‘Message in a Bottle’ initiative calls for carers to ‘plan ahead’ 

Health leaders in West Yorkshire are encouraging unpaid carers to make contingency plans for the person they look after in the event of an emergency.

To mark Carers Week (6-12 June 2022) West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership (WY HCP) and Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS) are teaming up to raise vital awareness of the ‘Message in a Bottle’ initiative.

‘Message in a Bottle’ is a simple and effective way for people to share their basic personal and medical details, including contingency planning for caring responsibilities, in an emergency. This written information is kept in a bottle in a common location in the home – the fridge.

The message to all carers across West Yorkshire is to think about a contingency plan so that the person they care for is supported at the earliest opportunity and the carer has peace of mind that arrangements are in place should they become unwell or be involved in an   accident or medical emergency.

Local carer organisations across Bradford District and Craven; Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield District are supporting carers to have their own ‘Message in a Bottle’.

The idea was developed by Lions Club International and the ambulance, police, fire, and social services all support this life-saving initiative by knowing to look for essential medical information in the fridge when they see a Message in a Bottle sticker in someone’s home. The scheme has been developed further so carers can also include information about what should happen to the person they look after in the event of the carer suddenly becoming ill or injured.

Karen Jackson, a Senior Responsible Officer for the unpaid carers programme and Chief Executive at Locala said “Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlighting the challenges unpaid carers face and recognising the valuable contribution they make. Caring often comes with great sacrifices and we encourage local carers to make contingency plans and to consider what a plan B looks like If they become ill or if there’s an emergency. This can avoid a crisis and ensures everyone’s best interests are considered”.

Lesley Butterworth, Lead Nurse – Urgent Care at Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said “Our crews are often called to treat a person with caring responsibilities who has suddenly become unwell or injured. As a result of no contingency planning, they may refuse to go to hospital for urgent medical treatment because they don’t want to leave the person they care for or if hospital admission is unavoidable, the cared-for person may be required to go into emergency respite, and this can become a distressing situation for all concerned. We strongly support this initiative and encourage carers to make contingencies for the person they look after and detail these in a Message in a Bottle”.

Dawn Perkins, Dementia Carer Support Worker at Carers Leeds said “As carers we like to think that we will always be there when needed but sometimes this is not possible. This could be for many reasons, such as you suddenly becoming unwell or being injured and unable to carry out your usual caring role even if you are not in hospital. Please plan ahead and find out more by visiting https://www.wypartnership.co.uk/messageinabottle”.

Carer organisations across West Yorkshire can supply carers with a ‘Message in a Bottle’. Find out more by visiting the WY HCP website (wypartnership.co.uk/messageinabottle).

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