Caring for Carers

 

Carers week 2017

 

12th-18th June 2017 is Carers Week.  Carers Week is a national awareness week that celebrates and recognises the vital contribution made by people across the UK who currently provide unpaid care.

Caring is defined as ‘anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support’ (Carers trust)

It is an especially important week for me as I am a parent Carer and have worked closely with the NHS and Third Sector organisations to champion the rights of Carers.  Many people do not identify themselves as a Carer.  There are many ‘hidden Carers’ in our communities, particularly amongst parent Carers and those who care for people with mental health issues.

In Dumfries and Galloway, it is estimated that there are 14,995  Carers (2011 Census) and this figure is likely to be significantly higher.  In Dumfries and Galloway, unpaid Carers provide over half of all care required, approximately 410,000 hours per week.

In Scotland, the value of care provided by Carers is around 10 billion pounds.  Unpaid Carers are the largest group of carers in Scotland, providing more care than the NHS and councils combined (Carers Trust).  Latest figures reveal that Carers in D&G make up 10% of the population and of this group, 29% provide more than 50 hours of support a week.

Anyone can be a Carer.  Three out of 5 of us will become Carers at some stage in our lives and I in 10 of us is already fulfilling some sort of caring role.

Although it can have rewarding aspects, many Carers need support themselves.

The focus of this year’s Carers Week is building communities that support and value Carers.

I myself remember becoming quite isolated because I had to give up my job when my son was about 4.  I couldn’t juggle caring responsibilities with work as I had to battle to get a diagnosis for my son, appropriate support for him at school and had endless hospital visits to attend.  I neglected my own health and wellbeing needs and got little sleep.  I found it hard to keep up friendships or develop new ones and I certainly didn’t keep up with hobbies.  Caring responsibilities can have a negative impact on finances, working and learning and ultimately, your health and wellbeing.  Indeed, it can lead to stress, depression and other mental health issues.  Caring can affect your relationship with your loved one or other family members.

This led me to thinking about Circles and how they could help Carers.  As I am new to my Community Circles Connector role, I thought this would be a good opportunity to think about future possibilities and the positive impact of Community Circles.  The local Carers Centre in Dumfries is an invaluable service offering information, advice and support.  I have shared many cups of tea and shed many happy and sad tears there over the last 15 years.  I am going to meet with the team next week to learn from their experience and share information with them about Community Circles.

I believe that Community Circles have a very positive impact on Carers. Here is the link to Lynda’s story: http://community-circles.co.uk/stories-and-resources/lyndas-circle/

By supporting Lynda at the centre of her circle, there was a positive effect on her husband, Alan, and other family members and friends.  By supporting Lynda with the circle, they gained a sense of community and belonging.  In a caring couple, caring can become quite exhausting, particularly if the Carer is an older person with their own long- term health conditions. 65% of older Carers (aged 60-94) have a long- term illness or disability themselves.  Nearly 69% of older Carers say that it has a negative effect on their mental health and wellbeing. (https://carers.org/key-facts-about-carers-and-people-they-care ). The outcome of Lynda’s circle was that she was supported to get out and about more and Alan was supported with providing cooked meals which gave him some respite.  Also seeing Lynda in a happier place will have improved his own wellbeing.  Having a break may have enabled Alan to build his relationship with other family members or friends.  In a caring couple, their physical and emotional life maybe affected and shared activities and future plans may have changed and this can cause a huge deal of pain and a sense of loss.

I also thought about how Carers themselves would benefit from a circle.  I know I would have done. Sometimes it is helpful to talk through concerns with someone outside of your immediate family.

Becoming a Carer is life changing and an emotional journey.  It can feel like a constant battle to access help for you and the person you care for.  A Circle could lessen that and add a real positive difference to a Carer’s life.  I know I didn’t ask for advice or support for nearly five years.  A Circle would have given me a way of asking the family members, friends and neighbours around me for help.

Most people would like a chance to make a difference to somebody’s life.  This is the strength of Community Circles, helping people to be happier, healthier and more connected with the support of those around them. They are a way to support each other in our local community.  They are a way of building communities that support Carers.  This should be valued and celebrated during Carers Week.

 

Carers week

 

Lesley Bryce

Community Circles Connector, Dumfries

lesley@community-circles.co.uk