Thursday, 2 September 2010

Who cares for the carers?

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.



  1. At last the silent forgotton ones speak. Who does care for carers?

  2. i don't care
    not one bit
    do not care

  3. @ Miss Ben E Fit


    Thanks for taking the time to comment.


    @ Mongo

    Nice to hear from you again. Hope all is well.


  4. One place to look for support for caregivers of children with mental difficulties is the Karla Smith Foundation:

    But yes, it is unfair (as well as economically foolish) there is so little official support in the USA for carers.

    Humor can help. :-) Here is a video a comedian who has muscular dystrophy and takes care of his Dad who also has muscular dystrophy:
    Although, as probably anyone who has done it might say, it is probably less stressful to care for someone with a physical disability than someone with an unpredictable mental situation...

    An article "The Burden on Caregivers of the Mentally Ill":

    Other ideas:

    Anyway, you are not alone. Many people have been through this is one way or another. It's hard. But it is still very important, and rewarding in its own way. But like you say, if you don't take care of your own health, then you won't be able to help as much. Getting the right amount of Vitamin D (needs a blood test) and eating a lot of whole foods can help a lot in maintaining your health so you can help in turn...

  5. @ Anonymous

    Thanks for the links. Minor point but I'm actually in the UK.


  6. As a Carer you are entitled to a Carer Assessment. Contact your local Social Services Dept. and refer yourself. Ask in the library about local Carers Support network. Also contact Mind or any other charity connected with Mental health and ask if they have a Carers' Support Worker.