Welcome to another carer blog post. My blog site works to raise the awareness of mental health carers, that being unpaid carers/caregivers looking after or supporting someone suffering mental distress. The website also tries to raise awareness of mental health, charities and their events.
So this time i want to focus how important it is to take time to listen to carers stories. Listening to how a person became a carer can allow us to relate on a certain level regarding their caring journey. Obviously there is no way a person can relate 100% to any carer, only at a certain level as in sympathizing or recognizing a carer when you see someone in a stressful caring situation.
We cannot just relate to a young carer unless we are young ourselves, or perhaps a BME carer unless we are in within that category, but it is important to hear what a carer says due to a number of reasons.
I have told my story as a carer a few times in order to help NHS staff understand what a carers role is, this can apply to social workers, psychiatrists and all manner of healthcare staff. I have even told my carers story to students at universities, after all it is one of the best ways to learn about carers when you are doing a course in psychiatry or nursing.
Recognising carers cannot always be done as a text book case, it does no harm to have a carer in not just to tell their story, but also to answer questions e.g.
* How did they became a carer?
* How did caring affect them?
* Did they get enough support?
* What do you think can help staff support you more?
and so on….
There are times when managers and those higher up in the change of the NHS do not even have contact with carers and it is advisable they hear carers stories so they can then realize the effect their decisions could make to those on the front line.
Lastly hearing a carer’s story should not be a tick box exercise, there should always be time to hear from a carer later on during someones carer in the health or social services. Other carers can also learn from carers stories because they can at least get some tips and ask important questions.
Relating to carers
As mentioned before, other carers can relate to a carer tell others about how they came into such a role. Hearing from another carer can reduce the stigma in which so many carers out there suffer from. If you are not sure what I mean by stigma, consider the following points.
* People can judge carers as lazy because they cant always go to work, while they are caring.
* Mental Health carers can feel stigma of people talking about their loved one.
* Mental health carers can also be judged as causing mental health problems in the family, which unfortunately is a difficult issue to crack within psychiatry.
* Carers are also blamed for even trying to support their loved ones, many are asked questions as why they sacrifice so much for someone they care about.
Once a carer tells their story about their caring journey to other carers, it gives the carer some form of release. This is because there can be acknowledgement that people and other carers are at least playing some attention to the difficult circumstances that is affecting someones life. Telling your story as a carer can allow people to witness how the caring role has affected you. Other carers can also relate, understand and allow some sympathy as they recognize the signs a carer goes through.
I was actually going to label this section as knowledge, but there are a few problems when it comes to getting knowledge about carers when hearing their story. When you get to hear a carer express their situation, it is true you can get information, but information is of little use if you do not apply it to your role e.g. a nurse, health manager, social worker and so on.
We can understand how someone became a carer to a certain degree, we can all congratulate a carer for getting so far in their role, we can even thank the carer for getting the time to help us understand their role, but unless this information turns into action where we recognize carers very quickly, or are able to listen to carers in our roles, then such carer information will be harder to turn into knowledge about carers.
Hearing a carers story can highlight problem areas within the health and social care field. When listening to carers, each story is different and carries their own unique aspect. It is up to the audience to take that information and apply it to their field. Hearing a carers story should not just be a routine, it should be an opportunity to make a difference.
Its not all about learning, sometimes hearing a persons story on how they fought for and continue to fight for their family or loved one can be uplifting. It shows how important our own families are, we might even pay more attention to our own loved ones. Our communities can sometimes be pressured into not caring about others, sometimes it is just hard to relate to anyone else but ourselves. So hearing how someone put their all into caring about their family can be uplifting and inspire us to become more caring about those close to us.
Spread the message
We can only listen so much, there must come a time when we must spread the message, I am not talking about gossiping about the carer or breaching confidentiality rights. Those who work in the National Health Service has some duty to raise carer issues. Did that carer story highlight a problem with being recognized as a carer? Did their story show the lack of engagement with carers? Perhaps the carers story showed how difficult it is for carers to be assessed. We need to help spread the message to other health carer staff so in order they can understand and recognize carers.
Allowing a carer to speak about their story can give them empowerment, its so difficult for a carer to keep the pain and concern all inside, just as it would be for someone going through using mental health services, we are all people at the end of he day and hearing a carer story should not be the only role for carer involvement, carers should be given the chance to give views on health and social care changes, attend training sessions with staff and engage with NHS and social care staff. Carers are part of the community, if we shut carers out, then we risk shutting the community out.
Good luck with your caring journey.