Now more than ever, carers across the UK are reaching breaking point. It’s thought that in 2020, an additional 4.5 million people became unpaid carers to support family and friends affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
With the end of the year approaching and no clear end in sight – even with the Pfizer//BioNTech vaccine approved to be rolled out across the UK providing hope for millions – carers and social support staff are still facing an enormous amount of strain.
It has become increasingly clear that carers do not receive the support they need to be able to care for someone and have their own career, life, and the chance to have a break alongside these responsibilities. On behalf of the UK’s 6.5 million-plus carers, Carer’s UK is campaigning for increased breaks for carers as well as demanding more support and resources for the increasing numbers of carers in the UK.
How providing more breaks can help
Carers have a right to life outside of their caring responsibilities, although this can often be something that carers themselves struggle to accept. If you are caring for a loved one, it can be difficult to take the space that you need to care for your own health.
More breaks can mean giving carers support to:
- More time to look after their mental health, even if that’s just taking the afternoon for some much needed self-care
- Time to look after their physical well-being, such as shopping for healthy meals for the week, getting some exercise, or even just taking a walk in the fresh air
- The ability to continue working and earning an income alongside their caring responsibilities
- Feel less lonely and isolated in their role as a carer
If you know a carer who is in this position, you might be wondering what you can do to relieve some of the pressure they are facing. While you might not be able to take on some of their caring responsibilities directly, there is a lot you can do to show a carer that they are not alone.
Here are a few ways you could support a carer you know today:
1. Be someone to lean on
Many carers report feeling isolated and unhappy as a result of being a carer. Supporting a carer you know could be as simple as being there to listen.
We all know how easy it can be for weeks to pass without us having time to reach out to friends for a chat, but for a carer feeling particularly isolated, that conversation could be all they need to feel less alone.
Getting out and socialising may be harder than ever right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Schedule a video chat or simply pick up the phone and send a text to let carers know you’re thinking of them.
2. Ask yourself: how can I give them a break?
Are you in a position to take over their responsibilities once a week, or perhaps look into professional respite? Even if you can’t do it regularly, giving a carer a break for the day or for an afternoon is a fantastic idea for relieving some of the stress on them.
Alternatively, you could organise temporary care if you are not able to offer it yourself. Check out this guide from Carers Trust on giving carers a break.
3. Nominate them for a little ‘Thank You’
In 2017, we launched Thank a Carer, an initiative that seeks to provide our society with a platform to thank carers for the work they do. We give away a prize to a carer every single week and invite anyone and everyone to nominate a carer they know who deserves a big thank you for the work they do.
Nominating the carer you know for our weekly giveaways could really make their day, so make sure you get your nomination in now. Check out our Thank a Carer Facebook page to see all our previous winners!
4. Lessen the load
Seemingly everday tasks like doing the weekly food shop can be difficult for carers who lack support around them, so offering to visit the shops and get some food in for them could be a great help if you’re looking to give a carer a break.
Other things like doing some gardenings, running errands, and even offering to do some cooking can be a great help and provide a carer with the support they really need throughout the week.
5. Get involved with campaigns
Take a look at the on-going campaigns being run by Carers UK, one of the UK’s largest charities for carers.
From adding your name to a petition to actively fundraising, you can get involved and help demand more rights and support for carers now.
How have you helped a carer in your life? Try one of these ideas this week and provide the carers in our community with the support and recognition that they deserve.
You might also like to read our article on what support you are entitled to as a carer.