For those working in hospice and palliative care it is very likely that, as well as supporting the patient, you’ll also work closely with their family members/carers.
While it is likely that some will have been in caring roles for a number of years and identify themselves as carers (and be in receipt of the appropriate support) there are likely to be many others who are either relatively new to having caring responsibilities, or who simply don’t see themselves as carers.
A carer is anyone who cares – unpaid – for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support.
Seven million of us are already carers – that’s around 10% of the population – and anyone can become a carer at any time. It is predicted that three in five of us will become a carer at some point in our lives.
Many carers do not recognise themselves as such, often saying things like “But he’s my husband, I’m just looking after him”. Yet identifying carers is the first important step in supporting them to recognise the value of what they do and enabling them to get the vital support they need.
Here at Carers Trust, we provide support and breaks for carers and we work to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of caring. We do this via a UK wide network of quality assured independent network partners, online support services and through the provision of grants to help carers get the extra help they need to live their own lives.
Carers are on duty 24/7, 365 days a year and often find that they are disadvantaged financially and that their own health and wellbeing suffers. To help meet their needs our online services are available every day of the year to support them to find the information and advice that they need.
These provide much needed support to carers across the UK in a way, and at a time, that can suit them. They offer a friendly and supportive online community of other carers, people who understand the impact that caring for a family member or friend has. They can find information on things that matter to them, from how to get adaptations to their home, to dealing with being bullied in school and how to apply to university when you’re a carer.
They can use the chatrooms, timeline and discussion features to chat to others in similar situation, offload how they’re feeling and they can also ask our expert team for help through our email helpline, who respond to queries every single day of the year.
Crucially, we don’t ask carers to meet any criteria when accessing our services, so whether they’re caring for a friend a few hours a week, caring full time for someone seriously ill at home, or if their caring role has now ended but they’d still like support, our online communities can support them in all those situations.
So, when you meet a patient and their family for the first time, please do think about that family member/carer and consider what help and support is in place for them too.
You might just be the first person who’s asked how they are, and what help they might need.
*ehospice has included Sam’s first name only in order to protect staff privacy due to the nature of the team’s work.