By Alison Runham www.alison.runham.co.uk
Carers Week: Who Cares for The Carers?
Carers Week is an annual awareness event highlighting the challenges carers face. This year’s campaign runs from 12th to 18th June and focuses on Building Carer Friendly Communities: ‘places that understand a carer’s daily reality and do what they can to make life a little bit easier for them.’ CARING IN THE UK The facts: • Three out of five of us will become a carer at some point. • Around 6.5 million people in the UK provide unpaid care for a disabled, ill or older relative or friend. • At least 380,000 older carers in England provide 50+ hours of care a week without any help from their local authority; over 100,000 are in their eighties and beyond. • Many carers are unaware of the support and financial help they’re entitled to. “We know that caring for a loved one can be a rewarding experience, but without the right support at the right time,
caring can also have a huge impact on a carer’s emotional and physical health, work and finances,” says Heléna Herklots CBE, Chief Executive of charity Carers UK. Research shows that caring can isolate carers and potentially damage their physical and mental health and their relationships. It can also make it difficult to hold down a job, even driving them into poverty. ARE YOU A HIDDEN CARER? “Please don’t call me a carer - I don’t want that title. I am her son, not a carer!” “I pop in to my neighbour every day and do all her shopping and cleaning for her, but I am not her carer. They go in to get her up and washed.” These responses, gathered by a recent campaign to identify ‘hidden’ carers, highlight a common problem. Many carers don’t see themselves as carers if they don’t help someone dress, take medication, move about or go to the loo - or if they’re ‘just’ a husband, wife, parent,
son, daughter, friend etc. Yet helping with shopping, laundry, cleaning, cooking, form-filling or money management is all part of caring, and caring is caring whoever it’s for. BUILDING CARER FRIENDLY COMMUNITIES Carers say that support and awareness in their community make a positive difference. The Carers Week campaign wants us to raise awareness in schools and organisations; recommend carer-friendly organisations, services and businesses; and pledge to make our own organisations carer-friendly. If you’re an employer, this could include giving carer employees: • An extended lunch hour, giving them time to eat and check on the person they care for. • Flexibility to work more when they can, while allowing time off for appointments and adapting start/finish times etc. If you’re a GP, hairdresser, physiotherapist or any other professional person offering appointments, could you offer mobile services or make appointments to fit around carers’ needs? SOURCES OF SUPPORT FOR CARERS Help is available, but can be hard to find. The NHS Choice Care Page www.nhs.uk/conditions/socialcare-and-support-guide/Pages/ what-is-social-care.aspx These eight charities support Carers Week. Services they offer include counselling, practical and financial help, respite care and advice.
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