Dementia Awareness Week

This week is Dementia Awareness Week and the theme this year is ‘Unite against dementia’. It is often said, ‘when a diagnosis of dementia is given, it is given to the whole family’ and therefore, uniting to support carers and families of a person with dementia must remain a top priority.

It is estimated that dementia costs the UK economy £26 billion and this figure is set to rise. Informal care provided, unpaid, by family and friends to people with dementia has been valued at £11.6 billion – 44% of this cost (Alzheimer’s Research UK). Carers may spend many hours looking after relatives and friends with dementia. A carer recently said to me, “There are three eight hour shifts in a day, you know, and we cover them all”. It’s important that carers have access to breaks on a regular basis, whether this is from a care agency providing care to the person with dementia while the carer takes some time for themselves; or engaging the person with dementia in activities and groups where the carer knows they will be safe and stimulated.

Dementia is a complex, unpredictable, long term condition and carers may find themselves caring for many years. Carers of people with dementia who are over retirement age – a time when they should be able to relax and try new things – can find themselves working harder than ever.

“I am 89 now, I am supposed to be retired. I want to care for my wife but this is the hardest job I have ever done”

When speaking to a carer recently after a stressful event, they explained that carers tend to expect the unexpected. While caring can build resilience in carers, it’s important for us to remember that they are not invincible. In a recent Carers Trust survey, over 80% of carers aged 60 or over said they had at least one health condition themselves, with 83% directly attributing this health condition to their caring role.

It is clear that carers are vital to our society and our economy. They give up their time, social life, work and financial security to look after others. In return, we must ensure they get a better deal when it comes to their own health.

Carers Trust have been campaigning for local authorities to add a question to the free NHS Health Check which will enable carers to be identified earlier in their caring journey and offer them appropriate support. If you are in contact with your local Health & Wellbeing Board, ask them to consider this as an option, or raise it with your local Healthwatch.

Carers are renowned for not putting themselves first, but they must; and we must unite behind them and do more to make this possible. It is not selfish for carers to look after themselves, it is vital. After all, who is going to care if the carer no longer can?

If you are a carer, why not contact your local carers’ service to see what support is available for you? You can find your local service here. You could look at our Carers Road Map, a guide which provides advice and information along your caring journey. You could also download our ‘Time to think about you’ prompt card and put it somewhere visible as a daily reminder to think about you.

Blog by Louise Marks, Dementia Policy and Development Officer, Carers Trust

May 14, 2017 Posted by | Dementia, Health, NHS, Older carers | 3 Comments