Tag Archives: family

Being there for the family

cover-blogIt has been a while since my last blog post. Usually I review psychiatry or psychology lectures, but I thought to go back into writing more about carers. This time I think I shall blog about why people want to be there for others, especially those that are close to them.

The role of a carer unfortunately is not an easy task or one that people are often ready for. Who is to say when the next person is to be struck down by a physical or mental illness. If we are to begin that journey where we are to care for our loved one, there are many paths that we can go down and each path can make things easier or incredibly difficult in the long run.

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Difficult things that carers go through on their journey of caring.

When I started caring even though I did not see it as a choice at the time, I did not notice how much of an impact it would have in my life. I initially started my caring journey because mainly I was afraid what would happen if no one was there to help provide any care for my loved one. I was fearful for my relative.

Almost 14 years of caring I now look back at the journey I have taken and have learnt how caring not only has affected my life, but many other carers out there. My caring experiences have not always been difficult, there has been many great things about being a carer, but what some people might not realize is that carers can loose many things when they take up the role of caring.

I am hoping my blog can shed at least some light on such a difficult and sensitive subject, although I must note that I seek not to blame anyone for what carers go through. We all have difficult choices to make and we all responsible to a point. When I started caring for someone struck down with mental health difficulties, I did not foresee how much of a struggle they would have to go through.

Maybe it was my own ignorance or stigma of mental health, maybe I did not educate myself enough on how mental health illness can affect families, but I can only hope my journey in the realm of caring can lead me up an easier path where I learn more about the struggles of others and how I can cope with my own struggles as a carer.

Caring

Almost everything needs careful planning

One thing I noticed what carers have to do from the outset is plan for things. As a carer you never know what the future might bring or if the illness might get better or unfortunately get even worse. This is why carers have to dedicate time to plan for as many things as possible. It is best not to leave too many things to chance.  As a carer I looked back on the support I was given and I am very grateful for such support. I have used Carers center in my district a few times over the years called Carers Lewisham and I advise other people who have become carers to check out their area for carers centers.

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The reason I mentioned the carers centers is that I feel carers should never be placed in a position where they are left to do so much by themselves. We carers need that support and if things need planing, its always helpful to have others help you with such plans. Usually it can be great if you can plan for things with whoever you care for, but unfortunately when you care for someone who is either too unwell to help out or you need to consider help for yourself, you will need a carers center support.

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Careful planning for the future does take time and for this carers need time to plan. Such things cannot be rushed.

Very little time for carers needs

This might sound selfish, but I want to be honest not only for myself, but for others struggling to care for their loved ones. Carers can and often do lack the time for their own needs. Perhaps this is one of the most common situations a carer can find themselves in. Perhaps us carers do not notice that we give up a lot of our time to provide care because we want to see our loved ones recover, we carers want to see that we are making a difference and we want our loved ones quality of life to improve.

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Depending on how unwell our loved ones are, all this takes time. As long as you are a carer, I hope that I have made you aware that you will loose time for yourself, but its one of the things I wish to make known to others out there who may not understand the carers world.

Guilt

Perhaps this is something built within my own character, as a carer from all these years of caring. I feel guilty, I feel that I have let my loved one down especially if they fall deeper into their own illness. The darkest guilt may hit carers when they notice their loved ones first become unwell from mental illness, us carers feel that it might have been something we have done to cause this, perhaps we should have done something sooner in order to stop the mental health problems from hitting our loved ones sooner.

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Guilt can hit care-givers so hard that they may often risk their own mental well-being. Guilt does not always have to be the worst thing to affect a carer, sometimes guilt is like a form a stress that helps us carers react under difficult circumstances, but too much guilt can be very bad thing. As a carer of someone suffering mental health difficulties, I am sure you have felt guilty of not doing something and I know how bad such a thing can affect yourself. It is ok and I have been there.

Every day tasks can become more difficult / some impossible

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This is not the case for all carers, but I have to acknowledge those who are unfortunately caring for their loved ones who are sinking deeper into ill health. I do not want to be the bringer of negative and depressing news, but it is a fact that there are carers out there caring for those who unfortunately may never recover, this leads such carers to take on even more tasks and such carers can be hit by difficulties within systems that are meant to support families and carers.

