Carers need support too!

Being a carer for someone with dementia can be a lonely, isolating and exhausting experience.

It has been estimated that more than 2.5 million people in the UK have given up their jobs to care for loved ones, while one in seven people in work are juggling the demands of their job with caring.

Far too often, they are left to cope on their own.

This is a small extract from the East Anglian Daily Times on March 9 this year about the experience of one carer who gave up her job to care for her mother, who is suffering from dementia.

“In the time she has been deteriorating, she has never had a formal assessment of her needs and ability. She fell last March and was in hospital for seven weeks and was thought of as a “bed-blocker”… ‘bloody woman, taking up a bed.’

“It was a horrible experience. Nobody cares… nobody cares. If she had had a heart problem or cancer, she would have had medical attention but she’s on the ‘too big to deal with pile’. She is on no one’s list.”

At a time when the UK has increasing numbers of elderly people in the population and local authorities as well as the NHS are struggling with both demand and diminishing resources those carers who have taken on the responsibility for loved ones are providing an essential service.

Caring can be a seven days a week, 24 hours a day responsibility which ultimately could end up damaging the carer’s physical and mental health if there is no respite.

According to the Alzheimer’s society, carers who have less support are more likely to experience stress and depression.

If other members of the family cannot help it can be a lonely existence.

Local authorities have a duty to provide both the person with dementia and their carer with an assessment of their needs and to then provide appropriate support.

Carers need to be able to answer questions about their circumstances such as whether they are not getting enough sleep, struggling to combine caring with work or other commitments, coping with behaviours that challenge, having difficulty making time for the other interests, friends and family and not getting enough breaks, and having no plan for emergencies, such as if they become ill.

GPs can give some support and put the carer in touch with voluntary and other organisations that could help.

Another option may be for the person being cared for to spend at least one day a week at a day care centre. Respite care for the loved one in a residential care home may be an option and while this has to be paid for it may be possible to get financial help where the carer has little or no income other than a carers’ allowance.

Having time for a break and to recharge, having someone to talk to, making sure to eat regularly are all essential in helping the carer to cope.