I’m writing this blog as a tribute to those who care for loved ones.
For the past three years, I have had the privilege to work part-time as a volunteer counsellor for a charity that supports carers.
It is estimated that 6.5 people in the UK provide unpaid care to a family member, neighbour or friend, this equates to one in eight people.
Many carers juggle school, college, full or part-time jobs, with their caring role. A large number of carers give up their jobs to become full-time carers, this can become a lonely and isolating experience, as a consequence of this, carers can experience both physical and mental ill-health.
I have supported carers at different stages in their caregiving journey for some, at the beginning and for others at the end. Every carer has a different combination of life circumstances. However, consistent common themes in the carers I worked with included: anxiety, depression, anger, grief, guilt, resentment and hopelessness. The role of a caregiver becomes part of your identity – you are responsible for the well-being of another, much like the role of a mother. This involves managing personal and practical care, providing a safe environment, whilst constantly being vigilant, putting their needs first and making sure that the cared- for wants for nothing. Being able to feel upbeat and positive when you’re under such pressure can become impossible.
In my experience carer’s emotions can swing from immense sadness to resentment and anger. They then feel guilty about feeling this way. Sometimes it’s important to recognise that the cared-for is going to have to take second place otherwise the carer will burn-out and consequently will not be able to provide the essential support for the cared-for. I use the metaphor, of putting an oxygen mask on yourself first, before you help others. Having compassion for yourself, as well as others is important. I remind my clients that they are carers because they care so, cut themselves some slack and that it is important to step back sometimes and acknowledge what a great job the yare doing. Muddling over ‘what if and if only’ is unhelpful, pointless and again could hinder their own mental health and the amazing work they are doing.
If you’re a caregiver or know of anyone who is, talking to others in a similar situation can be very beneficial. Whether it’s a counsellor, a local support group or an online forum. Charities such as ‘The Princess Royal Trust For Carers’ also offer help and support to a vast number of caregivers in the south of England.
Please get the help and support you need.