Carers of older and disabled adults need much greater recognition and support. That's always been a key aim of Carers Week which kicks off from the 6th June.
According to statistics from Carers UK, there are currently around 6.5 million people the UK who are carers and this figure is destined to rise with the prediction that there will be an enormous 9 million people caring for others by 2037.
I have blogged many times in the past about the care crisis and the need for the government to act before it worsens further. However, it is initiatives like Carers Week that raises awareness of the brave, often overlooked work that carers do on a daily basis.
The year's Carers Week also has the theme of 'building carer friendly communities'. What does that mean? Here are ten thoughts from me on what I believe it means:
1) Everyone looks out for carers - from health and social services to your neighbours. For example, I believe that every Neighbourhood Watch should add the concept of looking out for your local carer as a key feature of their strategy.
2) Carers know what help and support is available locally - Carers can often feel isolated so it's important that they are given information and advice on ways to make their lives better. This, along with advocacy are key. There's often lots of information out there, but is it easily accessible for carers?
3) Carers can access the help they need - from getting an appointment at the GP to getting a piece of equipment to make life easier. Transport is often crucial to helping carers get out and about, to appointments and so on.
4) Carers need more understanding - of their needs and the needs of the person they are caring for. An assessment of carers' needs is a starting point but shouldn't be the end point.
5) Flexibility is key - carers' lives and situations change, often rapidly. So they need support which recognises these changes and adapts quickly, particularly to crises. Employers need to be much more flexible too.
6) Carers have lives too - but often they are expected to give up everything to look after their loved one. Individuals' time caring needs to be match by the time off they take.
7) Carers need good GPs - who understand the stresses and strains of caring, know what help is available and refer carers for timely support.
8) Carers need breaks from caring - respite care needs to be much more easily accessible and flexible to meet carers' different needs.
9) Carers need good friends - people who are always there to help, chat and support carers. Many local carers' support groups do provide this 'care' for carers, and advocacy too.
10) Carers should feel welcome and welcomed - wherever they are in their local community. Are they?
If a community is 'carer friendly', then it will be good for everyone. You never know when you might be a carer or when you might need a carer.
Celebrate Carers Week 2016!