I care. So does that make me a carer?
There are family, friends and loved ones we’d do anything for. Daughters who call and say, “Dad, I’ve got a flat tyre, can you help?” and without question you grab your tools and get to work. Or Mums who ask, “I’m not going to be able to get to the shops today, can you pick me up something on your way over?” and within the hour you’re delivering everything she needs and a few extras to make her day. We care about them. And we look out for them. When it comes to the needs of a loved one with a chronic condition though, there’s a fine line between ‘I care for you’ and ‘I am your carer.’ So what does it mean to be a carer in the 21st century?
You might hear the word ‘carer’ and think of the professional standard. The person who is employed specifically to attend to the needs of anyone requiring regular support with daily living. They take on a full range of responsibilities, varying in intensity, and are well equipped and trained to do so. But the term means much more. Carers can be adults caring for other adults, parents caring for children who are chronically ill or even vice versa. It can mean physical support, emotional support and even financial support too. And very often provided by those who are unpaid and untrained. At least 57% of carers assist in medical tasks with only 14% having received training.
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What is a typical definition of a carer?
A carer is someone who provides unpaid care by looking after another. They might be ill, older, disabled, a family member, friend or partner. And they could spend a couple of hours a week or more supporting their needs.
Husbands, wives, mums, dads, grandparents, children, friends, anyone could be required to care for a loved one at any time. So, it comes as no surprise that 3 in 5 of us will become carers at some point in our lives.4 In cases like these, it’s very easy to not even consider yourself as a carer. Depending on the condition, the need for care could gradually change over time. Helping out with small tasks turns into helping with most daily tasks and this can become second nature. Which means sometimes people providing care don’t see themselves as carers and neither do the loved ones they care for.
Accepting yourself as a carer is easier said than done as culture can play its part. In some Asian countries, providing support to elderly relatives who need care is ingrained into society. Families grow up with several generations all under one roof, so supporting the needs of elders is a part of everyday life from a very young age. In China, it’s even part of the law!
Now, you might be wondering, ‘why is this so important? Yes, I look after the person I care about, but what difference does it make if I label myself this way?’. But this is where many could be missing out on financial and educational support or emotional and practical advice. In fact, 75% of carers feel they are unprepared for the role they play. So it can be beneficial to recognise the importance of the role you’re playing in somebody’s life.
Taking care of you
No matter what your situation, there’s one important person to look out for. And that’s you. 8 in 10 carers have felt lonely or isolated due to caring. So, to provide the best care you can, you have to care for yourself first, whatever that might mean. Whether it’s meeting friends for dinner or reading your favourite book.
If you feel your caring activities, or those of a loved one, go beyond the expectations of your relationship, explore our interactive Talk to Your Doctor Guide and complete this with the person you are caring for, noting down any questions or concerns you both may have. Alternatively to find out more, why not view our video: