Monday 9 June 2014

Carer's questions - Am I REALLY a carer?

Welcome to the first of my seven ‘mini’ blogs for UK Carers Week 2014.

As regular readers of this blog know, I cared for my father for 19 years during his vascular dementia. For the majority of that time, however, I never considered myself a carer - just a daughter looking after her dad. As I said in my G8 Dementia Summit film, "You become a carer, but you don't realise you've become a carer."

For UK Carers Week 2014, I want to focus on questions carers often ask me, and indeed many questions I frequently asked myself during my father’s dementia. 

Day 1 - Am I REALLY a carer?

If you look after an ill, frail or disabled family member or friend, you are a carer. In this context, the term ‘carer’ referrers to a person who is unpaid (like the term ‘caregiver’), whereas the term ‘care worker’ refers to people who are employed in social care and receive payment. There are 6.5 million carers in the UK – if you aren’t one at the moment, chances are you will be in the future or will know someone who is.

Being a carer means many things to many people. On one level it can mean helping someone you care about to do their shopping or clean their home. At the opposite end of the scale it can mean providing 24/7 care for a person who is utterly dependent upon you to meet all of their health and care needs, including in some instances providing end-of-life care.

Carers are often untrained, feel very isolated and put their own life on hold indefinitely to fulfill their caring role. Carers can be any age, from children through to people in their 80’s and 90’s. They may be male or female, although generally more women are carers than men. They could also be caring in a number of different settings – their own home, their loved one’s home, a care home, hospital or hospice. You aren’t more or less of a carer depending on who you are, who you care for, where you are caring for them or how much care you provide – a carer is a carer, full stop.

Carers are people who often cease to be seen as individuals in their own right, and instead become invisible beside the person they are caring for. They are people who can face unique and extremely challenging situations that they are entirely unprepared for on a daily basis. What they do helps to prop up the health and social care systems in the UK; without carers, these systems would collapse. Read my blog post ‘The carer’s job description’ for additional insight into what being a carer represents.

Further reading:

D4Dementia: 'Caring for carers'

D4Dementia: 'Be inspired, be very inspired'

All D4Dementia blog posts for Carers, including many with tips and advice on coping with particular aspects of your loved one's dementia

External links: 
Dementia Action Alliance Carers' Call to Action:
Carers Trust:
Next post on 10 June 2014.
Until then...
Beth x

You can follow me on Twitter: @bethyb1886

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