I'm a bit under the weather right now. Nothing at all serious, just a stomach bug, but as a carer every time you feel unwell it's a worry.
Let's start with a premise that seems fairly logical. Carers save the nation a great deal of money year in year out. Take my son. If I wasn't here to look after him he'd more than likely need full time residential care, with paid carers. I've no idea how much that would cost but per year you must be looking at a comfortable five figure sum. You'd think, if only to protect the savings, that something concrete would exist to help in situations like this?
So what help is there when we are ill? Very little, if any. There is something called respite care which is all well and good except for a couple of things. Firstly it's not all that easy to arrange – let alone at short notice (ie when illness strikes). Secondly for many people with mental health problems (like my son) it is wholly inappropriate. Strangers (which is what they in effect are) are not something he can cope with and would increase his anxiety no end.
So who does care for the carers?
No one, unless you're lucky enough to have friends/family to do it. Health problems amongst carers are rife because we can't worry about being ill, or take the time to look after ourselves. Many carers have no one to turn to and obviously constantly worrying about being ill can make you ill.
There's another side to it as well – and that is that you often ignore things that are wrong with yourself as you have other things to worry about that are more pressing. I often have to go and see medical people regarding my son but I really can't remember the last time I bothered to see a doctor about my own health, and that's common with most carers. Our health and well being is secondary to (in my case) our children's health. Now you may be reading this and thinking 'that's how it should be – kids first' and I totally agree with you, but you're looking at it from a view where your kids grow up and sooner or later look after themselves. I don't have that luxury, and will probably be caring for my son until they nail me in which does make a difference.
The biggest worry is what would happen if I was hospitalised for a period, even if it was something incredibly minor. The only person that my son could possibly be looked after suddenly is my Mother but she is in her mid-70s now, needs a certain level of looking after herself, and won't be around for ever.
Worrying – that's what we do every day.