How many people did you talk to yesterday? From a simple “Hello” to world changing conversations you probably spoke with more people than you realise. As a SLT I used to ask this question as part of a training activity to get people thinking about the opportunities they have to connect with others every day. Here, I ask for a different reason. Here, I ask because I wonder if you realise that, whilst precise estimates are difficult, it is possible that around 20% of the people you spoke to yesterday could be (unpaid) carers? Colleagues, patients, friends, shop assistants, older people, children – anybody, of any age, can be a carer. Indeed, although you might never have thought about it, you might be a carer, juggling your AHP role with caring for a friend, relative or neighbour.
Whilst it might appear obvious identifying carers is not always as easy as you might think. People rarely use the word “carer” to describe themselves and often see the care they provide as “just something you do”. The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016, says that you are a carer if you provide (or intend to provide) care for another person – this might include shopping, providing emotional support and/or personal care, organising prescriptions and medications, cooking meals, supporting attendance at appointments… the list goes on. How many of the people you spoke to yesterday are doing these things for another person?
Having a caring role can be a rewarding, positive experience. Indeed, many young carers (those aged 18 and under) are proud of the life skills that their caring role has helped them to develop – like managing money and preparing meals. Whilst every day (indeed every hour) can be different, it is also important to recognise the impact of a caring can be huge. Across the last year this impact has been magnified:
- 45% of young carers say their mental health is worse (Carers Trust Scotland, 2020)
- 69% of young carers say they are more stressed (Carers Trust Scotland, 2020)
- 74% of carers say they are exhausted and worn out (Carers UK, 2020)
The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016, is focussed on improving the health and wellbeing of carers and on ensuring that, if they wish to continue caring, they can do so alongside having a life of their own. As an AHP you have opportunities every day to help ensure the realisation of this vision. Asking “…and how are you?” could be the start. Sometimes you might need to walk alongside somebody as they realise they are a carer, and by building trust and through good conversations you can help improve the lives of sons, daughters, cousins, partners, husbands… of any age, living in any community. It’s also worth noting that lots of caring relationships are mutual – perhaps the person you are supporting to get ready for discharge cares for their carer?
One of the biggest challenges is that many carers do not realise they have rights or that support, for example advice about breaks or local networks, is available . Sometimes, just by letting carers know these two things you can make a difference. As a first step, find out about the carers services, and young carers services available where you work so that you can signpost to them – even if a carer doesn’t want to make contact immediately knowing these services exist might still be progress. This NHS inform page will get you started: https://www.nhsinform.scot/campaigns/support-for-unpaid-carers
Working with carers – as equal partners – is core to what it is to be an AHP. The first steps involve identifying carers and having a good conversation, both of which can be more difficult than they may initially appear. However, both steps are critical to being able to work meaningfully with carers as equal partners. If you want to learn more, Equal Partners in Care is the learning resource for you. The animation is a great place to start and an interactive eLearning module is on its way so look out for new resources being added. Be the person who makes a difference to carers – get started today: https://learn.nes.nhs.scot/19211/
Carers Trust Scotland (2020)
https://carers.org/young-carer-and-young-adult-carer-coronavirus-research/our-survey-on-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-young-carers-and-young-adult-carers-in-scotland#:~:text=Coronavirus%20has%20significantly%20increased%20those,health%20is%20worse%20since%20Coronavirus.&text=74%25%20of%20young%20carers%20and,connected%20to%20others%20since%20Coronavirus. Carers UK (2020) https://www.carersuk.org/images/News_and_campaigns/Caring_Behind_Closed_Doors_Oct20.pdf
Senior Educator (Equal Partners in Care), NHS Education for Scotland