The Covid-19 pandemic has not surprisingly revealed the exponential growth in 'people supporting people' during lockdown. In other words, it highlighted the drastic importance of unpaid carers to our economy.
The Office for National Statistics estimated that some 48% of us took on some kind of additional care or support role during lockdown. But what does that mean, and is that us? Is it someone we know?
We're unlikely to consider ourself a 'carer', but if we have found ourself regularly lending a hand for practical tasks, or offering frequent emotional support, it would be worth reading on.
Who are these people providing 'moments of care'?
This army of 'helpers', are unlikely to identify themselves as carers, let alone unpaid carers.
We are neighbours, friends, sons, daughters, in-laws, siblings, aunts and uncles. Just simply doing 'the right thing' - supporting people we know, who are in need.
Picking up prescriptions, doing the shopping, checking in daily, going to the bank. Being the daily "up" to someone's "down", or always available on the phone. Being the "go-to" for emotional support of someone else on a daily basis.
Is this us or someone we know?
"Data released to mark the start of Carers Week (June, 2020) estimated that 4.5 million more people were caring for older, disabled or seriously ill family or friends as a result of the pandemic." - ITV News
Why does it matter?
Many of us can 'up our game' and go the extra mile for a short period. But, what happens, when the short period extends, slowly, month by month?
"We move from running on adrenaline, to running on cortisol, our stress hormone."
How can we sustain ourselves? What conversations can we have about how we will continue (or don't continue) to give the same level of support now that lockdown is over?
How can we manage expectations and meet everyone's needs?
How and when do we as people providing 'moments of care', slip into people providing 'regular care or support'?
Moving beyond 'moments' of care
Becoming a carer is an emotional journey. From the slow realisation that our relationship with the person we are caring for has changed. To accepting their disability, illness or simple ageing that is impacting the person we are caring for - especially when they're a family member or close friend.
We juggle many emotions, whilst learning to do something new. What starts out as shopping lists to compile and buy, may shift to daily 'check ins', or preparing meals.
Suddenly our time is competed for, the plates we're spinning multiply, and we just rush from one thing to another. Juggling our own life with these new caring responsibilities.
All whilst adjusting our own emotions to the new situation.
As carers, we know that running at constant speed leads to burnout. We know the importance of speaking with people who 'get it'. That the journey to becoming a carer can be emotional, rewarding and exhausting in equal measures.
We also know that connecting with other carers, accessing a Carer's Assessment (try our quick mini assessment to get you started) and pausing to consider our own needs are vital to us being sustainable and resilient.
If you have recognised yourself or someone we know (likely new to caring since the pandemic), then please share this blog with them. You're not alone. And there are very good reasons to accept and acknowledge our caring role. To get advice and support, create an action plan and become sustainable.
What makes me an unpaid carer?
Here are six simple questions to ask ourselves. If we answer 'yes' to any of these questions, there is a high chance we're now providing 'moments of care', and it's important to accept the impact of this:
Are we getting shopping and/or prescriptions on a regular basis for someone else?
Are we supporting someone to leave the house? (such as for doctors' appointments, to go shopping, get a haircut)
Are we phoning or visiting someone on a frequent basis to 'check in' with them?
Are we missing work to help someone out?
Are we preparing meals, cleaning or supporting personal care for someone else?
Are we thinking of someone else's needs when planning our own days?
This list isn't exhaustive, but it does start to build a picture of the care we may be giving to someone.
What support can we access?
Firstly, it is important to understand that not everyone likes to be called a 'carer'. And that is absolutely fine.
But, secondly, it's important that we do acknowledge the work we are doing and that we will benefit greatly from some knowledge and support.
The Mobilise community is full of unpaid carers, just like us. There is a wealth of knowledge and empathy in our community, so please do get stuck in.
There are a number of ways to access support, and everyone will have their preferred method for accessing information and direct support. Mobilise have endeavoured to provide support, no matter what our preferred approach is. Direct? We got it! Community? We got it! Online tools to do by ourself? We got it!
"I would just like to say to anyone struggling or needing some direction or support to unscramble anxious or muddled thoughts, lacking motivation or feeling overwhelmed ...the one to one call helped me enormously. I spouted out all my anxieties and thoughts and Suzanne helped me focus and set a small goal to work on. Go for it. You have nothing to lose in these hard times. Thank you so much."
Six ways to access support as an unpaid carer
Have a good look at the advice and support available to you. Sometimes, it's easier to tune out the noise because we have live such busy lives. But this could mean that we are missing out on important information that may make our lives a little easier.
The Mobilise Library may be a great starting point. Filled with practical guides carefully curated with the help of unpaid carers in the Mobilise Community. With such rich advice and wisdom, there is a useful guide for those of us at different points of our caring journey.
As mentioned, our vibrant, friendly and very supporting Facebook community is full unpaid carers just like you. It is a space where we can ask questions (there's no such thing as silly questions!), have discussions, simply connect.
Receive our weekly support bundle, direct to your inbox. Be kept in the loop without having to do all the researching yourself!
Take our simple Carer's Assessment tool, and receive a bespoke, mini action plan of next steps for your new caring journey.
Book a free individual support call with our team (all carers themselves). We can invite a buddy along for confidence if we like. Suzanne (our head of carer support) and her team can support us with a friendly ear, signposting for potential benefits, and is great at breaking down big problems into smaller, achievable steps.
Join one of our daily Virtual Cuppas! Meet other carers online, have a laugh, and make new friends. We can bring a friend to our first one, if we're a little nervous. Laughter and tears are welcome - and we always finish on an uplift.
"Thank you so much for these wonderful emails. They are so balanced, warm and encouraging and it's become a habit for me to read your email before getting out of bed in the AM. Because they're just so supportive! At a time where the cared for and their carers become less visible, your emails remind me I exist."
"I thoroughly look forward to these cuppas. I feel no matter what I say to you, you don’t judge me. You don't criticize me and we have such a laugh at times."
"We are all so diverse, so different in ages, and culture but with that common thread."
"My uplift for each day is you."
If we don't know where to start, click here to have a look at our Weekly Cuppas Timetable to see which one we would love to join!