Whether you are caring for a child with special needs, a partner, relative, friend or neighbour, caring for another can be a huge responsibility. While it can be extremely rewarding, it can also sometimes feel like a huge burden.
We’re currently celebrating the country’s carers as part of National Carers Week, honouring the wonderful commitment to others given by unseen carers and adding our own voices to this year’s theme of ‘Making Caring Visible’. So what better time than to share my own personal experience of being a carer.
Six years ago, my life changed in quite a dramatic way when my husband and I took on the role of full-time carer for his mum, following a prolonged period of ill health. We took the decision to move in together, adapting our family home to meet her health needs and allow us to be with her and support her.
To say it was a juggling act is an understatement.
Moving home, project managing renovations, working full time, and continuing caring duties, not to mention introducing our cats to the resident dogs… It all seemed fine to begin with, despite the need for various diaries and organisers to keep on top of things.
But unfortunately, as my mother-in-law’s health declined and she became increasingly frail, the responsibilities of caring for her became harder and harder.
While I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity I had to get to know her a little better – spending time learning more about her life, playing cards, watching television together – this wasn’t always the case. Sometimes things got really tough. Eventually caring for her took priority over everything else.
During some of the most difficult times, I remember experiencing feelings of claustrophobia, a loss of personal identity and social isolation, as many friends stopped inviting me to events (mainly to save my embarrassment at having to say no). I also felt sheer resentment and frustration towards my situation, which, bizarrely, meant I also felt extremely guilty for feeling this way.
Unfortunately, my mother-in-law is no longer with us. But looking back as I write this, I realise now just how perfectly normal my feelings at the time were. They were all part of the natural cycle of loss, love and grief for the person you’re caring for.
I often ask myself, if I were to ever find myself in a position where I had to do it all again, care for someone in this way, would I do it? Could I do it? The answer is of course I would.
As a carer, it’s so important to practise self-care, finding time for yourself to do things you enjoy and accepting help where it’s available, whether that’s from friends, family or statutory services. Talking and sharing experiences with others are crucial to managing your own health and wellbeing.
In my opinion, being a carer is one of the most rewarding and valuable, if not hardest, jobs in the world. And it’s a job that no one pays you for doing. Which is why nobody should feel this burden of care alone.
Making care visible and highlighting the difficult challenges faced by our huge army of unpaid and unseen carers is so important to us here at the Charity. That’s why we embrace events like National Carers Week, but also support our carers all year round. We see you and we’re here for you.
So if you’re caring for someone and finding it tough, remember, you’re not alone in this. We’re here to support you. Get in touch with us by calling 0800 389 8820 or making an enquiry online.