This is national ‘Carers Week’, when we are thinking about the wide range of carers that there are across the country, including those elderly couples who are looking after one another, offspring who care for their parents and those of us who have ‘children’ with special needs. I have read that the UK’s unpaid carers are seven times lonelier than the general public, which is a really sad statistic. I know when Mum was caring for my father at home , he had vascular dementia, her world shrank as she was tied to home, responding only to his needs. Finally, she got a network of paid carers in to give her some respite and a few opportunities to go out and have a life of her own. She used to say that those carers were her window on the world. Full time time carers have my total admiration and need to be given as many opportunities as possible to be relieved of those caring duties once in a while, to give them a rest and also another perspective on life.
My situation is very different however , as Joshua goes to school during the day and I work four days a week, so I am not a full time carer – although of course, I always care. So I am fortunate to have opportunities to meet other people and to focus of something that is more predictable and something that I am good at during the day, so that I am more refreshed when I get home from work and Joshua returns from school. I want to spend time with Joshua when I get home, whereas caring 24/7 is exhausting and draining. I have the help and support of Joshua’s Dad and Yorkshire Grandma too, as well as monthly respite weekends, so caring is not my sole responsibility, so I am very fortunate in many ways. I do not suffer from loneliness, as I have friends, family, colleagues and clients even, who I confide in and social media, for me, gives me access to support from both friends and sympathetic strangers.
61% of carers have suffered from a physical injury due to their caring role. Both my husband and I have suffered with back pain, he damaged his knees and I tore my Achilles due to pushing Joshua in his wheelchair, so we are well aware of the physical risks associated with caring. The harsh reality is that as our bodies are getting older and weaker – we are both in our 50’s now – Joshua is becoming heavier and stronger. When he was younger , after a seizure, it was possible to simply scoop him up and lay him somewhere safe and comfortable. But now at over 9 stone, this is impossible, so I have adapted and now I make him comfortable on the floor where he lands, by cushioning his head, and we do not move until Joshua is able to stand up himself. So if that means we are both on the floor in the pet food aisle at Tesco, as we were recently, then so be it.
In this week, spare a thought for carers in all kinds of situations and show them some care and support.