Who Cares? A patient perspective

This article was written by one of our patients and has appeared in our newsletter:

You are probably reading this newsletter because your mobile needs charging and you are bored stiff waiting for the doctor to call your name. I would be if I was there but now I have a minute of your time could I ask you to think of all the people you know ( including yourself! ) and see if you would call them a carer. You may be thinking a carer is someone who works for the Council or in a Home and I think that this is where we all make the mistake of not recognising all the carers out there, some of them people we know. The word Caring covers many many different things from the very small unobtrusive things to the major life changing demands that come our way. No matter how small or major these things are there is probably someone taking the responsibility on without even realising they are doing it. Sometimes being a carer creeps up on you, sometimes it hits you head on, in both cases it is life changing.

A few years ago my husband was diagnosed with a debilitating illness that turned a very healthy and independentman into an invalid needing round the clock care. I was catapulted from being protected and cosseted to being everything to everyone in my family. Everyone’s needs and feelings changed almost overnight and my only thought was to keep my husband and family secure, supported and loved. I am no different from anyone out there who goes through a change in their lifestyle, I’m sure you know someone yourself. Your whole world is turned upside down and I’m sure most of you know what that feels like. We had numerous hospital visits when I was often asked if I was his carer to which I would reply that we had carers coming in three times a day but that I was” just his wife”. It took a long time for me to accept that I was in fact his main carer and that I did most of his care myself. Most people would react the same way, we get on with it and do what needs doing. No one wants a medal or thanks for what they do but they do need recognition even if they don’t know it. The needs of a carer should be addressed as soon as possible and supported to the best of our ability and their needs go on for quite some time after their caring role ends. However if we don’t tell or accept that we are carers how can we get the support we need from our first line of defence, our doctors.
This is where you come in. If you answer yes to any or all of the following questions either for yourself or someone you know then you/they are a carer:

● Do you look after a disabled or ill husband/wife/parent/child/grandparent/friend or neighbour
● Do you get a bit of shopping/pop in for a chat/make a cuppa/check everythings ok
● Do you have someone living with you because its safer than them being on their own
● Do you look after someones personal needs before a carer arrives
● Do you call in morning and/or night after work to check if someone is OK

You’re probably getting bored with this now so I’ll get to the point. Carers tend to neglect their own health as they’re too busy holding things together. Many of them work full or part time as well and don’t have the time to bother the doctor. If they do go they are in a hurry to get back to what they feel they should be doing. A carers life revolves around their wristwatch. So if the doctor is running late they get a condensed version of what’s wrong and their prescription will be dispensed when they can fit a visit to the chemist in.

Glenpark doctors are asking patients who can identify themselves as carers to tell them/reception on their next visit. The doctors are then aware that when a patient visits the surgery they are a carer. This in turn lets the doctor know that there could also be underlying issues to your health brought on by your caring responsibilities.

In my own case the doctors were invaluable in helping me cope with all the issues caring brings up. If they hadn’t known of this situation I really don’t know what would have happened. There are also a number of organisations in Gateshead who have been set up to help carers of all ages which I’m sure reception will be willing to supply you with contact details.

Finally can I ask you if you know of anyone you think may be a carer please tell them to mention it on their next visit. It is important that the doctors have all the information they need in order to provide a service that suits carers needs and are aware of the additional problems caring causes in everyday life. Thank you for reading this newsletter and I hope you can help to spread the word amongst carers you may know.

We are extremely grateful to the patient that kindly wrote this for us