Even though you’re reading this, it’s likely you don’t identify yourself as a carer. Even if you are actually helping someone. Interesting isn’t it? I guess the ‘carer’ tag just isn’t a ‘sexy’ identifier. Perhaps it even brings negative imagery with it? Perceptions and attitudes around those who care for friends or relatives have to change. Otherwise thousands of people won’t get the support they’re eligible for.
Are you in denial? I was.
I have to put my hand up. I didn’t consider myself a carer for the first six years of caring for Marj. Even as she lived in our house and increasingly came to rely on me. For example, I hid the full extent of my caring responsibilities from my employer. I thought they might perceive me as less committed. On paper there was no need for me to think that. My employer was increasingly ‘woke’ and more advanced than many. I didn’t ask my GP for help or advice either. Daft since they must surely have known and/or been able to help.
Equally though, the ‘being a carer’ bit of what I do just wasn’t that interesting to any non-carers around me. Like discussing parenting with someone who isn’t ready, wanting or able to start a family, it’s equally dull (or even painful). However, it’s important that we do talk about (and support) family carers. We need to help more people choose to care and work if they want to. After all great strides have been made to help people parent and work.
That you do care is awesome
Carers Bucks estimate that every £1 invested in supporting carers saves the public purse £10. This is due to their cared for relatives needing less hospitalisation, residential care and/or other social support. Elders cared for by friends and relatives are given personalised support.
Now back to you.
We are carers if we:
- get shopping and/or prescriptions regularly for someone else
- phone or visit someone frequently to check in, sometimes missing work
- help someone leave the house for a GP appointment or haircut etc
- help prepare meals, clean or support personal care
- help someone manage their financial affairs or stay safe from harm
- find ourselves thinking of someone else’s needs when making our own plans. There may be other things you might step in to help with too.
It’s awesome what you do for your relative or friend. Yet even if you don’t think you need it now, you’re going to need help in the future. I’ve learned that being prepared for the ‘next stage’ (whatever that might be) is vital.
Help for you too
I’m still learning from people who’ve always cared for a family member or partner and from ex carers too. I’ve learned that wherever you are in your caring journey, there are experienced and kind people waiting to help you nearby, on the phone or face to face. For example, Carers Bucks are the first port of call for carer support near me. Meet-ups are during the day or in the evening to accommodate your responsibilities. In Oxon, Carers Oxfordshire has an affiliation with Oxon County Council. Check with your local authority (LA) as all are different. Try googling or asking your GP who should know.
Speaking of GPs, I’d love every practice to provide consistent support to family carers. Support is patchy but getting better, so do ask your GP how they might be able to help you.
At their AGM, Carers Bucks role played examples of the typical calls team members get everyday from carers. It made me tear up. Why? Because it took me back to the time when I badly needed help and didn’t know where to turn. Despite thinking I could do it all on my own, I found myself in an unfathomable infinity loop inside Social Services. A time of strong emotions. Sally at Carers Bucks helped me find the way forward, get the support Marj needed and regain my own balance.
AGM attendees learned that an estimated 50,000 people in Bucks are carers, that’s just over 9% of the total population. There are likely to be many more people ‘casually’ yet consistently looking after elder relatives. Because that is just what some of us do. People for whom English is a second language or with less time (large family/single parent/more than one job) or without the resources (no internet access) are at particular risk of being trapped in a Social Services unfathomable infinity loop. Let’s look out for them and help them.
Let’s be proud of what we do, identify ourselves and access the support for us and our elders. Perhaps we can help each other out a bit through this blog too.