It has been Carer’s Week this week, when we recognise the contribution that carers make to family life and the relentless hard work that they do.Let me start by saying that I do not consider myself to be a carer, I am simply a mother who is looking after her son, the same as others do. The only difference is that my 15 year old son needs more support than other typical teenagers : he needs help with dressing, eating, toileting and getting around, thats all. I do take good care of our son but I still do that as his mother rather than as a carer.
For me, carers are when someone is doing something unexpected such as a child taking care of their sick parent or when the relationship changes between a husband and wife, when one of them becomes ill and so the other takes on the caring role, as my Mum did ,without complaint, when my father developed dementia. My Dad towards the end also needed help with dressing, eating, toileting and getting around and this was not expected of the strong, intelligent man who she had been married to for 50 years. But she might also argue that she was simpy being a good wife to him, rather than his carer.
I do understand the immense pressure that carers are under, when they are taking sole responsibility for someone and so they can rarely relax and take some time back for them. It can be an isolating, lonely experience as it can keep you house-bound and unable to partake in the frivolous activities that tend to keep us going. Often carers find it very difficult to leave their cares behind and allow themselves some much-needed time off. But rather than being a treat, I regard it as an essential means to re-charge the batteries, to fortify themselves ready to tackle the strains, both physical and emotional, of caring when they return. But they need to first of all have confidence in their stand-ins, to know that all will be well when they return to their duties. I know with Mum it took years of caring before she would go away for a few days either to family weddings or to have a short break with her sisters, but she was eventually persuaded that we could hold the fort with Dad, we would not do it as well as she did, but we would do our best and would not let either of them down. She never went away for long nor very far, so she would not jet off to Rio for her holiday, but the change of scene and company was always refreshing and liberating. Good carers do not hand over their responsibilities lightly, as they know how much work is involved,and they do not like to burden others, but that is exactly why they need a break.
So this week, let’s spare a thought for the many unpaid carers out there and for the hard work that they do, day in and day out, that is rarely recognised.