It had never been more important to listen to unpaid carers, to understand what was important for them and find out what support they needed. There are nearly nine million people in the UK who were looking after someone and had to quickly adjust to the change and uncertainty that came with Covid-19.
At Mobilise, we listened in as many ways as possible. In 1-1 calls, chatting to carers in our virtual cuppas and diving into conversations on social media. We always had a quick poll on the go so that we could capture how people were doing, what the big priorities were and what they were finding helpful. So what did we learn during from them during Covid-19?
Carers who already had many daily challenges were faced with big changes and new struggles during Covid-19. Government, supermarkets, media and the general public just didn't seem to recognise the impact that Covid-19 had on them and the importance of this hidden army in supporting the vulnerable people they cared for.
What were the big challenges for carers?
Keeping them and their loved ones safe and protected from Covid-19 whilst managing day to day practicalities like getting shopping and prescriptions.
Taking on more caring responsibilities: They may have been caring for additional people as paid carers were no longer available and it would've been too much of a risk to bring into the household. Doing this without access to PPE and other basic supplies.
Making big decisions about continuing to work or care for loved ones. Or having to do both and put vulnerable people at risk.
Losing vital support from their existing networks that have had to shutdown.
Not being able to see their loved ones who are in care homes, hospital or isolating at home.
What are the solutions?
Carers are a creative and resilient bunch - they will use everything in their toolkit and continue to add more whilst sharing their learning. Carers are also used to being independent and self-reliant, normally the first to jump and help others too. They need connection with others in the same situation as them, sharing experiences and supporting one another.
Carers wanted solutions that were easy to access and allowed them to continue to stay in control. They wanted clear information that is easy to find, not hidden on a website and not dependent on ringing when they needed help or were at crisis point. Imagine too, how it must've felt to ask for help and be dependent on volunteers in the community during Covid-19.
Unpaid carers needed to be included in the narrative about supporting and protecting vulnerable people - it is often them doing the shopping, collecting prescriptions and arranging support. Anxiety about the unknown is often worse than having to tackle the actual problem when it arises.
What did we all do?
We hoped that government, social care, the media and supermarkets started to think and talk about unpaid carers. But it also started with us as individuals - we remembered these unpaid and often hidden carers, we thought about who we knew was looking after someone - in our family, at work, friends and communities. We kept in touch, asked what we could do to help and made sure they had our contact details for when they did need help. Remember that Thursday "Clap for Carers" also included our unpaid carers!
How can you help Mobilise to support carers?
Mobilise are well set up to support carers in this new virtual world - it is what we do! Our daily carers e-support package, our virtual cuppas and our 1-1 coaching calls are being well received by carers ...we just need to reach more of them.