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Post Carers Week 2012

June 24, 2012


Now that Carers Week 2012 is finished for another year, I wonder what we’ve all learned! For me, the knowledge that the key issues of health concerns and financial implications are very much at the fore when discussing the realities of carers’ lives.

And so, having raised the awareness levels, what happens next? These things are not going to sort themselves out so I wonder what the strategy to improve the carers’ lot will look like? Given the number of carers is growing every day, the needs are only going to increase!

I doubt whether anyone would argue against adopting a proactive approach, but who will develop the strategy and what will it involve. Well, the answer, of course, is everyone! Sure there will be key organisations and agencies, but we all have a part to play

When looking at health, the importance of offering carers support is vital but this support needs to be flexible enough to fit in with the carers responsibilities, so this impacts on the when and where of any provision. In addition, it’s very important that carers access this before they’re already run down, or any potential benefits can be negated

When looking at finances, I am a firm believer in maximising your disposable income by exploring every which way that you can save on your outgoings. This, in itself, regardless of how much income you’ve got, can make a big difference. The internet has an important role to play in this, but the key thing, as ever, is about knowing where to look

In the next few posts I will explore some of the questions to ask to assist you in making the best of your caring situation.

Getting the balance right

June 19, 2012


Having been a carer, both as an adult and young person, I experienced the varying demands and requirements it can make of you for most of my life. In terms of prolonging and maintaining your health as a carer, there are a number of things to consider.

For example, for me, the first thing was actually identifying myself as a carer. This took me a long time, as I was just doing what anyone would have done in my position: taking care of my parent/s. Somehow this didn’t equate with being  a ‘carer’, this was about supporting my family.

Having identified myself as a carer, I still just ‘got on with it’ as I thought I could just cope however long I was going to be a carer for. However, what happened to me was I moved from full time work to part time work, as I simply couldn’t cope with the flexibility that being a carer required in my situation. My employers were very sympathetic and understanding, but it was just too difficult trying to juggle the plates!

So having gone part time, it was easier to cope with my caring responsbilities, but it hit my finances big time as I was earning a lot less. And so I struggled on, although I was under pressure juggling the money situation around the caring. Not an easy situation and it did cause me a lot of stress, even if I was reluctant to admit it. Yet I still didn’t seek any help or support for me, I think I started to become numb to everything and kind of ‘switched off’.

This wasn’t anything to do with my mum and/or dad being awkward or anything like that, it was how I was coping, or rather not coping! The thing was that after sliding into this place, it was very diffcult to feel anything at all. It was almost as if I’d ‘closed down’. I was functioning, but not really enjoying much, and the whole situation was clouded with uncertainty.

Looking back, we should have accessed help and support at a much earlier stage in the caring situation, as it is extremely hard to plan ahead, as things always have a habit of changing and glitching, so you need to adapt, and often at short notice. People who hadn’t been carers themselves thought it was quite straightforward organising things, but, such is the reality of people’s lives who require help and support, that the one constant was change!

Having said all this, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t access information, support and advice. It’s just important to look in the right places and do it as soon as you can. By talking to people who have been there and done it, you are likely to get some great tips to help you and benefit from the understanding that experience can bring.

Whilst everyone’s situation will be unique, there are certain issues that everyone will experience as carer and that, in itself, is one good reason to seek out advice and assistance to help you make informed decisions in what is likely to be an evolving and changing set of circumstances.

Carers Week 2012

June 17, 2012

It’s a really strange place I’m inhabiting at the moment.  Now that my dad has passed away, I’m no longer a carer; and yet  it’s a year tomorrow since Carers Matters first went live! Lots of confluences and coincidences, as it’s also Fathers Day today and this is the first time my dad hasn’t been around.

Anyway, to get to the point, I’ve been thinking a lot about all the time I spent being a carer, both in terms of what it was like and what would’ve helped me.

