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The importance of keeping carers healthy and connected

The 11th-17th June is Carers Week and across the UK people are recognising the invaluable contribution that carers make to the lives of so many that depend on them – but who looks after the carers? Clare-Anne Magee is the General Manager at Carers NI and in our blog she explains how their latest report highlights the need for carers to be supported to stay healthy – both physically and mentally.

In Northern Ireland there are over 220,000 carers who look after family members or friends who are sick, elderly or disabled.  This year Carers Week charities are focusing on how to ensure carers stay healthy and connected in order to carry out their caring role both now and into the future.

Carers NI recently carried out research that shows almost three quarters (70%) of carers here in Northern Ireland say they have suffered mental ill-health as a result of their caring role, whilst 56% say that their physical health has suffered as a result of caring. Over half of carers said they expect their physical (57%) and mental health and well-being (61%) to get worse in the next two years whilst two in five said that they expect to be able to provide less care or no care in the future because of poor physical health.  One third of carers (33%) who responded to our State of Caring survey felt that poor mental health would mean they would be able to provide less or no care in the future. And who will pick up the pieces then? Without the unpaid care provided every year by family and friends, our health and social care system would collapse. The physical and mental strain of caring, without enough support, is jeopardising carers’ ability to care both now and into the future.

All too often carers neglect their own mental and physical health; finding the time and space to be healthy, get enough sleep  and maintain relationships with others are all huge challenges.  Being left unprepared for carrying out care tasks and battling with a complex health, benefits and care system can add yet more stress onto carers.

Other areas of stress identified by carers included providing hands-on care for the person they care for, filling in forms  for financial or practical support, arranging health appointments for the person they care for, not getting enough sleep, and worrying about what the person they care for is eating and drinking. The good news is that with the right support a lot of these issues could be unburdened.

Every Trust area has a Carer Co-ordinator, someone who can keep you informed of local help and support available; Carers NI provide a regional advice and information service to support carers with all aspects of their caring; local condition-specific organisations such as MS Society, MNDA and Macmillan are also seeing the importance of supporting carers and often have carer support groups available too. Age NI can also provide advice and information if you’re an older carer and although some further work with GP’s is needed, they too can be a great source of information at a local level.

The enormous contribution made by Northern Ireland’s unpaid carers must not be taken for granted. This year the Carers Week charities are calling on communities, policy-makers, health care professionals, employers, and the wider public to encourage carers to get connected to health and wellbeing services to ensure they are recognised and supported not just with their caring role but in all aspects of their daily lives.

Are you a carer?  Do you feel supported by your GP and other health services?  Do you have any ideas on how carers can be supported to live healthy and well?  Tell us in the comments section below!


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Rhonda McMullan 18-Jun-2018 at 12:01 hrs

Out of interest, were young carers considered in these figure above? If you think how adults are feeling the stress of caring on their physical and mental health and of employer understanding/compassion, how to you think a young person caring from the age of 12 is going to feel by the time they reach their 30's or 40's, and what career opportunities are they going to have to sacrifice because schools and education have little knowledge of young people and students being in these roles, and therefore no support! Many adult carers unfortunately find themselves in caring roles from their 30's, 40's, 50's onwards and really feel the impacts to their health when becoming a carers at this age, but what about carers who have been caring from childhood?


E. Murphy 16-Jun-2018 at 18:53 hrs

I assist my husband to care for his elderly mother as he is her only child and there really is no one else. My mother in law has a diagnosis of vascular dementia but also has physical difficulties. We both work and my job role involves caring for elderly people, some of whom have been diagnosed with dementia. So this can be stressful. Recent changes in the data protection laws is a good thing and I understand the importance of protecting information but my mother in law was recently contacted via a phone call from her GP surgery regarding an appointment. She became distressed about this phone call. She could remember that she got a phone call from a doctor, but did not know if it was a doctor from the hospital or the surgery, and did not remember what information had been given to her. I was furious. I phoned her GP surgery first and the receptionist finally recalled that she had been phoned by their surgery about an appointment which she would not have been able to get to by herself , that is..even if she had been able to remember the details. I finally got this sorted but it is concerning that some older people may be taken off appointment lists for missing appointments due to memory difficulties and it makes the job of the carer unnecessarily more difficult when they have to try to investigate where the call came from, not to mention dealing with the upset it caused to my mother in law.


charlie lynn 15-Jun-2018 at 19:10 hrs

I just want to say that I have 5 different family members that help me out with caring, getting help in and out of the bath plus cooking meals etc, etc. None of them claim any money for doing this so they are not in the system. So this makes me wonder how many carers there is that are not known about.


Malachy.keyes 15-Jun-2018 at 16:00 hrs

Carers are not appreciated for the work they do.They are under paid get no respect from their employers. They are expected to a day's work in 10min get no time or allowance between jobs.
We need to register and train all carers, we have unqualified carers because we don't pay the proper wages. Every week we hear of bad companies who should not be allowed to have contracts in the caring business. Don't forget there is a lot of great carers let us all fight for them to be treated better