My mum – a post for #carersweek

Ma and Pa – Jan 2011

This post is dedicated to my mum. She is one of the 6million people in the UK who are carers, although it is only recently that she has come to consider herself as such. My mum lives next door to my grandparents who are both in their 90s, they live independently with her support, but would have lost their independence a long time ago if she was not available to support them. My mum checks they have managed to get themselves up each day, she buys and delivers the paper to them every day, she does a weekly shop for them, takes Gran out to the hairdressers on a Thursday, is pharmacist assistant (my grandfather prides himself on being Head Pharmacist dishing out his medication each day), medical transport service, daily bringer of family news and all round foundation for their independence.

In the past couple of year’s my Dad’s health has deteriorated and recovered and we now live knowing that it will deteriorate again. My Dad is an absolute trooper, he has fought his cancer every step of the way and every step he has taken, mum has been next to him, shoulder-to-shoulder providing support. Even when she has not shared his view or opinion, or agreed with his treatment choices, she has still put herself into the background and supported my Dad, doing all she can to enable him to make his own choices – offering her view but ultimately providing support for Dad with the choices he makes.

My parents brought three children up and worked hard all their working lives, very shortly after they retired my Dad got sick. Shortly before mum gave up work my grandparents moved to live next door to us, to support their independence, not that I think we ever thought they’d live as long as they have. Most of my mum’s retirement has been spent supporting her family in some way – she has always been supportive of all of us but of late she has little time for herself. A couple months ago when Dad was referred to the palliative care team at the local hospice, someone actually took the time to ask my Mum how she was doing. She was offered a place on a short course for carers and it has really made a massive difference to her sense of self – since then her local support network has grown, her sense of isolation has decreased and her self confidence has grown. I think the thing she has valued the most is the fact that other people have recognised her contribution, understood her concerns or challenges, and offered her a sense of community.

In a recent Change Project from research in practice for adults, carers and service users were asked what they wanted from social care practitioners, the response reported in the half way blog post was as follows:

“Frequently the word recognition is used in terms of what makes a good experience for carers. The question is: what does this mean? Is it a question of acknowledging someone is a carer, writing that down and acting on it? Or is it more to do with the way you respond humanly to the experience of that individual as a carer; how you show in your response that you know and feel that they are a carer? Recognition comes from the Latin recognoscere, to know again. It includes the sense that if you came across that person again you would remember them – there was something that stuck. If you really ‘get’ something about that person then you will recollect them”.

This post is one small way in which I wanted to recognise the fantastic role my mum plays as a carer, she is unlikely ever to see it, or know about it, and that’s fine. She is just one representative of many, there are an estimated six million carers in the UK (that figure doesn’t include people who provide support but don’t recognise themselves as a carer). Each and every one of you who has read this post will know someone who is a carer, you might not know that they are, but I’d be fairly certain we all know someone. We can each provide a certain level of support to carers, by offering the recognition for the support that they provide. Our society would be far worse off without them.

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