A thing I really never did was to get support for myself. I’m not sure if this was because I thought I could cope, or maybe I was frightened of what might happen if I did! Factor into this the fact that my dad and I were keen on working things out ourselves without any outside ‘involvement’ and I think you’re getting the picture.

I imagine this is a common situation, as it is not easy asking for help, especially for males it seems. We only got other people/professionals involved when my dad was really struggling with his mobility and required an operation. The point is that if we’d sought help earlier it might have been easier for both of us!

Somehow we have to help people feel ok about seeking help and/or support and, as yet, I’m not sure how many people feel comfortable asking for assistance! Certainly most people I’ve spoken to have said they have only asked for help when they were really struggling with their health, be it emotional, physical or otherwise.

And so, my hope is that we can all work together effectively, as individuals, organisations, communities and as a society to encourage carers to come forward and access the information and support at the beginning of their journey, not nearer the end of it, when people may be exhausted.

I was lucky in so far as my dad’s needs were fairly straightforward and we were able to manage them ourselves, more or less. This also enabled him to enjoy greater independence and provided me with an opportuity to still have a life of my own.

However, for a lot of people they are not so ‘lucky’.  For example, I managed to juggle things during my caring time so I could maintain a life and manage to work part time. For many many people this just isn’t possible, and so we need to ensure services are available for people in this situation are not marginalised and excluded.

Obviously, as a founder of an online project, I am biased towards offering online provision to complement the services and organisations available to assist carers in the ‘real world’. We are developing a project at the moment around this theme of digital inclusion, so keep watching this space for more details as things evolve.

The importance of working together

May 2, 2012

It is so important that all the people involved in looking after/supporting someone try and work together to provide the best care possible. Communication is the cornerstone of this process and it is vital that the people and professionals find ways of being able to talk to each other so  that the different parties know what’s happening and can, as much as is possible/practicable, recognise the different perspectives and how that can influence both what can be said and how it can be said. Getting this bit right can make all the difference between making life easier or more difficult for all those concerned, and, first and foremost, for the person who is receiving the care!

Coming to terms with being an ‘ex carer’

April 16, 2012

It has been a while since I’ve written a new post, as I have been coming to terms with my dad’s death and sorting out both his house and estate. Having never done this before, suffice to say that it has taken a long time and much learning has taken place.

In the very near future I will be blogging about the lessons I’ve learned along the way. It will be something along the lines of ‘I wish someone had told me about this’ with the intention of highlighting some of the issues that may confront you as a carer and ways I found of coping/dealing with them. 

Digital Inclusion Revisited

November 15, 2011

When considering the issue of digital inclusion for carers, it is vitally important to look at the subject holistically. That is, it is not only about the hardware and/or software, it is also about the skills, knowledge and experience of the people you wish to ‘include’.

For example, someone might have physical access to the internet but are they able to access the information you are trying to provide for them?  Clearly this generates other questions to ask, concerning related and associated issues connected to accessing information; such as language and format.

For me, this is where the need to look at the ‘bigger picture’ really comes to the fore, highlighting the importance of offering people training to use the internet effectively to retrieve the information they want and in a way that works for them; be that via laptop, netbook, tablet, smart phone, etc.

It also illustrates the advantages of organisations working together effectively to offer services which interface cohesively and coherently at hardware and skill level to maximise the accessibility and reach. Breaks and glitches in these systems will clearly negatively impact on the provision as a whole.

Looking at our particular project, Carers Matters, we are in the process of delivering training courses and information sessions to offer  people the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge to ‘make the most of the internet’  and a site like ours.

In addition, we are also going to be developing online tutorials/walkthroughs and other similar tools to facilitate the site’s usability and  provide people who are unable to attend training sessions with similar learning opportunities.

From taking what is but a small example, this article has shown the importance of looking at the various elements involved in facilitating digital inclusion for carers, including the relevant inter-relationships and appropriate inter-dependencies.

How this actually works in practice remains to be seen. However, regardless of potential conflicts or other similar issues, the need to work together and share good practice remains, if the potential benefits are to reach the most number of people in a way that works.

