Carers Week 2012: You shouldn’t have to wreck your health to care

The theme of Carers Week this year is “In sickness and in health.”  You can look at that from all sorts of points of view. Obviously the quotation is taken from marriage vows, and for those people caring for a  partner, but no less for those caring for parents, siblings, children, or  friends, you’re there alongside each other through thick and thin. So the theme of Carers week might prompt you to reflect on the good times and the bad, the positive times and the difficult times. We don’t just discard someone when they’re ill, disabled or frail – we’re in it together.

But no-one’s saying that’s easy, and if you’re the person providing the care, it can feel unending, exhausting and frustrating some days. And things are getting worse- services closing with cutbacks, and less benefit money available. The research carried out for Carers Week found that 84% of people never expected to be a carer – and who does? Caring is something that generally comes unexpectedly – sometimes it happens overnight, or sometimes if develops slowly, depending on the situation of the person you care for.

Many carers feel sad for the different future there might have been, or sometimes the person they feel they’ve lost. Despite this, few carers walk away –not completely, at least although many sometimes wonder what would happen if they did. Carers Week is a chance to recognise the millions of carers who, through thick and thin, good times and bad, are there to care.

Thank you all, so much.

But it’s not just about the health of the person who has the care needs. Carers often put their own health on the back burner. Things need to be done, and perhaps there’s no-one else. So you get on with it, just do it, even though you’re exhausted, even though you’re feeling ill or really low. The problem is that if you’re exhausted, and you get ill, then who’s going to care for you, and the person you care for?

It’s hard to prioritise your own health. Many carers find it hard to take a break and even getting to doctor’s appointments. Having the mental energy to make an appointment, with all the messing about that entails is sometimes just another hassle that carers can do without.

With 10% of the population having a  caring role, and the huge levels of poor health within the caring population, the Government needs to address this differently. We need to think of this as a public health issue. We know about lots of factors which make people unwell – lack of exercise, poor diet, smoking, drinking too much, as well as the social factors that are linked to this. The Government realises it needs to address those as they not only cost the NHS but they also on people’s ability to work, and so massive campaigns are funded. But where are they putting the resources in to support carers’ physical and mental health? The kind of money that would really make a difference?

I know there’s not a lot of money about. But saving money at the expense of carers’ health, whilst expecting them just to pick up the pieces left behind by the reduction in services and decimation of benefits, is no kind of saving.  Carers already give up so much to help another person. They shouldn’t have to wreck their health too.

Related links:

Carers Week

News story: Alarming number of carers sacrificing own health by putting off medical treatments

There are campaign materials available for carers – template letters/emails to MPs, GP surgeries and for politicians to send to local authorities/CCGs/health trusts etc. Download campaign templates here

June 19, 2012 - Posted by | breaks for carers, Health, Hidden carers, Mental Health |

1 Comment »

  1. I have been a CARER for 26 years and i have had health problems which culminated in SEVERE DEPRESSION,for which i recieved counselling and i am still on medication.
    With all the changes the COALITION government is making to the BENEFIT SYSTEM – SOCIAL care provision and so much much else i feel as if i am fighting against a rising tide of political arrogance and inhuman indifference to the REAL NEEDS of CARERS.
    How long i can keep on going i do not know BUT i will – i must

    BUT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    CARERS are human and real and a RESOURCE this nation and its political leaders can ill afford to squander and ALIENATE

    Comment by Taras Kurylak | June 26, 2012 | Reply

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