To mark Carers Week, Esther Walker, our Carers Lead, shares her thoughts on being a carer or caring for someone else during this pandemic.
“Like many of my colleagues, I am a carer. I care for my Mother, alongside my siblings. When coronavirus reared its ugly head and the extent of the danger became apparent, I became very concerned for my Mother and other family members for whom ‘underlying health conditions’ became a worrying phrase to hear. Even more concerning was my Mother’s initial reluctance to accept the shielding that we wanted to put in place to protect her, resulting in arguments and even blackmail….’I will get a taxi down to Morrisons if you won’t take me!’ In time we’ve adapted and my Mum is more accepting of the situation but continues to long for the day when I can take her shopping again.
At the end of March when coronavirus hit, I was asked to redeploy from my Carers Lead role to helping to support the community nursing team in East Surrey. Returning to a role that I left in 2015. I must confess to being quite anxious, feeling very rusty. However, my nursing and medical colleagues have been fantastic and patient with me, as I’ve slowly made phone calls to patients and their family carers.
I initially felt quite bereft that carers events, groups and training that I’d been working on for some time all had to be cancelled. Even our Hospice Neighbour Volunteers service, recently launched, now needed to be put on hold. We had newly recruited volunteers but training cancelled. ‘Your Time’, our Carers group in Horsham, could no longer run. In those first few weeks, I felt as if I’d dropped everything from my Carers Lead role and walked away. So it was good to see my colleagues in the Wellbeing Team picking up where I left off, launching our telephone buddy volunteer scheme, and adding information about carer support onto our website. Reminding me that supporting carers, is everyone’s concern.
I’ve also had a good reminder of how many of my clinical colleagues spend much of their time supporting carers alongside our patients. I’ve particularly enjoyed supporting carers during the calls I’ve made to assess or review a patient. During this time, carers have found the majority of their usual face to face support, disappearing. Respite sitters are no longer visiting, support groups have been cancelled. Some carers, worried about the increased risk of exposure to coronavirus from health care workers coming into the home, have cancelled this assistance. Leaving them even more isolated than normal.
I’ve heard from bereaved carers who’s last contact with their relative at home or in a care home, was waving to them through the glass. The decision that the time has come for a person to move into a Nursing Home, is complicated by the knowledge that visiting may not be possible.
So now, more than ever it’s important for us to acknowledge who might be a carer, whilst we’re speaking with people, so we can direct them to the support that’s still available, through ourselves or other carer organisations.
And if you’re a carer reading, I want you to know that you’re not alone. I know coronavirus has been challenging for you. It may have altered your usual support or resources or led to similar conversations to the ones I’ve had with my own Mother. Please reach out if you need support. There’s lots of us here to help you.”
To find out more about local support and advice available to carers please click here