My Family Care asks Tracey: Caring for a family member, regardless of age, can bring with it it's fair share of guilt. Some people feel they are neglecting their partner, their children, and their friends when they become a carer for an elder relative. What can be done to alleviate these feelings and help the carer balance their work and family life?
Remember to look after number one
Did you know that there are almost seven million carers in the UK? That means one in ten people, and it's rising. So who are the 7,000,000 carers in the UK today? If you're reading this you're likely to be one, or know someone who is.
Identifying yourself as a carer is something which people still have difficulty with. There is no profile of what a carer looks like. Some say, "I don't do very much" or "I do too much but she's my mum, so I don't mind". The problem is that at some point it may become too much, and by then, most people find themselves in a crisis - in one or more aspect of their life.
Whether that's the carer:
- Becoming ill themselves
- Feeling unable to continue in their employment
- Experiencing a break-down of relationship
- Just having a sense of being on a continual treadmill, wondering when and where it will end.
I have been in Social Care for many years and the worst possible scenario is that the carer, in their attempt to please everyone, in the end pleases no-one. If you are always rushing, or trying to squeeze all the jobs into a limited amount of time, or you take on more than you need to, the likelihood is that before long you will start to resent being a carer.
At this point, some of you reading this might be thinking "well, I've got no choice. Dad doesn't have anyone else?" Well, he might not at the moment but that doesn't mean that he never will.
If you're caring for a loved one and its becoming too much or its causing you to be unhappy, it's time to seek help! Don't delay, it will be a turning point in your role as carer.
Quality vs. Quantity
Caring should be, and is, a rewarding and - in my view - privileged role to undertake. Spending quality time with those who are ill, dependent or disabled, can be a really positive experience. However, it tends to all go wrong when you don't have the right amount of balance between the different aspects of your life.
Imagine your favourite cake in front of you. Mmmm. Now you have to cut the cake into slices. Each slice represents your different roles/responsibilities. So you might have: wife, mother, employee, daughter, tennis player, friend, neighbour and carer. Your job is to cut the cake so that everyone gets a slice and they are roughly equal, but, a couple of the slices might need to be a little bit bigger at times.
The important thing to remember is that you need to keep re-cutting the cake. The size of your cake slices will determine how much balance you have in your life.
If you've done that and you realise that you have been giving ¾ of the cake to the role of carer, or being a tennis player, then it's time to seek help to redress the balance!
Caring for the carer
From the beginning of April, the government has introduced the new Care Act. For the first time, carers have the right to an assessment and services. In addition, each local authority will have a Carers Association, often run by the voluntary sector, who have plenty of information about getting the right support in your area.
So, if you're a carer - or know someone who is - please seek some advice about the type of support that is available. If you're lost and looking for guidance, Manage My Care supports older people and their families to find the right solutions to their care problems, so feel free to contact us.
Tracey Allen, Director, Manage My Care