I’ve been a family carer – to my mum through terminal cancer, and at different times as a support for friends and family members experiencing mental ill health. Many people experience times when being a carer feels very rewarding. But it can also be a very demanding role and carers can become exhausted. It’s especially difficult trying to juggle everything in life when you don’t know what the next week will bring as a carer. This is why supportive employers are an absolute boon for working carers, so people can continue to thrive at work and in their role as a carer.
It often surprises people to realise they are a carer. People generally think they’re just being a helpful relative or friend to someone they know who needs some extra support or care because of a serious illness or disability, or a life-changing injury.
But realising that being kind has tipped over into playing a caring role is really important if people are to begin to access help, advice and support – both for the person they’re supporting, and for themselves.
Caring can involve all sorts of things – practical help, emotional support, financial aid. There are around 7million carers in the UK. Three out of five of us will take on a caring role at some point in our lives, whether that’s for our partner, our mum, our father-in-law, a sibling, cousin, friend or a neighbour.
Becoming a carer can come out of nowhere, or it may be something we’ve thought might happen for some time. Either way, every year, for around 2 million people the caring role ends – and for another 2 million, it begins.
With such a high number of carers in the UK, even if we’re not in that role at the moment, we will know others who are. We may well be supporting carers.
Most people who are carers are working age. Many are trying hard to be a carer alongside carrying out their paid work and enjoying other family and social life such as leisure, fitness, studying, volunteering, or travelling.
Initiatives such as National Carers’ Week – which takes place this year between 12th and 18th June – are really important: for current carers; for those who think this might be imminent; and for all of us supporting our friends and family members with those caring roles. It’s a great opportunity to focus on what being a carer means, and what help exists for carers and the person they help support. In the seminars and webinars about being a carer, some of the most commonly asked questions are:
- How can I get my mum/husband/friend/aunty/grandpa to go and see the GP/dentist/chiropodist/optician/nurse?
- When should someone stop driving?
- How do I find good quality care?
- I live far away from my mother – I feel so guilty – what can I do?
- My siblings and I always seem to disagree about how to deal with issues with my parents. Do you have any suggestions?
There’s always a lot to say in reply! The sessions are a chance to share tips and point people in the direction of other resources, including ongoing support for carers.
Lorna Easterbrook – Carer Consultant for Employees Matter