It’s great that we clapped to recognise the work our wonderful NHS, amazing carers and all the keyworkers are doing that previously went unacknowledged. But isn’t it about time our unpaid carers also had a round of applause as the unsung heroes, who continue to keep others safe by caring for them through this pandemic.
However hard the Covid-19 crisis has been for most of us, each time the easing of lockdown permits more freedom, our carers know that this will make no difference to them and those they are caring for. It will only raise the level of risk for them as they consider how to shop and whether to allow paid carers back into their homes. They have often been unwell themselves, whilst still coping with looking after another person.
All this continues to add to the stresses of caring, increasing sense of loneliness and the physical and mental well-being of carers. 4.5 million additional people are caring for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives or friends since the Covid-19 pandemic. This is on top of the 9.1 million unpaid carers who were already caring before the outbreak, bringing the total to 13.6 million. Carers are seven times more likely to be lonely compared with the general public, according to a survey commissioned for Carers Week (8-14 June) by charities.
This year, for Carer’s Week, Jewish Care, AJR (Association of Jewish Refugees) and JAMI have made a film for our carers, who are caring for the most vulnerable and often feel invisible. Together, we are putting carers in the spotlight so they can feel our support and know that they are always visible to us, and what they do as carers is hugely appreciated. We hope they will take a little bit of time out to nurture their own sense of well-being and will feel better, less alone and isolated.
The three organisations each have their own specialist knowledge and understand how best to support carers with different needs, such as those caring for people living with dementia or physical health needs, supporting people around their mental health or where the carer is, or is supporting someone who was affected by Nazi oppression, including the second and third generation survivors. Carers workers, from all three organisations, work together behind the scenes throughout the year, to ensure carers in the Jewish community receive the best possible support.
Since the pandemic began, Jewish Care has had three times the number of calls to our helpline, and we encourage everyone to continue reach out for the support that we are here to provide. Many carers who were very independent, are also finding themselves shielding and are having to ask for practical support for the first time. They have lost any respite from their role, whether this was when the person they care for was at a day centre or a specialist centre for people living with dementia, having paid carers in the home or a short stay at a care home. As a result, many unpaid carers are now caring 24/7, without a break.
Some people are torn as to whether to let paid carers come to their house and others have lost support due to local authorities cutting care packages in some instances, others find their care providers are unable or unwilling to visit.
Just having someone else ask “how are you?” can make a huge difference. Many of our support groups for carers are now online so that carers can connect with us and benefit from support from one another. Our Family Carers Team check in to see if carers need practical advice or emotional support. We realise not all carers are online, and we also provide support over the phone.
Often, having the opportunity to share feelings with someone who is there especially for them, rather than the person they care for, can be vital to the carer’s own well-being. They may not feel able to be honest with other family members about how they feel. We give carers the space to talk through their difficulties, reflect on the problems they face and encourage them to share their feelings, listening without judgement.
Sometimes simple advice can go a long way. It’s vital that carers to contact us early on, rather than struggling without support and reach a point where they feel they are no longer able to care. We signpost carers on where to turn for specialist advice on their rights, to other teams and professionals to advise on specific conditions, benefits entitlements, equipment and more.
The message we want to share with carers is that we are here for you, we see you; you are valued.
Next time you’re talking to someone who is looking after a relative or friend, please remember to ask them how they are, as well as the person they’re caring for. Let them know they matter to you too, and that you’re there for them. Now’s the time for the whole community to start caring for our unpaid carers.
Lesley Wines is a qualified social worker and Team Manager of Jewish Care’s Family Carers Team. She has been involved in supporting carers since 1996.
- If you need any support, advice or information, or just someone to talk to – please call the Jewish Care Direct Helpline on 020 8922 2222 or email email@example.com