This week marked Carers week in the UK. Carers week aims to raise awareness of people who provide unpaid care and support for a relative. It provides a platform for carers to share the challenges they face on a daily basis. This year, the theme is ‘getting carers connected in the community’. An idea that has been difficult to make a reality due to the current Covid-19 pandemic.
It was previously estimated that 6.5 million people living in the UK were providing some form of unpaid care or support for a relative. However, since the Covid-19 pandemic, there is now an additional 4.5 million people caring for an older or seriously ill family member. It is thought that the care and support provided by family members saves the UK economy approximately 132 billion pounds per year. Despite the significant societal contribution made by carers, they receive very little compensation in return. The negative impact of caring for a relative has been well documented with research suggesting carers are more likely to experience poor physical health, anxiety, depression, social isolation, loneliness, and financial strain. Many carers report a sense of losing themselves and their identity within their role.
Whilst it is essential to be aware of the negative impact of caring for relatives, it is also important to acknowledge the positive aspects of the care role. In the Caregiving HOPE study, we spoke to over 700 carers across England. We were aiming to find out how willing and prepared carers felt in their roles and whether this influenced their wellbeing. You can read the detailed results of the study here.
The findings of the study were striking. Whilst over 80% of the carers included in the study were experiencing high level of anxiety and depression, they were also able to reflect on the positive aspects of their role. This included carers discussing the news skills they had gained, strengthened family bonds, a sense of achievement and greater confidence in one self. They discussed the various coping strategies they had used, what had worked and what had not. They also provided us with photos of their day to day life. We have curated their stories and photos (with permission) and produced a free book for carers called “Living with dementia: The carers experience”. You can download a free copy of the book here or get in touch with Dr Sahdia Parveen to order a hard copy of the book which will be made available in September. You can also provide feedback on the book here.
We may not be able to physically connect with each other this carers week, but we can connect with each other’s stories, listen to each other and learn from each other. #CarersUnite
Written by Dr Sahdia Parveen