The sharp end of being a carer

Caring is often personified as being rewarding, but the long list of pressures it can bring can join forces in very destructive ways’ [Image: Photofusion Picture Library/Alamy].
Caring is often personified as being rewarding, but the long list of pressures it can bring can join forces in very destructive ways’ [Image: Photofusion Picture Library/Alamy].

This Writer has been a carer for nearly 10 years now, and it doesn’t get any easier.

As a carer, the person you’re trying to help may not appreciate your attentions all the time, and is likely to get snappy very easily, prompting doubts about the value of the work.

Conversely, attempts to earn a little spare cash (we are permitted slightly more than £100 per week) may also expose one to the contempt of the cared-for, who may consider themselves to be neglected if their carer actually tries to make a buck or two to improve the quality of both people’s lives.

I certainly have experience of that! Vox Political isn’t a huge money-spinner, but it does carry a little influence these days. That means nothing when Mrs Mike decides the house needs tidying.

And sadly, most of the time, the house doesn’t.

There is no let-up. Unless you’re really lucky, the DWP questions the validity of the household benefit claims, meaning not only the sick person’s claim might be cancelled; so might the carer’s – usually on the basis of no evidence at all.

So carers tend to spend a lot of time fighting for recognition – from the government, and also from the very people they are trying to help.

It is a thankless task, but I’m not looking for sympathy.

I’d like to see carers get the recognition we deserve. It isn’t easy work, and not everybody can do it – even if you think they can.

Would it hurt so much to admit the value of it, once in a while?

Caring for loved ones is often hugely rewarding, but it can also be physically, mentally and economically challenging.

And the economic difficulties look set to get worse as over the next four years carers face an estimated £1bn reduction to financial help. Those who care for someone for 35 hours or more each week are currently eligible to a weekly carer’s allowance of £62.10.

Anonymous, 60, London: The biggest challenge carers face is the lack of support as family and friends often don’t want to know. Financially I’m lucky to have a tolerant employer for when crises strike, and couldn’t survive on the paltry carer’s allowance. The monthly carers’ group meeting is good, but this is the only support available in the evening; those of us trying to hold down jobs can’t access support resources offered during the day. Respite provision is non-existent.

Anonymous, 47, north Somerset: Carers need a break before they become broken. Carers need support before they become ill themselves. Words and promises need to be translated into action and money.

Jo Walton, 60, Leeds: The issues for unpaid carers will not improve until we ensure that the status of paid carers is improved. They need to be properly paid, properly trained and given job security and progression – then maybe they will stay and the informal carers can get some of their lives back.

Source: ‘We need a break before we are broken’: a message from carers to the government | Guardian readers and Sarah Marsh | Opinion | The Guardian

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11 Thoughts to “The sharp end of being a carer”

  1. my wife’s a carer mike not only to myself but works as a carer to those at the end of there life and it’s about time carers are classed as professionals such as those who work in the NHS

    It is the most demanding of any job worldwide as you are not only dealing with the person at the end of there life but also the relatives who are putting all their trust in you for a positive outcome and they have the knowledge that you gave there family member the very best in care

    carers are a very rare breed as you cant just think that you can get trained and that’s it it is not like that at all

    cares like my wife were born to care and she is classed as a natural by the chief executive of her nursing home

    most days because of ongoing staff shortages agency staff have to come in but they no way anywhere near the level they need to be so in reality my wife has to work much harder especially on her 14 hour shifts

  2. Brian

    Agree with every word, there is no magic bullet, gave up looking for that some time ago. But it is a job, thankless and sometimes depressing as familiarity leads to contempt. But you can not ‘clock off’, & trouble is, when there’s no dosh, it’s hard to have a break, but better a walk in the park than down the GP’s.

  3. Brilliant blog, you explain the difficult position carers are in so well, thank you.

  4. Sven Wraight

    £62.10/35hrs = £1.77/hr

  5. Grace

    I am familiar with the feelings of frustration/resentment from both sides of the coin as someone who has continuously been a carer for 33 years, mostly to an adult son with learning difficulties/autism but at points to other relatives at the same time, some with very challenging needs, and for the last 23 years of that also needed varying degrees of care and support myself due to chronic disabling illness. Painstakingly full, honest and kind airings of these feelings to one another has proved, for myself and my husband, to be the best way of beating resentments and staying close. As for society, it sometimes feels like it would rather not see either carers or cared for, and values neithef.

  6. rockingbass

    I have personally witnessed the deterioration in support for carers and the cared for over the past 15 years….It is quite shameful…..

  7. There are elderly people caring for their parents. If the elderly family carer receives state pension they cannot claim Carer’s or Attendance Allowance.

  8. My Mam is a carer to my Dad and she doesn’t get the help and support that she should be getting, is doing it all on her own, I help out but it’s not the same, the support should be there for carers like her!

  9. Jenny Hambidge

    I’m sorry you had to make your comments in the beginning so personal, Mike.I agree that care of sick and disabled people is more and more shockingly neglected by the Government. And the stress of caring for someone is perhaps beginning to tell on you.I’m sure you do a great job,but I somehow think that we chronically sick and disabled ones have a point of view too on our experience of being trapped,unvalued by society, forced to be dependent and the sheer weariness of illness day after day I receive a Direct Payment and employ my own independent assistant. Dependency can be the death of a relationship -it did for mine.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Yes indeed.
      Of course, this article was about carers so it would have been inappropriate to dwell too much on the point of view of the cared-for. I do that quite a lot too, but in other articles.

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