Being an unpaid carer is shit!
It’s shit because it means someone you dearly love has health problems, is ill; physically or mentally, it could be they battle with the daily challenges of living with a disability, or that their memory is slowly being robbed from them or they’re living with a terminal illness and you are providing palliative care, the prop that holds them up . Whatever the situation is, whether it’s short term or whether the level of care given has been ongoing for years. Watching someone go through these things can be overwhelming, its emotionally draining.
It’s especially draining when you throw everything else into the equation. Carers often spend time juggling so much, family, work, their own health and well being without little or no reward or thanks in return. They bumble supportively along at the side of the person they care for, in the shadows, ignored and when I say that I don’t mean that they want the support for themselves. What they want is to be heard, to be recognised by the various services and organisations involved that they are pivotal in holding everything together. More important than that they want the various services to listen to them, to ensure that they meet the needs of the person that they love and care for. Most carers input goes unheard as the professionals choose to ignore it, that goes for the system as a whole. No one applies for the job as carer with an impressive CV of knowledge and experience. However, experience gained whilst being a carer, should make their opinion matter but in the majority of cases it sadly doesn’t and in doing so it puts the carer under more pressure.
Caring can be the most challenging job anyone can undertake, you take on much more than just the role of caregiver, your mind is taken up by so much of the logistics of paperwork and chasing up various services, liaising with them. You become experts in all fields such as Finance, Nursing, Social work, Counselling, the list goes on. It can be a demoralising lonely job because being a carer often means having very little money, due to not being able to work or by having to reduce your hours if you do work. It often means you become isolated as free time is often rare and what little time you have you become selfish with it, you can lose friendships and relationships because of it. Again, adding more stress onto the already weighed down shoulders of the carer.
I know this because I have been a carer for 33 years ,that’s more years than I haven’t . I am the sole carer (as I am an only child) of my mum who lives with paraplegia and is also profoundly deaf. She hasn’t always been paralysed, this happened when she was 46 years old due a childhood illness deciding to make its presence known again but with more of a devastating consequence. It initially devastated us as a family but with time we adapted and we continue to adapt because I also live with bipolar, but this does not impinge my job as a carer.
But if I had to choose, obviously I love it if mum could walk again. I miss that. I miss the fact we can’t just go off and spend a day shopping or the day roaming the countryside and beaches like we did when I was little, even spending a weekend away without it becoming a military operation is impossible would be lovely. But it doesn’t mean we don’t do these things, we just learn to adapt.
Yet despite all the above caring is the most rewarding jobs I have done. To be able to give back is the most fulfilling feeling ever, knowing that you are making a difference to someone else’s life, especially if you make it fun. Caring doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom even though outside pressure makes you feel that way. It taught me to prioritise my time. Choosing to spend it with those who mean the most. It taught me wisdom and patience. Its taught me to have a deep appreciation for life as no one knows what around the corner. I had huge plans and dreams of what I thought my life would become, most of it didn’t happen because I choose to care for mum, which I don’t regret. I saw a quote on Instagram the other day that resonated with me it read “Sometimes you have to let go of the picture of what you thought life would be like and learn to find joy in the story you are actually living ”
So as the recognition of all carer’s is coming to an end tomorrow with National Carer’s week, lets come out from the shadows and take centre stage.
Mehefin Bolland 2019