Gillian Grason Smith
Chair of Carers User Panel
Professor of Primary Care, University of Warwick
How can we better support the health and wellbeing of carers online?
Care Companion (the CC) is an online tool providing support to friends and family members in care roles. It provides a personalised experience for people looking for help, advice and support, and is freely available to those in Coventry and Warwickshire.
Over the past few months, the CC has been has never been more important, with carers facing added feelings of isolation and loneliness in lockdown, where some have been shielding to avoid putting the ones they care for at higher risk.
This kind of collaborative approach was very new to us. Research is often very structured, it has a protocol to abide by with specific aims to meet. The Coventry Creates project allowed us to engage with the Care Companion in a completely different way, guided by the artists.
Collaborating with the artists opened the project out in new ways – we had discussions about the challenges carers face, delving deeper into how we could communicate their experiences in a way that positively engages with their health and wellbeing.
It allowed us to reflect on the CC through emotion – considering how it might feel, sound or look helped us to think deeper about how we can engage the public with our research. The insights we got from discussions and workshops with Lucy and Emily will influence future research, and how we present the CC to people, whether they are in need of it now, or at a later point in their life.
By referring to it as The CC it took on a familiar identity, giving it more character as a virtual companion.
For us, the piece of art captures the varied experience, uncertainty, challenges, heartache and feelings of isolation that carers are faced with, while the CC acts as an accessible, informal virtual confidante, welcoming you to its space and accompanying you on your journey.
The CC, Digital Video, 4m09:
The CC is a digital video that explores how we can understand the role of care and support in society. Created during the course of 6 weeks the work was informed by workshops and conversations with unpaid carers and researchers from The University of Warwick. Through experimenting with sound, video, and performance we aimed to explore how research can be interpreted in alternative ways by creating new metaphors and stories.
From the early stages, it became clear to us that the perception and understanding of what care is, and who administers and receives that care, is fluid and evolving – almost indefinable. Identifying the parameters and boundaries of the care roles that people find themselves in, is equally unclear and entirely unique from person to person, species to species.
The challenge of illustrating that which is unseen, appealed to our processes of shaping narratives and future scenarios, through film and digital imagery. Week by week we gathered metaphors, language, textures and imagery that resonated with the issues that the medical team were researching. Through creative activities, we not only looked at the universal tropes of care, but also opened up personal experiences.
The final artwork presents an invitation to a future; a creative depiction illuminating some of the aspects of care, with The CC as a supportive tool to accompany carers on their journey. You can watch our video diary below.