Caring for someone you love when they are facing sickness, frailty, a long-term condition or have had a crisis, such as a fall, is a very difficult and emotionally draining process. The enormous pressures of being a carer are often little understood by those who have not been through it and despite significant improvements in recent years, caring is still an extremely difficult and isolating role.
It must be remembered that when a person you love goes into either a hospital or a residential care service, the love you have for them and the role of being a carer does not go away.
In many cases the pressures of caring are added to by feelings of anxiety, concern and guilt that you are not able to continue caring for someone you love. Transitions into residential care are not easy for the people who are moving into the care service, but they are also incredibly challenging for the carers and loved ones who have been supporting them throughout their lives.
I know that many residential care providers do a tremendous amount to engage relatives and friends and to respect people’s families and loved ones, and to regard them as a very important part of delivering care.
Some time ago I met a fantastic woman called Julia Jones, who had been caring for her mother who was in a residential home and who was trying to underline the important role family carers still had, even when their loved one was living in residential care. Julia was of the view, that care homes sometimes do not know the best way to engage families and it was for this reason that she wrote a fantastic book, Honoured Guests, in which she outlined some of the ways in which care homes could embrace families and ensure carers maintained good relationships with the people they loved.
I would really recommend this book to all care providers and to anyone who has someone they love living in a care setting because it really does help to underline the contribution which carers make and it gives some practical advice to care providers about how they can make families central to good quality care.
Informal carers make an enormous contribution to supporting people in all settings, particularly for shouldering the main burden of care in society. If it were not for informal carers the entire health and care system would collapse because it is informal carers that do the vast majority of the care and support functions for the people they love.
Social care is in a crisis and there is no strategic direction being delivered from the government and no long-term strategy on how social care will be funded and delivered in the future. The people who really suffer in this vacuum are the people who need support and their carers and friends, who are delivering it without recognition and without the support they should get from the state.
Whatever the final outcome of the interminable debates about how we fund and deliver social care we must remember that this is so important because it impacts on so many people’s lives, both those who receive services and those who love them will be affected by whatever decision is made.