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Who Claps For Unpaid Carers?

May 13, 2020

When people stand at their door to clap every Thursday evening, they might be applauding NHS staff or social care workers. But how many are thinking about the country’s army of unpaid carers?

For the past eight years, my brother and I have been caring for my mother, who has early onset dementia, diabetes and other health issues. My brother bears most of the burden, but most days I make the two-bus, six-mile journey to visit.

My brother and I wash, dress and feed Mum. I wash her hair and do her nails once a week. We administer eye drops every day, as she’s had cataracts. She has incontinence issues and we administer a weekly enema. We have little to no support from the NHS or social services. The district nurse visits every three months to change her catheter, but other than that we’re on our own.

Even before lockdown, carers were on the edge of everyday life. Hopefully their neighbours would have known and understood their responsibilities, but now they’re trapped behind closed doors, they are invisible. I fear for their mental health. If I was living with my mother, if it was just her and me, the social isolation would be unbearable.

If carers were isolated before the coronavirus crisis, we’re invisible now. I know my mental health has suffered since I became a carer. My anxiety rears itself every time I have to leave my flat and cat. Every day has been more or less the same for years – being carers has prepared me and my brother for lockdown.

There are approximately 6.5 million unpaid carers in the UK. That’s more people than are employed in the army or work in the NHS. But we are not valued, we are just ignored. When you think about it, if there are up to 6.5 million carers, that means there are 6.5 million people being kept away from hospital.

These people are propping up the NHS, even if it is by a gossamer thread. They are serving their community. Via social media, I’ve asked Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, and the care minister, Helen Whately, if they know the difference between unpaid carers and care workers.

I am concerned about the impact on child carers too. There are 800,000 young carers in the UK; the responsibilities they are going to have to take on are far larger, because they may also be caring for siblings as well as their parents.

Unpaid carers need as much recognition as any other frontline worker; I feel quite moved that the government has finally announced that they will have access to Covid-19 testing.

It’s difficult to know what support there could and should be for unpaid carers, but we need somebody to put their hand up and take responsibility for the altruism of these people.

GPs know who the carers are in their area. They could work closer together with local councils to give support, even if it was just someone turning up for a couple of hours to give that carer the chance to go for a walk or have a meal in a restaurant. I have not been to the pub for years; I used to love to go to the pub.

It has taken them their entire 10 years in government for the Conservatives to recognise that social care exists and there is a care crisis. The parties are battling about how to handle it when they should be working together to resolve it. They should be consulting carers, not thinktanks, on what steps they should be taking. I want to see affirmative action. The government needs to take responsibility. The care crisis is real and will only get worse.

How I have maintained actual sanity amid my own anxieties is miraculous. In all of this, despite my social isolation, poverty, ill health and lack of time to do anything, I still want to help my mum. I also want to help and shout loudly for those who have no voice. I do sometimes ask myself why should I bother, because no one seems to care. But I care for those carers who are still caring.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2020 11:43 am

    Reblogged this on Tory Britain!.


  1. Who Claps For Unpaid Carers? — Same Difference | sdbast

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