Why we care

Welcome to another carer blog by carer activist, champion and author Matthew McKenzie. If I am not speaking at events or conferences, I am busy writing or minding my own carer stall at NHS Hospitals. I certainly get into a lot of interesting conversations at the stall. Just to note, the reason for my stall is to focus on unpaid carers to get help and support. Not many people know they are even carers, they just end up coping. This is not always a bad thing, we do not have to use the label carer for everyone. Still, if you continue to just cope for a long length of time, they can have a bad effect on the person’s health and wellbeling.

So what’s with this blog? Well I got into an conversation when someone mentioned people only care because they can get benefits or compensation. I want to put out that there is more to caring than just getting ahead. It might mean different for others, but for myself when I provided a form of unpaid care, I did this out of duty and love.

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I suspect many others provided care for someone close out of duty and love. When I was providing care for my mother, I knew how she was when she became ill. It was a tragedy to see how she became mentally unwell over the years. I fought very hard to give her the same quality of life I felt she could have. This might be different for those caring through other forms of illness of disease. Those caring for someone with cancer (depending on the stage of the disease) might struggle to improve their loved ones quality of life, but they will still care and probably care till the very end.

Those providing care will certainly want some kind of benefit that helps aid their caring role, but most will provide care even if benefits were almost non-existant. If carers are to value something, it would be knowledge of the condition the person is going through. If you knew what you are caring for and how to provide such care, then this would save so much trouble in future.

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For mental health carers, it is important to keep that relationship going with the person they are caring for. It is important to develop good communication skills and develop trust because when those things break down, it will be harder to maintain a relationship.

Providing unpaid care can actually strengthen’s relationships, because if the ‘carerd for’ recognises the person is providing help and support, they are usually grateful for this. I remember the look my mother gave me as she lay on the hospital bed. She knew through all the years I had tried to be there for her. I admit I made plenty of mistakes, but she knew in the end, the relationship was strengthened. This unfortunately is not always the case for some unpaid carers. Many relationships have ended due to the impact of mental illness or being unable to cope, which can often push the carer away.

Lower down the list of why people care for someone is usually down to developing our own character and skill set. As a carer, the person does not want to give up their caring role. They want to prove to themselves that they will see things through. They want to develop courage and face those challenges head on as they advocate for the person they are caring for. To be honest carers will have to be brave and even advocate for themselves. This is not an easy thing to do as the services can often be patient centric.

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Some character traits of carers already exist on the reasons they care. Some people already considerate, patient and understanding plus generous. When providing unpaid care, those character traits just go stronger each day. It is important carers must understand the stigmas they face. People will judge unpaid carers as if they have no skillset, but this is wrong and it is discriminatory. Carers need to also be vulnerable and ask for help. Especially if suffering from fatigue, isolation, anxiety or just needing someone to talk to.

It is important carers take time out for themselves, but with the pressures on health & social care, it can be understandable why carers put themselves on the line.

Thanks for reading