(This blog was originally written for workingmums.co.uk as part of a series for Carers Week 2019)

There is real resistance to the word “carer” and I get it.  People are wives, husbands, partners, children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, family, loved ones.  They are supporting, partnering, advocating, caring, helping, loving and just doing what needs to be done.  Sometimes caring alongside others and sometimes being cared for themselves in some way too.

Identifying as a carer may open up possibilities of connections and support, from employers, GPs, social services, the NHS, charities, social enterprises, schools, colleges, friends, family, the community and more.  That’s why it is important.

The theme for Carers Week (10-16 June 2019) is “Getting carers connected in their communities”  Connection is the first step to accessing support, particularly the simple informal support of someone that will listen.

My story

I’m speaking from personal experience.  In 2003, less than a year after our wedding my husband was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s.  Everything changed…. Well actually nothing changed immediately, things changed slowly. I didn’t become a carer overnight my husband didn’t need any practical help, emotionally we both supported each other.  I did start making his packed lunch for him though.

I told my employer, friends and family about his diagnosis but it would have felt very odd to have told anyone I had become his carer.  We carried on with life, work, children. With the occasional medical appointment and change of medication life was manageable.  

….hang on when did that happen?

Our future changed though, part-time work seemed like the best option for me after maternity leave, my husband gradually needed more help and I just struggled on, attempting to create a freelance business whilst being mum, working part-time, running the home and caring for my husband…..hang on when did that happen?  Exhausted, I booked an appointment with my GP who calmly ticked a box on his computer to add me to the practise carers register and asked me if I had considered respite care.

It was quite a relief to be given the label of carer it helped me understand I was dealing with more than I had realised and needed to think about the support I had around me.  The story doesn’t end there and I’ll share more in future posts about working, running a business and caring as it turns out silver linings do exist!

Acceptance

Are you a “carer”?  It is just a word, but it can also be about accepting a change in your life, it might have been gradual or sudden, you may not have considered that this change would impact you as well as your loved one.  Acceptance can also open connections and support. If these are in place before you need them so much the better.

Carers week might be a time when people who don’t think of themselves as carers begin to access support.

5 first steps if you are a carer.

If you are thinking you might be even just a bit of a carer there are some small simple things you can do:

  • Tell your employer
  • Tell your GP 
  • Become a member of Carers UK
  • Find out about local support for carers via Carers Trust
  • Talk to a trusted friend - someone who will listen and allow you to let off steam when you need to 
Are you an unpaid carer?

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