Hello fellow carers and all,
It has been a while since my last blog post. I guess its because I have been so busy on so many things. One of my tasks is attending awareness events and also helping at events, especially mental health and carer events. Still, one task that can take quite a bit of time is providing care or support to my close relative.
There is one problem though when talking about being a carer, let alone a mental health carer. This would be down to understanding the carers world, it goes far deeper. Perhaps much more deeper than I could try to explain. I want to blog abit about the idea of being a carer, especially experiencing the task becoming a carer where you feel you have lack of knowledge about the situation.
All those years ago, when I become a mental health carer, one of the things that sprung to my mind is how little I knew about mental health. Yet the amount of energy I took up in order to carry out my caring role grew more and more each year. The benefit of my involvement in trying to support my loved one was increased wisdom and unfortunately a thicker skin, but how can carers cope regarding the journey they may need to take?
If there is one important skill or resource that is needed for a carer, that would be the use of energy. Think of it this way, the person requiring care cannot use as much energy to become independent for a time, so those who are supporting them will need to dig deep down and use mental and physical energy to support their loved one. Please note that when starting to become a carer, the use of our energy may be wasted as we frantically search for options to help us cope, but later on down the road most carers will target where their energy will be spent. For example, how much energy is used to request support, energy on filling in forms, energy on sustaining a relationship with who you care for and energy in dealing with stress and other chores. The list could go on.
When targeting where one should spend their energy regarding providing care, it is important that carers pay attention on when to act, especially mental health carers. Is the person using the mental health service suffering medication problems? Are there any physical issues? How can a carer speak to their loved ones without conflict? This is where the skill of paying attention can become a useful tool for carers. I must stress that such skills are formed down the road or if you are lucky enough a carer can attend training, but this depends what is offered at carer centers or groups.
A carer unfortunately may have times when they need to be active, it is very rare for a carer not to be active doing something, which is why carers assessments assess when carers can get a break, but again it is important that if a carer is starting out on their journey they will be doing some kind of carer activity, this usually involves chores, advocating not only for their caree, but seeking advocacy for themselves.
So far the keywords I have mentioned which I found useful as a mental health carer are, Energy, attention and activity. There are more of course and I will now move onto the next which is determination.
When you start out as a carer, doubts will form in your mind. You will be put off by so many factors, one could be finances. For a start, depending on how unwell your loved one is, you will be questioning how on earth are you able to maintain work and at the same time care for your relation, friend or neighbour. There will be doubts if the person you care for refuses your support or you may be put off in speaking to health professionals who sometimes are not sure how to deal with carers. You might wish to see my video on “Carers rights Day” which deals more about the pressures on carers. Still, I request carers not give up too easily on their loved ones. A carer will need to be determined to see things through and let know one tell you that you are not a carer.
Did I mention earlier at the start of this blog post about me developing a thick skin throughout my journey as a carer? Yes, without a doubt a carer will experience some pain when carrying out their activities. This can be the pain of watching who they care for suffer and also being let down by others every so often.
Let me list some examples
– Carers can feel isolated if family members or relatives do not visit or help out
– Carers can at times feel there is no hope when things go wrong
– Carers can at times be blocked from caring if confidentiality becomes very strict
– Relationship break down can occur if there is little mediation
– The stress, strain, worry and fear can all cause pain mentally and physical.
So the keyword through all this is that carers will experience pain, but from that a carer can become more steadfast, wiser and will have some thick skin, but this need not be necessary since many organisations are fighting hard to make life easier for carers. Sometimes carers need to speak up and not only for themselves, but for other carers out in the field.
An important and valuable tool regarding the philosophy of a carer is being patient. If you are a mental health carer, then I guess you might already know what I mean. A carer might be tested to the limit where they can end up arguing with their loved one. Conflict regarding carer relations can cause untold misery and being patient with those suffering mental ill health is critical, but unfortunately such a skill has to be developed or learnt throughout the journey.
