A heartfelt blog post written by one of our carers advising carers, or carers to be, to get in touch with us.

Carer. What does that word mean to you?

If you answered “someone who works in an old folks home” you’d be one of the 95% plus who responds that way when I tell them what I do.

It’s something I’ve encountered many times in the last decade while being a family and friend carer. Originally looking after two family members and one friend, now two.

It’s a role that requires developing practical skills (from dementia, learning & physical disabilities, mental health to epilepsy). Often carers struggle with a very low income, while balancing the effects on the carers’ own physical and mental wellbeing.

Now here’s the thing: it’s a role that you could be easily find yourself doing. Especially now as our population ages and conditions such as dementia are rising. Plus, as if we can forget, what the Covid-19 crisis has bought and could bring.

However, unlike common perceptions, family and friend carers don’t get the same deal as other care workers. We don’t have unions and supermarkets don’t rush to applaud us with free Easter eggs.

So, where does that leave family and friend carers? In West Sussex we’re fortunate enough to have Carers Support. While they can’t pay us a fair wage for what we do, nor can they can get too “political”, what they can do (as the name says) is support.

There’s the carers fund, which allowed me to attend evening college classes or get tools. I’ve used these to benefit others in my community as well as myself. Then there’s the other side, such as organising care needs reviews for both cared for and carer. In 2020 this lead to one of my two cared fors getting the at-home care she needed. Carers Support West Sussex even made an introduction to an art gallery group, which lead onto other positive opportunities. So the possibilities really are endless.

But the best support is being a friendly ear. That’s the vital thing here, they understand what being a carer means. So, if you’re in this role, or about to be, my advice would be to talk to them.

-Alan Reed

Our team is available online or through our Response Line from Monday to Saturday. Our opening hours are 9am-5pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm on Wednesday, and 10am to 12pm on Saturday. We are still here for you, so call us on 0300 028 8888, or email info@carerssupport.org.uk if you have any questions or concerns.