Why it's good to be seen

For Carers' Week 2020, the theme is 'Making Caring Visible'. During our virtual cuppas, we discussed what this meant to each of us unpaid carers. What we've discovered is that there are many different meanings and layers to being 'visible'.

External Visibility versus 'Self' Visibility

Firstly, there is visibility amongst different 'external' audiences. For example, visibility with our friends, the local population, local services and with our Government. And what this type of visibility means for us.

Ultimately, it directly impacts how we're regarded and supported, emotionally, practically and financially.

But interestingly, what also came out of our chats, is that there is also visibility amongst ourselves, or 'self-visibility'. Many of us shared stories of not realising we were in fact a 'carer' for a long time with it usually taking a GP (or similar) to point this out. After all, we're also a wife, a husband, a parent, a son, a daughter, a sibling, a grandchild, a neighbour.

This undoubtedly means there are many people still out there, who are not aware of their carer status, and so excluding themselves from support. And this is one (of many) reasons, why visibility is valuable. The more visible we are, the more visible the role of a carer is, the more other people will recognise themselves as carers. Making it possible to seek support sooner.

"Unpaid carers as a whole are invisible.  I was one for so many years and didn't know I was one, I thought of myself as an intelligent person, working etc - not a carer."  

In addition to this, the word 'carer' can be emotive for some of us. Indeed, for a significant minority, 'carer' is not in fact a word we want to identify with.

"I'm not a carer, I look after someone."
"I always say I'm a wife, I'm not a carer, I'm a wife.  I hate the word personally."

The word 'carer' carries different meanings for us all. For a wife or husband to suddenly find themselves as a 'carer' to their spouse, has perhaps a different impact to say a parent 'caring' for their young child.

We all come to this role with a different meaning associated to the word 'carer', and that's absolutely fine. We've stuck with the word 'carer' through this blog, for simplicity, but it can also mean 'someone who looks after/supports/helps' - whichever resonates with each of us.

"I 'care' for all my children, so being told I was a 'carer' to one of them was really strange at the time."

Words can be emotive. Good or bad.

Putting aside the linguistics however, what does greater acknowledgement and visibility of being a 'carer' or 'looking after someone' give us? It must be important. After all, it has been chosen as the theme for Carers' Week 2020.

External Visibility

What would greater external visibility give us? And what does it look like? Here are some of the thoughts we have been having within our cuppas.

"Give me a badge", "I don't want a badge", "Acknowledgement of everything we do is important", "More people would recognise they are in fact a carer", "We would be recognised."

So there is something around personal recognition. And with that, easier access to services, in our recognised 'carer' role.

It seems to us that perhaps the economic value of the work we each do, is still overlooked. During the lockdown, we have been clapped for the NHS (and rightly so). But an article in The Guardian, posed this;

"There are approximately 6.5 million unpaid carers in the UK. That’s more people than are employed in the