(This blog was originally written for workingmums.co.uk as part of a series for Carers Week 2019)
10-16 June 2019 is Carers Week, an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring. This year the chosen theme is “Getting carers connected in their communities”. The workplace can be one of the most important communities we belong to.
What is a carer?
In this context a carer is someone who is looking after a family member or friend who has a disability, mental or physical illness or who needs extra help as they grow older. Sometimes referred to as an unpaid carer or caregiver. For example a carer could be:
- Looking after a parent, not necessarily in their home and perhaps sharing this responsibility with a sibling
- A parent with a child who will need extra support and care both during childhood and beyond
- Caring for a partner, perhaps with a short-term or life-long condition
- Helping out a friend or neighbour on a regular basis
- Supporting someone with their mental health
All over the country these everyday heroes are caring for loved ones in a wide variety of situations, sometimes giving up many hours of time day and night, or perhaps just a few hours a week. Many carers do this alongside working, running businesses and being involved in their communities.
Let’s make the most of Carers Week
Employers and communities can (and must) do more to support these amazing individuals. It is very likely that we will all need to step into a caring role at some point in our lives.
“There are only four kinds of people in the world - those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.” (Rosalyn Carter - Former First Lady of the USA and founder of the Rosalynn Carter Institute of Caregiving)
Carers Week is an opportunity for all of us; carers, cared for, supportive friends, colleagues and employers to build connections. As a carer with lived experience of caring, working and running a business I’ll be writing more on the topic this week, but first let's take a look at the theme of being connected:
Why is being connected important for carers?
For some people caring can be isolating. If the person you are caring for is less mobile or less confident your shared lives can shrink with less trips out, less social events and a reduced circle of friends.
Or there may be a new group of friends who are living in similar circumstances. This new peer group or “tribe” can be a fantastic support but other connections like work colleagues, family and friends can offer balance to the feeling that life has become all about caring.
When you see carers gathered together in a room; whether at a carers hub, a support group for a specific condition or in a work setting. Magic happens. People open up. People have shared experiences, they can be honest, they can connect, they can put themselves first and start to make sense of the world.
Being connected is also about connecting to the variety of support available. This can be a confusing new territory as people talk about benefits, social care, respite care, carers assessments, occupational therapists and local community organisations. Not all of it is relevant for everyone. Connection is about more than just signposting.
But first… Identifying as a carer, caregiver or someone caring for a loved one can be the first step to making connections and connecting to support...more about that in the next blog post.