It’s Learning Disability week, and the theme for 2020 is the importance of friendships during lockdown. Staying connected with people and having time outside from caring is more difficult right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important. Just like others, people with learning disabilities and their families enjoy their time together, having fun, going out, seeing friends. Life often brings new opportunities and experiences that might not have been expected.

Family relationships are important, and many may feel that they are parents, or sons and daughters first.  They provide care and support to each other naturally, without thinking of it as a role, or as being a ‘family carer’. Parents and family carers, including siblings, caring for someone with a learning disability may need to give some support to the person throughout their lives.

At Carers Support we support family carers of people with a learning disability, at any point in their life to:

  • Talk with someone who understands
  • Find out what is out there in the community for them and the person they care for
  • Take some time out to think about their own wellbeing
  • Apply for Carer Health and Wellbeing Fund for something for themselves

I have lived next door to my neighbour for nearly 16 years, I am a sort of person who keeps myself to myself. My neighbour has a son, the same age as my boy. She is also on her own and a care-worker. Apart from the odd nod or hello when I went indoors, that was as far as it got.

Since lockdown started, I have seen her sit out the front when I take my recycling out, or went for a walk, and we’ve started talking more. She offered to do my shopping at times when I was ill and had to stay in. We even started Facebook messaging to see how each of us were doing. If she did not hear from me for a few days she would message. She opened up more about her own health needs, and of her son`s special needs, which I had no idea of. She had a sister who made face-masks for Covid, and she got some made for me, for when I needed to go out.

We spoke about the great support I get from Carers Support West Sussex and for her to have a look at the website and get some support for herself. She never knew anything like us existed. She spoke about her feeling unwell and about her mental health, and I “nagged” for a few days until she spoke to her GP, which she said she was glad of, as she was put on medication for health issues she had.

One lesson this lockdown has taught me is to say hello and ‘how are you?’ This has opened up the start of perhaps a friendship down the line. We are already planning to sit in our front garden with a cuppa, when the sun is out. I would say to everyone, say “hello” and ask how people are, it is surprising how much this means to both concerned.

People with learning disabilities may be living in residential care, supported living, having regular support calls in their own home, yet family members can remain in a caring role. During this time many families have chosen to take on the full responsibility of caring and supporting their loved one, with them returning to live in the family home.

For others this is not possible and lockdown means that they are unable to visit them, or have them home for weekends and fun family time, other families may have had the person still living with them at home.

Just like all of us, family carers and people with learning disabilities, have a wide range of interests, skills, life experience and rely on friendships as part their of everyday life.

If you are a family member caring for someone with a learning disability, we at Carers Support West Sussex are here for you to:

  • Talk to one of our specialist learning disability Carers Support Workers
  • Stay connected with us, and other carers
  • Find out about services and organisations that that can help

If you know someone caring for a person with a learning disability, tell them about Carers Support West Sussex today.