Are emergency department nurses offered free hand massages to entice them not to resign from their stressful jobs?
Or speech therapists, office administrators, housekeepers. No? Well why are little ‘treats’ like these expected to satisfy family carers who fulfil all the above roles and more, for little or no financial reward?
The week beginning June 10th is National Carer’s Week, and the role of the 370,000 family carers in Ireland will be acknowledged and highlighted, and thanked by a grateful nation who will then mostly leave them alone for another 12 months to get on the with their essential work with very little support.
Society still wants us to be saints, and if you look at the smiling kindly faces of carers in publicity photographs, that’s the image they are receiving.
Not photos of exhausted, resentful, angry carers with stained clothes and greasy hair. Or children juggling homework with changing nappies.
You see carers are not a homogenous group. Some feel privileged, some feel burdened, some feel it’s a private matter, some feel they have no choice.
Some care for a few years for an elderly parent, others face a lifetime of caring for one or more disabled children.
Some have plenty of support, financially and physically, with reasonably good services, as well as help from family and community, who live in suitable accommodation and who enjoy respite allowing proper breaks from caring and even holidays. Some are in situations so dire that they feel suicidal at times.
There are carers of all ages: Children who care for parents or siblings after school, perhaps missing out on activities and friendships.
Men and women who give up their careers to care for disabled children or elderly parents.
Partners of older adults who cope with the declining health of someone they’ve loved all their lives.
All make sacrifices, some willingly, some reluctantly. Few are truly acknowledged for what they do, or given the support to ensure that they and those they care for, can lead good lives.
My wish list this carer’s week would be for a tailored support plan for every family with regular reviews that could include services such as real respite, an end to means testing of benefits, suitable housing or adaptations, counselling services (in home if necessary), and future planning. What’s on yours?
As for me? If I have any free time this week, I won’t be getting a free hand massage. Instead you’ll find me at the gym, trying to work off the anger I feel about how carers are treated.
Happy Carers Week!