Wouldn’t it be good if every carer around the world all received the best support they can get in order to provide care? Well if that was the case then perhaps we would not have to care in the first place, but even worse we know the balance of carer support can be lacking. In the UK there are around 6.5 million carers providing care for their loved ones, without those carers the UK’s National Health System would grind to a halt.

Lack of time

If you have been reading through my blog posts you might have noticed that I mention time quite a lot. This might be the time you are providing as a carer or the time you use to reflect on your journey as a carer. However without a doubt carers will find themselves loosing or lacking time for not only their own lives, but also to help provide care. We all know that time is precious and once its gone then you will not get it back.

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Caring for your family or loved one takes time and it does depend on how unwell your loved one is. If your loved one sinks deeper into ill health then carers may notice that they lack the time for many things. Please note I am not seeking to blame anyone for what carers go through, but I am pointing out the major things that hit carers and their families.

Disappearance of friends

Have you heard of the expression “when times are good then friends are near, but when times are bad friends disappear”?

Well I have probably summed up another thing carers go through. Think about it, lets say you was friends with someone and you had great times doing many activities with them. You both go out and have a laugh, perhaps socialize with others and you were always happy to see your friend. The one day they start caring for someone in the family who perhaps is suffering bipolar or depression. You notice perhaps signs of frustration from your friend, you may notice that they do not seem so cheerful as they use to be. This in turn affects how you feel and you wish to be happy again, you notice your friend stating that they lack the time to do the things they used to do with yourself. So the big question is would you hang around?

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This is the situation many carers can find themselves. Their social life can take a nose dive, their friends move on or carers just do not have the time to sustain their friendships anymore. Would like to point out that its not impossible for carers to make new friends, but unfortunately carers can find themselves isolated, especially if they are caring for someone suffering chronic mental health problems.

We all need friends, especially when we as carers really need that support to forget our own worries or fears. Friends can really make a difference in our lives, but when they go, the difference can also be a terrible price to pay.

Diminishing social life

This is probably almost as similar to the what I have mentioned above. Expect the major difference is that us carers can struggle to make new friends, which is what you can get when you have an active social life. The result is the same, carers can find themselves isolated. This does again heavily depend on how well their loved ones are recovering, but again if things become difficult then something has got to give and carers may find that their social life diminishes.

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Lives can limited by the mental illness

There is a belief that lives can be enhanced by mental illness and I can actually see a point to this argument. Acknowledging mental illness can be a step towards recovery and bring hope for the future, it is known that artists, musicians and many others creativity is enhanced by their mental illness. Unfortunately the opposite can be true as well, not many would openly admit that they would love chronic depression or they would want Schizophrenia or other difficult mental health symptoms.

When such mental health problems hit families, their lives can be limited and the family unit can be fractured. Carers try to seek the answer to this situation and some may find ways to cope, while others are left with lives that limited, but there is always some hope as long as care is provided.

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Some people can’t see a future plan that is right for both themselves and their loved ones.

Not everyone is like this, but what people fail to take note of is that carers or care givers are the ones who do not walk away. Ok I admit we all have the choice to care for someone and no one can take that choice away, but such choices are a big step to take. The fear is that carers may not fully understand what they are taking on, but us carers cannot bear to not help or support those who we known for most of our lives, be it our friends, mothers, fathers, sons or daughters.

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We do not want to see those who are unwell fall deeper into neglect or lack of self care. At the same time there are those in society who will not think twice but to move on before providing care or after a while in caring. I do not want to criticize anyone, but these are the issues for carers in society.

Final thoughts

I am sure there are many blogs out there where carers are providing thoughts and stories about caring and this post is probably no different, but one of the reasons I wanted to post this blog is that I wish to help educate others on what carers go through, I wish to get my voice across on my own experiences and I also find writing about my carer experiences as a way to share what I have faced on my journey. This post can be dark and depressing, but I hope I have been honest and have managed to get most of my points across.

With careful support and planing maybe and just maybe us carers will not have to struggle so hard, but this will be a long journey.

Good luck in your caring role!!

Matthew Mckenzie

Caring is being there for someone

Here is another skill set for carers which I want to raise on this blog post. Oddly enough this one is the most common that is used among carers.

There are times when some of the most simple things in providing care is all that is needed. You do not have to spend large amounts or money or lots of energy. Sometimes you do not have to say a word. If you are a carer or have been a carer then you perhaps already guessed what I am talking about.