Site Update

October 21, 2011

Today has been spent updating the site with a particular emphasis on the home page.

The home page sets the tone for the site and is the shop window through which people decide to have a look inside or depart elsewhere.

To herald the next phase of the project’s development, we decided it was time to change the face of the window a little: just to show that the project now has a slightly different focus, in terms of a wider remit that also includes offering training to help carers get the most out of the internet.

Clearly this links in with the previous post concerning digital inclusion and highlights how we are now able to offer more than just the site, although this is still central to the provision.

We would welcome your thoughts and feedback on what you think of the new look home page, so please feel free to give us your honest assessment.

Digital Inclusion for Carers

October 16, 2011

The project is moving into a phase of its development where we are very much concerned with the following areas:-

  • playing a part in helping carers get online and making the most of the opportunities the internet can offer, in terms of shopping and accessing services and support, learning and socialising
  • evaluating and developing our website to ensure it provides access to the right information in the right ways

Being a keen user of twitter, this is an aspect of social media that is gaining much greater prominence and has provided a great deal of information about the kinds of activities that are happening nationally.

This link highlights a number of carer organisations who are involved with the Raceonline 2012 campaign  as the push to assist people getting online grows

We have had a lot of contact with people and participated in many discussions via twitter and other mediums concerning how best to promote and facilitate inclusion using the digital medium. However, a key issue relates to the need to have services available offline, too, to facilitate inclusion for all.

This highlights the importance of organisations working together to ensure services can reach all those they are intended for, or there is a danger of people being left behind as technology and services evolve. We are firmly committed to supporting carers and/or other organisations in any way we can in this respect.

It also illustrates the need and advantanges of working collaboratively and holistically, as someone getting a laptop or other similar device is only part of the equation of someone getting online. There is the internet connection and the skills, knowledge, confidence and appropriate software to enable it to happen.

Watch this space for more details as things develop and the projects we are involved with grow and develop.

Great News for Cumbrian Carers

July 25, 2011

Good News Comes 2 Those Who Wait!

Great to be able to talk about some good news for a change! Carers across Cumbria are to benefit from an annual £500,000 fund which will be spent on giving them vital support. It is widely recognised that caring, whilst rewarding, can take its toll on those who fulfil the caring role, and this fund will help carers maintain their own health. Further information is available from the News and Star.

Another important aspect to mention while discussing this area is the need for carers to be proactive in terms of preserving their health. There is a danger of carrying on caring and maintaining the status quo until there is some kind of emergency or crisis.

Being able to take a break from caring to look after your own needs is a vital element in the mix! Your local carer centre can provide you with lots of information and support and you can find out where you nearest centre is here.

The internet can also provide you with lots of information and things to do and we have tried to compile of list of activities that you might wish to undertake on our main website at We’ve designed the site to make it easy to navigate so why not give it a go and see what you can find!

Managing the Future

July 19, 2011

Proactive versus Reactive

Throughout my career, in all the different roles and contexts, the constant issue has revolved around meeting needs based on the available evidence. Certainly we are operating in a much tougher economic climate, but the demographics of our society speak for themselves!

What is particularly salient in this current health and social care debate, is that the needs are so very conspicuous for all to see! And they are not going to go away or ‘disappear’. In fact, the evidence indicates they are going to grow as people live longer!

So what is going to be done? The longer the issues are unresolved, the greater the potential fear and worry for people needing services is likely to become, which, in itself, may create addititonal needs for services and/or support. The power of uncertainty cannot be underestimated!

I know that as a society we are confronted by many difficult and complex issues that we need to address, but surely we all need to accept that the needs of vulnerable people have to be right at the top of the list. There seems to be consensus that the current system needs to change so let’s start making it happen!

As a carer and someone who has worked in and around this area for a long time, this is a golden opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to each other as individuals, members of communities and of society as a whole. It is time to become proactive and not merely reactive! These issues are not going to go away!