We've been tracking the priorities of carers for 11 months now. Here, we share our results from February. The graph continues to tell a very clear story, but the comments that people shared about why they chose the answer they did give us even more insight.
Carer's own stress and anxiety is on the rise again. This is a repeat of the pattern that we have seen throughout the pandemic - after each peak in concern about protecting those we care for from the virus, the following month our own stress levels are impacted.
Carer stress and anxiety
The comments behind these responses paint a concerning picture, we are not talking about carers who feel "a bit stressed out". The language that some use tells of carers near breaking point and exhausted. There has been a shift from feeling down and fed up to concern about our own mental health, sleep patterns and isolation.
Doing this alone and not being able to access social care support, family support and medical care is taking its toll. In some cases, there may be support available but we feel the risks with Covid-19 are significant.
"The accumulated stress and tiredness of the last few months (feels like 12) has caught up with me, not sleeping well, feeling not in control of life."
"I already have anxiety and depression and the pandemic has made things harder. I haven't seen friends of family in person for a year."
"My head and my stomach are full of worries about (parents) and the effect it is having on my husband"
"I am really unhappy, not sure if this is depression or just reaction to awful situation. My husband is very ill and may be dying we can't see friends or family and I feel very lonely and upset most of the time."
The vaccine is not a simple solution for all
When the person we care for has complex health conditions the choice to have the vaccine may not be clear, perhaps it is not right for them. Many carers are having to make this decision on behalf of someone else who does not have the capacity to decide, that's a huge responsibility.
Yet sharing these worries in public and being able to talk things through can be hard when public opinion is generally strong - we should all get vaccinated.
"I struggled making the decision at to whether or not we as a family should have the vaccine. My son had the vaccination but instead of feeling relieved I still feel rather anxious, looking for side effects."
What we show on the outside and how we are
When we chat in our daily Virtual Cuppas for Carers there are days where it looks like carers are coping really well, laughing, talking about trivial things or happy memories. Are we putting on a brave face? Or maybe just taking a break from it all and choosing to spend half an hour or so in a different mode? (Probably a bit of both!).
We also create a safe space for people to talk, share their worries and say how things really are. Talking about the realities of our lives can feel quite a big step to take but when we are surrounded by others like us who nod, blink away a few tears and offer words of encouragement and understanding that can help to get us through too.
Balancing risks and finding a way to take a break
For some of us it might feel like we have very few options. Finding just a few moments to take a break might be all we can do. But we can do it - take a look at our 'How to care for yourself when there is no time to care for yourself' blog.
We might also not be aware of the options that are open to us, they aren't always obvious. A few pieces of government guidance that it might be worth revisiting
As carers the decisions we have to make are often made alone, balancing risks and working out the best way forward when options seem to be limited. Reading through and interpreting guidelines is not always easy. What if there was someone to listen to you, who wouldn't tell you what to do and didn't also expect you to help with their troubles?
That's what our free individual support calls can do, take as many calls as you need to work through the things you need to talk about. You'll be speaking to another carer who gets it, who won't judge you and who will keep your conversation confidential.