Being there…..

Caring for family

If you felt you have done nothing or not provided much of any care and yet you visited your loved one, then at least you are providing some sort of care. This is done by just being there.

If you feel you are the only one in a large family providing care to someone, then rest assured you are being there for them.

If you feel a family relationship breakdown has pushed you away, then at least you have been there for them.

If you speak to someone on your loved one’s behalf then that is still classified as being there for them.

Even phoning, writing a letter or asking if everything is ok, is still being there for someone.

You know who I am talking about. Yes! Its you.

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If you have done any of the above and feel down because things are not going as planned, then at least you have been there for someone. Being there is half the battle, because you have turned up to be part of someone’s world, unfortunately their world is falling apart perhaps due to mental health problems, but you have and will be there for them.

We are sometimes placed in difficult situations where in today’s society we are told that we should be there for ourselves. We should be independent, we should move on and get a life and not spend too much time or energy on our loved ones.

Carers can be often told that they should have their own families, if they are caring for a relative, who may be deemed as a burden.
Carers can be told that they should find another partner if the one they are with is suffering mental health difficulties.
Carers can be told that other services will take care of the situation if their loved ones health deteriorates.

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I can imagine that perhaps there are some very good reasons for carers to move on, but there are times that “being there” for someone especially through the hard times is a noble thing.

In this society you may not have to look far, when someone ends up cutting their losses and runs at the slightest hint of their loved ones failing mental health. People do it all the time, we all have our limits. I am not saying those people should be despised, but what I am saying is that carers caring through difficult situations should be acknowledge for being there.

Time and time again, I hear of carers having to cope on their own. I have heard of carers with large families left to handle caring for their mother, father or relative, because that’s the way it has always been.

 

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You often wonder to yourself if such carers should demand help from their families, you wonder if such carers are a pushover or too weak. Yet, the same situation is that no one wants to be “burdened” in providing care.

No one wants to give up time at work because they need the money.
No one wants to sacrifice time with their own family or friends.
No one wants to experience sadness or anger, because those feelings are painful.

This makes sense doesn’t it? Why would anyone want to give up their time?

Because of a simple reason……They care!!

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Carers care because they may be related to their loved ones, who they have known ALL their lives.
Carers care because they hate to see the person suffer so much.
Carers care because they imagine what if they were ill, who would be there for them?
Carers care because they have the strength and energy to carry the load.
Carers care because they WANT to be there.

If you have been there or are being there for someone, you know what I mean. I do not have to tell you that “being there” is so important, but carers can be worn down by the stresses of their role. Society does not always seem to value carers and so I find myself writing this blog post to highlight a simple act that can make society more caring.

Being there…..

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There is a saying which goes like this “A person without a friend is like a life without a witness”. Can you imagine what it could be like when someone suffering a mental health condition becomes isolated? All too often this is the case.

There are no witnesses, no one to see what is happening to them or anyone share the pain. I am not saying all carers are the same as we know some carers can be the “very problem” of their loved ones situation. However it must be noted that if you care for someone, you wish to be that witness to share their pain or happiness. You wish to see what is going on, you wish to make that difference.

You wish to be there for them…..

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If your caring role has come to an end a long while ago, take heart that you have been there for someone you care for.

The situation might have been enjoyable or it may have been painful, but take heart that you tried. You were there for them.

Being there for someone is just the start of a journey where you can then be able to assess the situation and carry out more of a caring role.

By being there, this can lead you to try understand what the person is going through, you may not need to say anything, you can just listen. By being there you are a vessel of information which you can share with health professionals when the patient can no longer communicate.

There will come a time when your loved one does not want you to be there, but that is ok, you may need to give them space. Sometimes you have to back off to give yourself your OWN space.

If you have been there for your loved one by sacrificing your time, then it is important for you. It is your decision and perhaps it did not work out for the best, but you did it, you were there for them.

We may have our own families, or close friends. Perhaps a neighbour we often talk to. We just cannot see it, not so easily. We wake up and wonder about our own problems, perhaps rush off to work or pay the bills to survive and achieve our dreams. Yet, there will be a time, since time is the ruler of many things. It need not be mental health, it can be physical health. Just think to yourself, when the time comes…..will you be there for them?

Crossed off family member