers is clear and there is no doubt that attendees find the course valuable.
"This has been such a worthwhile course. The speakers were excellent and I feel more confident in accessing the support and help out there. It was also great to speak with others in the same situation."