As we moved from the phase of intense lockdown into a ‘new normal’, the Mobilise team have reviewed the things we have learned about supporting carers through a challenging time.
It’s been a huge privilege to come together as a community of carers and support each other as we’ve figured out the practical and emotional complexities of looking after somebody in lockdown - through our e-support packages, our virtual cuppas and individual support calls.
Penny Wincer reflected on our podcast, Who Cares Wins, that many carers are familiar with responding to curve balls that upend all the practicalities of day-to-day life. But let’s not forget the Carers Week research that identified 4.5 million people took on new caring responsibilities as a direct result of lockdown.
There is, then, so much to learn from each other. Here are five takeaways we’ve picked up from the many thousands of conversations - learned through tears, through laughter, and through creating bonds with each other that will last:
1. We often find it easier to be kind to others
One of the most common themes in our virtual cuppas is to encourage each other to ‘practise what we preach’ about self-care. A key tip many of us are using is to find a regular, non-negotiable moment that we take for ourselves - five minutes to pause, take a deep breath and re-balance things.
It might be that we’re lucky enough to take a walk and feed some ducks. Others of us find the (less glamorous but equally valid) routine of taking the bins out a helpful prompt.
2. There are no easy answers - but working things through can help
When people are struggling, we want to rush in and help. Often the most helpful conversations give carers the space to speak out loud what’s been going round and round in their head. The old adage that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ has never been more true. A listening ear is often more helpful than lots of suggested ‘solutions’.
3. Humour Helps
There’s no doubt caring can be tough - emotionally, practically and physically. But that doesn’t mean we have to be glum. The real belly laughs that come from misunderstandings over Zoom can throw a whole new light on how things feel.
4. Getting the timing right
Over the 100 days of lockdown we saw peaks and troughs. Early on, we were focused on getting the practical things right. Then we came to terms with the emotional impact of it all. Later, we wanted to find ways of thriving not just surviving. All these stages had to come at the right point, once we were ready to think ahead.
5. There’s nothing more powerful than sharing with someone who ‘gets it’
No two caring roles are ever the same, but it means so much to be sharing with other people who have been on the same journey. Sometimes that’s just the reassurance of knowing that ‘it’s not you - you’re not weird’. Sometimes it also unlocks kooky tips and tricks that others have worked out to solve the same issues. Having a community of unpaid carers who understand our caring journey therefore can bring us this reassurance.
So now that we've moved onto the ‘new normal’, Mobilise will still be continuing our virtual cuppas, and our weekly emails to keep carers in the loop. But we’re also building new ways to support each other as we go along.
What are the big challenges for you? What kind of support would make a difference for now that we have come out of lockdown? Do let us know here.