Recovery from mental ill health is not always fast. This leads on to another important skill base and this is “Hope“. Regarding recovery, would you be a mental health carer or a carer if you knew there was no chance of recovery? This would cause many to have doubts about their role. Carers should keep alive the idea of hope in so that one day their loved ones will recover from a devastating relapse. Still I know there are many carers who witness their loved ones suffer an deteriorate, but still being present as a carer can ease the burden their loved ones face each day.
We carers must learn to be hopeful that we are making a difference.
One skill which is probably the most obvious to all carers is to appliance of caring. To be a carer with have to “care“. The word care is a striking one since when we take a step back and examine the word “care”, it has implications not just for the carer, but for the community and society. We are all connected, as a family, community and so on, but those connections are held by caring for others. Of course there are connections to each other by financial interest, interest of duty, moral connections and of laws, but to care for each other can make a huge difference. There are external pressures placed on us not to care as we seek to sustain our own interest. Those that become carers should recognise that they set an example to others when they still provide care when systems struggle to care for the carer.
If someone thinks that it is easy not to care, they should rethink the situation that they themselves will have to care for someone or be cared for themselves one day. It is in the interest of society to be a caring society, or we will all suffer.
Still, we all care in our own way, which comes to the next skill and that is one of inventiveness. If you are a carer who lacks resources, there will be situations where you will have to think out of the box to provide support and care.
– Sometimes talking to other carers may give you ideas.
– Carers can pick up some good counselling skills along their journey
– Some carers can almost predict what is going to happen and prepare
Being inventive can save lots of energy and effort. I often find journalling every so often and then reading your journal can give insights on what went wrong and how to counter situations that move carers off their path.
While I mentioned that carers need to be determined in their efforts providing care, carers should also be persistent. If you as a carer have been told you are not allowed an assessment or not allowed to attend a meeting, then try again at a later date. If you as a carer have not been given a reply to your query or complaint, then try again later or go to a manager. Carers should be persistent and not be put off, but this might require some thick skin. Be mindful not to be so persistent that you are rude, offensive and unpleasant to be around.
From reading my blog post, you might have guessed that I do not want carers to give up and walk away, this of course is not always the case for others and I want to let them know that it is ok if they have to make that difficult decisions to step back from the world of caring.
It is ok….
The system is trying to make it easier for carers, but it has a long way to go and a good system needs power to make that difference. Something which I have noticed the system lacks. The 6.8 million Carers in the UK save £132 billion a year, but if carers where the ones PAYING £132 billion into the system, then then system would sit up and take notice of us.
And yet, I still write this blog post hoping some carer will read this and it will make a difference in their life. Why?
I wish for the carer to grow in vigour and be an active force for their role. I want them to become a healthy carer and not be so worn down that they will need care themselves. A good carer will keep themselves healthy because if you become unwell then how on earth can you provide care for someone else? So a carer must learn about being healthy.
A carer can expect to dig deep and become tireless at times. This means having to do long hours at times when their loved ones struggle with health problems. It is not recommended to stay awake long hours too many times at night, but becoming tireless at times is to be expected. There are times when I had to stay up late in hospitals keeping my loved one safe, its part of the world of a mental health carer if someone becomes a risk to themselves.
There are other important skills regarding the philosophy of carers, I am sure to mention them at some point, but for now pay attention to the following I have raised in this post.
1. activity – Always doing something regarding care
2. effort – The amount of energy into a task
3. attention – The use of applying a task
4. care – The most important skill to apply
5. inventiveness – Do not be trapped by systems
6. persistence – Do not give up
7. patience – Do not rush recovery
8. attention – What things have been missed
9. determination – Do not be put off by failure
10. energy – Caring needs energy to provide care
11. vigour – Pick yourself up, dust yourself off
12. tirelessness – Expect to be exhausted at times
13. pain – To be human, we suffer for others and ourselves
14. hope – Recovery can be possible, but if not then there is always something to hope for
I hope this blog post has given people something to think about. Till then, good luck on your journey.