The impact of caring
To be able to recognise and support carers in our communities, we must tell the real story of unpaid care, so that unpaid carers can self-identity and those living and working in communities can identify them too.
Carers Leeds recently carried out a survey of unpaid adult and parent carers in our city. 523 unpaid carers responded. The survey asked them what they were most concerned about, their experiences as an unpaid carer and what matters most to them.
Being an unpaid carer can be incredibly rewarding but it can also be hugely challenging. The survey report tells a story of unpaid carers who are deeply concerned about their own health and wellbeing. Many are missing out on doing things for themselves, such as social activities or taking a break, because of their caring role. Too many unpaid carers in our city often or always feel lonely. A shocking number of unpaid carers said they are feeling exhausted, depressed, and overwhelmed all or most of the time.
This is compounded by serious worries about money and the cost of living. Unpaid carers in Leeds said that they are struggling to make ends meet and are cutting back on essentials such as food and heating. They are worried about the future. Some may not be accessing the welfare benefits they may be entitled to and many who aren’t in work, would like to be.
Read the report opposite or view it here.
A hidden issue or a fictitious story
So much of unpaid care is hidden because it happens within families, friendship groups and in people’s homes. Those who have yet to experience unpaid care, whether as a care giver or a care recipient, often fail to see or understand the true story of what it means to be an unpaid carer.
Where unpaid care is visible, a fictitious story is told of angels or superheroes, of people who are different from the rest of us. People who are special in some way, and who are doing something that ‘we couldn’t do.’ Compare this to the findings from Carers Leeds survey or statistics on the prevalence of unpaid care, and you will quickly see that this isn’t the story we should tell ourselves and others.
We are all likely to give or receive unpaid care in our lives, many people will experience both. This is something that all communities will face. I urge you, this Carers Week, please notice the unpaid carers in your family and social networks, your community, or your workplace. Recognise what they really do (not what you think they do) and the impact it has on their health and wellbeing. Reach out to offer support. Let them know they are valued and if you think it could help, point them in the direction of Carers Leeds.
Chief Executive of Carers Leeds