The care of an ill, older or disabled loved one is often just a part of life for many people. Too many in this situation struggle on, unaware that support is available or afraid of how asking for help reflects on them as a person.
However, not recognising you are carrying out a caring role affects both you and the loved one in your care, and can be a real barrier to accessing much-needed support.
Across the UK today, 6.5 million people are carers of a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill. That equates to 1 in every 8 adults.
The importance of recognising that you are a carer
If a significant part of your life is caring for another person, and you treat it merely as a duty rather than seeing yourself as a carer, then you are unlikely to ever consider asking for help. There are a number of forms of help:
- Seeking advice from charities and support organisations
- Talking to others who find themselves in similar circumstances
- Receiving a carer’s assessment
- Applying for Carer’s Allowance
However, if you are finding it difficult to cope with the pressures of care but do not recognise that you are a carer, you miss out on this vital support, advice and information. This often leads to serious personal and financial implications that have an impact on your personal health and relationships, and in time, not just you, but the person in your care will suffer.
Recognising you are a carer is extremely important, and in this blog post I intend to raise awareness of the importance of recognition by looking at an organisation called Carers UK, the great work they do, and their 'Identification challenge' campaign.
In a nutshell, Carers UK makes life better for carers. They recognise that caring will touch us all at some point in our lives, and intend to be there when that point comes to provide support and guidance. They give expert advice, information and support in a number of ways:
The Carers UK Adviceline is a telephone helpline open 5 days a week that allows carers to speak with someone firsthand who will listen and offer advice.
The Carers UK Forum is an online community of carers and is available to Carers UK members 24/7. The forum featured in one of our earlier blog posts (click here to see) as an excellent resource for gaining help, advice and support from professionals and fellow carers.
To connect carers in their local communities, Carers UK has recruited a team of over 250 volunteers. The organisation's 'Local Ambassadors' reach out to carers on a regional basis and put them in touch with help from Carers UK as well as local support. Their 'Awareness Volunteers' create publicity in local communities to help reach carers.
Since 2001 the number of carers has increased by 16.5%, vastly exceeding population growth (6.2%)
Carers UK campaigns hard and carries out research to improve the lives of carers. The organisation has been campaigning with carers for 50 years, creating understanding, changing perceptions and winning critical developments in carers’ rights. See Carers UK's current campaigns.
Online Help & Advice Centre
The Help & Advice section of the Carers UK website offers all kinds of support including practical help, financial support, advice on equipment/technology, and resources.
The identification challenge
Based on findings from their State of Caring Survey 2016, Carers UK has compiled research that explores the time it takes for people to recognise they have taken on a caring role, and whether they had missed out on support because they simply didn’t think of themselves as a carer. The research also looks at the impact that missing out on support can have across carers’ lives.
As a result of the research Carers UK is campaigning for:
- Improved access to information and advice for carers
- A new duty on the NHS and education professionals to create and action policies that identify carers and promote their health and well-being.
- The development of education, information and training for a range of frontline professionals in the view of increasing knowledge and signposting carers
- Greater public awareness of carers