Looking after someone with a disability or illness can be challenging at the best of times. If we’re also part of the Armed Forces or a Military Community, this can be even harder. Carer Support Wiltshire have a Courage to Care service for military carers. With thanks to Georgia at Carer Support Wiltshire, for sharing the below tips on how we can overcome barriers and access support as a military carer.
What does being a military carer look like?
There are some key differences and challenges that can come with being a military carer, which can lead to greater feelings of isolation.
These can include:
Being posted many miles away from usual support networks (such as extended family), or
Being a military spouse looking after someone on our own, whilst our partner is posted somewhere else.
Why can military carers find it harder to access support?
1. Identifying as a ‘carer’ can be difficult
Like many of us, identifying with the word ‘carer’ in itself can be a challenge. Looking after someone may be something we’ve done for a while. Like looking after a child with additional needs. Or it’s just considered something we do for someone we love. POWtr Rebecca (Bex) Fyans MBE looks after her son who was born with Down Syndrome. She says, ‘You don’t sign up to have caring responsibilities. It’s just something you do.’
2. Isolation from support services, through a strong base community and/or moving around a lot
Often, being part of the military can be great for developing a community. Lt Col Brian Gordon, who looks after his son, says,
‘the isolation of military life creates the conditions where family isn’t those you are related to’.
But sometimes military life can also leave us isolated from support services. A lot of us may move every couple of years. This means we often go at the bottom of the list for therapies or services our cared for needs.
3. It can be harder to ask for and accept we need help
Sometimes being in a military community means we don’t want to come forward and say we are struggling because of how it might look to others. Parent carer Bex says,
‘A lot of people don’t ask for help – it can be a pride thing. I have this child and I need to deal with it in my own way.’
How to get support as a military carer
Carer Support Wiltshire has developed Courage to Care, a service specifically to support carers in the Armed Forces. They work with GP’s, medical centres and Military ‘hives’ to raise awareness of caring, and encourage professionals to refer carers to their Courage to Care service.
They also host Carer Cafes specifically for carers in the Armed Forces, enabling carers to chat with others in similar situations. Talking directly to their Courage to Care support workers, all who have experience within the Armed Forces.
But for those of us not in Wiltshire, there is still help and support out there for us:
1. Register as a carer
At your GP surgery or medical centre. No matter our caring situation, registering as a carer means our GP surgery or medical centre is aware of our caring role. Then they can put things in place to support us. Such as invitations to free flu jabs, longer appointments, health checks and more. Most GPs will have a carer registration form for us to fill in.
2. Help for Heroes
Help for Heroes offers support for wounded veterans and families.
3. There may be funding for us
In the Navy, there is a benevolent fund such as care home top-up fees, funeral costs, and more.
4. Reach out to others
5. Talk to our line manager about our caring role.
Military or not, it’s important to let our line manager know about our caring role. So they can understand what’s going on at home, and how to best to help us. For example, we may be able to request flexible working, or take carers’ leave.