This year the theme for Carers Rights Day is ‘rights, advice, support’: ensuring that carers understand their rights and get access to good quality advice and support.
The charity Carers UK organises Carers Rights Day every year to raise awareness of the vital work carers do, and the support that is available to them. Carers UK can offer financial advice and practical support to carers, and can help the carer feel less isolated.
The latest statistics reveal that 3 in 5 of us will become carers at some stage in our lives, and in most cases this will be because someone we love is ill. And as the average age of the UK population rises, more and more of us will find ourselves caring for – or arranging care for – an older relative.
So what are the main challenges facing carers today?
42% of carers say they missed out on financial support due to a lack of clear, accessible advice, according to a report by Carers UK. 40% of carers have fallen into debt as a result of their caring responsibilities, with many not knowing where to turn for advice and support. Almost half of carers claim that they are cutting back on food and heating as a way of cutting costs. It is clear that the lack of financial advice and support has a direct impact on the quality of care that the carer can provide.
Ensuring person-centred care
It seems you can’t open a newspaper at the minute without reading about how overstretched and understaffed our hospitals are. Amanda Waring in her book The Heart of Care tells of the appalling treatment received by her mother Dame Dorothy Tutin, which drove Amanda to begin campaigning for person-centred, compassionate elder care. The recent scandal of the fifteen-minute care visits highlighted that the focus of care has slipped away from the person, and is instead about meeting goals and hitting targets. In The Heart of Care Amanda Waring promotes respect for the dignity and intrinsic worth of others, regardless of age or disability.
“Dignified, person-centred care requires getting to the heart of things, getting personally involved and motivated rather than staying at the edges or ticking boxes.” – Amanda Waring, The Heart of Care
Isolation and guilt
Caring for others can often be a lonely and isolating process. Many carers have to give up their jobs as they are unable caring for a loved one and working full time, which means that as well as causing financial problems, they also miss out on the social element of going to work. Combined with the constant nagging guilt (could you be doing more? Have you missed some medication/a doctor’s appointment?), caring puts a huge mental strain on the carer. Carers UK advises that if you are caring for a family member, to try and share the caring responsibilities among the extended family. Read more advice from Carers UK on avoiding feeling isolated and overwhelmed by your caring duties.
This Carers Rights Day, stop and ask yourself: what if you were the person needing care?