Who cares for the carers?
Did you notice that it was Carers’ Week last month? Possibly not – unless, of course, you are one of the 6.5 million (that’s 10% of the entire, all ages, UK population) unpaid carers in the UK. (2011 Census)
If you are providing care for someone did you know that your contribution is part of economic value estimated at £132 billion per year (Carers UK) – in other words that you are saving the state a great deal of money? But is this really being recognised?
Carers UK estimate that by 2037 a staggering 9 million of us will be in an unpaid caring role. In fact this is probably an under estimate. Many of the current unpaid carers are “under the radar” and neighbours and colleagues (sometimes even other family members) are not aware of what is happening or the sacrifice that is being made. Don’t get me wrong – many individuals willingly take on this new role and don’t see it as a “sacrifice”. They talk about the rewards but at the same time acknowledging the practical and emotional challenges they face.
Do you recognise yourself in something that we were told during our study into the health and wellbeing impacts of social isolation – “Carers need to “offload” in a safe environment. They need to be able to say “I could have put a pillow over his face at that point” without the authorities being alerted”.
There are, thank goodness, great not for profit organisations whose role is to try and release some of the pressure. In Hampshire I am thinking of Carers’ Together The Princess Royal Trust for Carers Off The Record and the Young Carers groups but I know that these are not the only ones that offer support and advice to someone for whom the future may look very bleak. Support from the wider community can also be a lifeline. During our study, we found that people who contributed to community life when they were able to do this, were now receiving support when they needed it.
Sorry if you think this is a bit of a gloomy blog but isn’t it time that we did wake up to what is going on and start thinking about what we can do? As communities and society, we’re going to need to support those individuals supporting others in this vital, voluntary, capacity.
If this is new to you, here are some questions to ponder.
Are you an unpaid carer? What does that mean to you?
What are the implications? Will you need to carry on working until you are nearly 70?
How are we going to juggle all the roles that we may have to take on?
What can employers do to make the workplace more “carer friendly”?
And finally what can all of us, in our community, do to ease some of the burdens that we see taken on by friends and neighbours?
Next year perhaps a few more of us will notice when it is Carers Week. It looks like we certainly will in 2037.