We're delighted to have a guest blog post from Beth Britton especially for Carers Week:
Being a carer is, for most people, a life-changing experience. Caring for my father during his 19 years with vascular dementia certainly had a profound and lasting effect on my life, not least because his symptoms began when I was around 12 years old and would go on to dominate my teens and twenties.
Caring for a person with dementia isn’t generally associated with younger people, unless you are a carer for a grandparent. In fact the perception of carers is often that they are older people with established lives, experience of bringing up a family and plenty of time to spare. In reality all of these pre-conceptions are wrong – anyone, anywhere, at any time and at any age can become a carer.
Most carers are totally unprepared for what caring will involve and have no idea when their caring role will end. They often ‘fall into’ caring, simply by taking on small responsibilities that escalate, triggering experiences that untrained family carers can find very difficult to cope with.
Three of the most regularly sighted challenges that test carers the most are a loved one developing cognitive problems (and associated changes in behaviour), a loss of mobility and incontinence. Indeed, anything that tests a carer both physically, logistically and mentally is going to be tough, and bear in mind that most domestic homes and most family members don’t instantly adapt.
Faced with an extensive caring role, and with multiple other issues to sort out like finances and day-to-day living tasks, most carers are renowned for neglecting themselves. It is very easy to say that carers must take a break, have a health check or get extra support in but sometimes picking up the phone to try to arrange these things can in itself seem far more difficult than it sounds.
For carers who do seek help there are dedicated charities, alongside health and social care professionals, business and organisations, including Carewatch, offering advice and support. As a family we had no help, but awareness-raising initiatives like Carers Week exist to provide a lifeline to the UK’s 6.5 million carers. There is no shame in asking for help, admitting that you are struggling or feeling that you also need a life. Remember, you matter too.
Organisations for Carers
Beth is a Freelance Campaigner and Consultant, Writer and Blogger specialising in issues affecting older people, health and social care and specifically dementia. Beth’s dad had vascular dementia for approximately the last 19 years of his life.
She aims to provide support and advice to those faced with similar situations, inform and educate health and care professionals and the wider population, promote debate and create improvements in dementia care. Her work has been described as "Terrific," "Amazing. REAL story of dementia," "Insightful, heartfelt and truthful," "Moving and inspiring."
Beth was awarded ‘Best Independent Voice on Older People’s Issues’ at the Older People in the Media Awards 2013.
Beth’s film for the G8 Dementia Summit: