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Making Caring Visible - Carers Week 2020

June 8th to 14th 2020 is Carers Week.

We like to celebrate local carers and the enormous amount of physical and mental effort they put into what they do. This year, Covid-19 has made life for carers even tougher than it usually is.

The theme for Carers Week 2020 is Making Caring Visible. This is even more important at a time when carers are unable or unwilling to be out and about because they want to minimise the risk of infection to themselves and therefore the person they care for.

First lets hear from Dr Peter Bibawy, who is a GP and is also the Clinical Chair of the Frimley Collaborative - the three NHS organisations which commission health services for the 800,000 people within the Frimley Health and Care System:

There are 6.5 million people in the UK who are carers, looking after family members or friends who have disabilities or mental or physical illnesses or who need extra help as they grow older.

They are a hidden army, silently, tirelessly, and selflessly working to support the people they love.

Many carers don't often consider themselves to be carers, and as such they try to shoulder the caring burden on their own and don't look to access the support that is available to them. This can have a negative impact on their own physical and mental health.

We want to raise awareness in the wider community of their efforts and to help carers to realise that they are not alone and that there is help at hand for them. We also want to thank them for what they do. What they achieve benefits the people they care for, the community and the country as a whole.

There is wide-ranging support available for carers. Click here to access our Home and Community Support page, which includes links to carers' support organisations.

This carers week (8th – 14th June) is focused on ‘making caring more visible’ and is an opportunity to recognise and raise awareness of not only unpaid adult carers but also of all the young people who take time out of their childhood to care for a friend or family member. 

A young carer is defined as ‘a person under the age of 18 who helps look after someone who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol.’ It is estimated that there are around 700,000 young carers in the UK, providing emotional and practical support to family members. Young carers' responsibilities vary greatly but many will have to take on difficult roles which may include offering emotional support, managing the family budget, collecting prescriptions or domestic chores such as cooking.

Young carers are often devoting more than 12 hours each week to their caring responsibilities and as many as 27% of those aged 11-15yrs are missing school because of this. It’s not surprising that young carers often struggle to fit in other activities like home work, playing sport or meeting up with friends and as a result, many will struggle with their mental wellbeing or experiencing educational difficulties.

Support is available across the Frimley Health and Care Integrated Care System from letting your school know about your caring responsibilities to registering as an unpaid carer with your GP and through activities which allow young carers to really take a break. Lucy, a young carer from Surrey Heath, explains more in the video HERE

If you would like to learn more about the support available for young carers in your area please click HERE and identify the information under where you live to find out more.

The following is a first-hand account from a local NHS staff member who is also a carer, of their experience of caring during Covid-19:

I live with my parents,who are both in their 70s. My dad has advancing dementia and more recently some serious mobility issues, while my mum is generally in good health but has had a number of operations on her legs in recent years.

My mum is my dad's main carer, so I see myself almost as a 'backup' carer.

My dad’s deteriorating mental health has taken its toll on my mum over the past five years as they are both ‘old school’ - slow to admit they have a problem and also extremely reluctant to ask for help. This has caused mum considerable anxiety and emotional stress at times and made her fearful, even terrified, for the future, not knowing who to turn to, if there even was anyone to turn to, and how or where to start looking for help.

In the weeks before the lockdown, I used my local health and care knowledge to put my mum in touch with the head of one of our local carer’s support organisations, who has been absolutely wonderful from the word go.

Without even being asked, she offered to visit, to help mum with long and complex forms, to advise her on this and that and to have a general chat. The difference in my mum was remarkable – yet her battles were not over.

When my dad’s physical health deteriorated suddenly just days into the national lockdown, it seemed that nobody was available or able to help because the normal world had been turned on its head. Mum, who is one of the strongest people I know, was a complete wreck and in floods of tears as everything crumbled around her. Fortunately I was able to help calm her down, to help move my dad's bedroom downstairs, to make plans and to do some of the running around (including a last-minute 22-mile dash to pick-up a wheelchair from the British Red Cross). I also helped with lifting my dad on and off the loo, into bed, etc., as for some weeks he was in a bad way.

Mum kept in touch with the lady from the carers’ organisation who again provided advice and helped to explain certain things that were going on with my dad, which was hugely reassuring to my mum.

Thankfully my dad’s health stabilised, as did the national Covid-19 situation, and the health and care services got into a working routine. But it's been far from easy and even when the restrictions end, our lives will not be the same because of my dad's growing needs.

What this experience has shown me is that a carer’s lot can be extremely fragile and their strength and resilience is only as robust as the health of the person they are caring for - if they try to do it all on their own. This is why the health and care organisations and the support agencies are so important. They have so much expertise between them, and while they may not be able to provide a solution to the medical problems of the cared-for person, they can do so much; to reassure and guide the carer; to navigate the bureaucratic minefield; to put them in touch with the right people at the right times; to let them know that they are not alone, that what they are doing and feeling is perfectly ok, and that there is hope.

To those supporting carers I would say: Thank you. I hope you understand what you mean to us.

To all fellow carers I would say: Well done, keep going, and please, please, please don’t try to do it all on your own.

Frimley Health and Care