A scheme to give carers a break from the strain of their daily routine is seeing an enthusiastic take-up from businesses in the Western Isles.
So much so that Western Isles Community Care Forum (WICCF), who deliver the Respitality scheme island-wide, are encouraging more carers to step forward and take up some of the relaxing experiences on offer.
The idea of Respitality was hatched by Shared Care Scotland, who aim to help all of Scotland's 850,000 unpaid carers live a full and satisfying life, with the assistance they need to take regular, quality breaks from the everyday demands of their caring routines.
Now 21 of Scotland's 32 local authority areas have their own Respitality network, with Catherine MacDougall, who helps to co-ordinate matches in the Western Isles, implementing the scheme here since October last year.
Catherine said: "The idea is that we support unpaid, informal and family carers, who are doing a huge amount of work supporting their loved ones, by giving them quality experiences they can enjoy during respite breaks.
"That includes going away for overnight or residential stays, which are co-ordinated nationally, but here in the islands it means having enjoyable experiences, time to themselves, with the co-operation of local businesses."
Part of Catherine's job has been to encourage island companies to come forward as Respitality hosts – which they have done with enthusiasm.
Offers now on the books include everything from afternoon tea to a haircut, and from overnight stays to distillery tours, all offered free of charge to carefully-matched carers who will most benefit from the experience.
Catherine said: "The offers to help with the scheme at first tended to be from Uist, because that's where I live, but we have recently had more coming from businesses in Harris and some of the first in Lewis and Barra have just come in.
"There are quite a range of experiences and we highlight them to carers during our home visits and our regular Eolas social afternoons.
"We are encouraging carers to step forward and say that they would like to benefit, because they do tend to say to us 'there's someone worse off than me, someone that needs it more.'
"But we feel everyone who cares for a loved one has the entitlement to support. Caring can be exhausting and can leave people physically and mentally stretched, so just a few hours break from routine can make all the difference."
Respitality offers are adjusted round carers so that they can take advantage of them when their loved one is being looked after – for example when they are in respite, or when another family member has come to provide care.
They can also be made available so that the cared-for person can go too – a short break in another location can give people what they describe as a new perspective.
Shared Care Scotland highlights the experience of Isla, a carer for her father, who was offered a short break in Ullapool with her husband.
Isla said: "The offer of the break came at a time when I certainly needed it. What I enjoyed most was to be totally free of all responsibilities and just to have some me-time."
There are also benefits to businesses who 'donate' their hospitality to support the scheme. One mainland hotel provider said: "I feel great being able to help. It's not a big outlay, but such a big reward. One day we may be a carer and one day we may need cared for."
Catherine hopes the same benefits will be felt by islanders who take advantage of the scheme and is very grateful to all the businesses who have come forward so far offering their services or facilities for a respitality break.
She said: "I'm hoping this will give carers a chance to switch off, to have some time for themselves, to relax and take care of themselves outside what is an extremely demanding role."
You can also see some of the Respitality offers by visiting the WICCF Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/wiccf
The pictures show some of the offers from island businesses – afternoon tea at the Skoon Art Café in Harris and a two-night stays at the Wee Haven in Benbecula. Also shown are some of the pictures taken in Ullapool, Lewis and Harris by carer Isla (Shared Care Scotland).