Our Healthcare industry relies on compassion and commitment from those people who want to offer elderly, disabled and paediatric patients the kindness and care they need. This can come in the form of palliative care or aged care, to name a couple. These heroes of the profession work across a 24 hour period holding hands, helping with feeding and cleaning, plus listening to the good old days, to ensure the best quality of care for those needing that additional support.
We forget that our elderly would not survive without these generous and caring people, who take on the task of support and commitment which we, as family, cannot always offer in their hours of need. During the Covid 19 Pandemic, many carers stayed within the care homes, not going home at the end of their shift. They did this to continue to make sure the residents were supported in every way, minimising the risk of infection by not seeing their own families, or taking the children to school, or cooking that evening meal, in order to be on hand for those needing such devoted care.
There are also many family carers who are not recognised for the commitment they have made to support parents and the elderly within the home environment. Many are working or are at school and take on the task of managing caring responsibilities alongside everyday life, without being supported themselves or having anyone else to talk to.
Carers UK is the only national membership charity for carers in the UK and, according to their statistics, as many as 1 in 8 adults (roughly 6.5 million people) are active carers. As a result of this voluntary caring, they estimate that the UK economy is actually being saved £132 billion per year!
When it comes to young carers it is believed that there are roughly 800,000 of them, aged 5-17 years old, looking after an adult in the UK. Children are naturally vulnerable but young carers tend to be a hidden element in society, taking on responsibilities that may lead to missing out on vital childhood experiences. The Children’s Society states that 27% of young carers aged 11-15 end up missing school, a situation that means that their compassion in looking after a loved one could lead to wide-ranging consequences as they face being disadvantaged in the longer term. This disagreeable situation is made all the worse by the statistic that says 1 in 3 young carers suffer from a mental health issue.
Why are these carers not recognised or financially supported? Often they are overlooked due to the fact it seems they are coping, but no one asks the question, “What can we do to help?” An empathetic response is all the more pressing with the current ‘cost of living’ crisis that we are facing.
Instead, the care industry is stretched so far that it can feel like bureaucrats are just turning a blind eye, rather than being proactive.
With the annual Carers Week taking place in June, you can visit the website and search by your postcode to discover what activities are going on in your area to help celebrate carers and raise awareness for the challenges of caring. Beyond this, there are various campaigns that you can lend your voice towards, in an effort to help pressurise the legislative and economic organisations to be more progressive in recognising and tackling the challenges for carers within our society.
A good place to start your research is with the NHS itself; their page of ‘carer facts’ provides links to various surveys and studies, all of which deliver compelling evidence as to why we need more investment in this industry and in the countless individuals who don’t do it as a profession but rather as a necessity.