Who will care for the carers?

Written by: Hilda Campbell, Chief Executive, COPE Scotland

Published: 08/06/2020

For Carers Week 2020, Hilda reflects on what we can do collectively to do more for unpaid carers as we define a new normal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the value and importance of the work of our colleagues in the NHS and now the care sector. This is super and their efforts should continue to be appreciated. It’s important however that we also think about the unpaid carers who often make sacrifices to provide care and support to their loved ones.

When I was in nursing working with older adults, often visitors would say I was an angel. I replied, ‘’I get breaks, days off, holidays, paid for what I do, I care and yes work hard, however, it’s my profession. You are the real angels. You do it only for the love.” For those that care for a loved one at home, there are no days off. Breaks are far and few and only when you can grab one and often significant sacrifices are made. For some, this may be needing to give up careers, work, even relationships and/or juggling the needs of their own family with the needs of the one they are caring for. As for holidays, even if one is offered a break, sometimes it can have been so long that you are caring for others that you have forgotten what to do if you have any time to yourself, except maybe, catch up on some sleep.

As we move on from these strange times and into a ‘new normal,’ it’s important we continue to acknowledge everyone who plays a part in building a kinder world, especially our unpaid carers. These are the everyday heroes who have the courage to care and to be there for loved ones. Their wellbeing matters too. There is currently work across Scotland which is rightfully recognising the health and wellbeing needs of unpaid carers. As we move forwards in creating this new world where we live alongside COVID-19, let’s continue to consider the carers in our approach and recovery. Let’s demonstrate such kindness that shows them that it is okay not to be okay and that their wellbeing matters.

Let’s see what we can do collectively to do more to:

  • Make health systems easier to navigate so carers don’t feel so overwhelmed in seeking support for a loved one, including where there are issues of suicide;
  • Respect carers’ voices and include voices of lived experience when co-developing support for the person being cared for;
  • Promote to carers it’s also “okay to not feel okay” and to promote their own health while looking after others. They also matter;
  • Raise awareness of support which can help carers feel listened to and that their experiences and wellbeing matters;
  • Remind people none of us have superpowers, and no matter how much we love someone, or the support we are offering, we can get tired. Relieve people of the guilt of putting themselves first sometimes;
  • Be kind to those who are kind to others every day. Give them the gift of time.
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