Becoming a carer is not something we necessarily plan, in fact quite often the role is just handed to us – no interview and no training. Jo Philips from Norfolk Family Carers has written this really useful article about a family they recently helped, which might offer a bit of hope to those going through a similar experience.
The Sandwich Generation
You may find you are doing more and more for someone as each week passes with very little outside help. You may have a family of your own, a full-time job or maybe you’re self-employed. The worries about the person you care for can begin to grow as you attempt to juggle the needs in your life with the growing needs of the person you’re looking after.
This situation is becoming more common – people are living longer (to be celebrated not frowned upon) however, the social care system is struggling to cope, leaving many families in crisis. Norfolk Family Carers offers free advice and information to anyone who is looking after a friend or family member – including those living further away through their ‘Caring at a Distance’ programme.
Acknowledging you’re becoming a carer is often the first step in finding help and support – both for you and the person you’re caring for.
Norfolk Family Carers have helped many people to rebalance their lives and get plans in place to help them and person they’re looking after to move forward. We can come to your home and find out what you and the person you care for need – whether that’s producing an Emergency Plan, arranging respite, connecting with the community, managing benefits and finances, arranging home care alarm systems. The list goes on.
It can be a huge relief for people to find that they suddenly have a clear direction.
Family in crisis
We recently helped Clare to deal with a challenge in caring that was affecting her wider family.
Clare lives in Norfolk with her husband David and their two children. Both Clare and David are self-employed but like many families they were juggling work with suddenly becoming a carer for relatives.
David’s parents look after his sister who has complex health needs. They decided to move to Norfolk a few years ago to be closer to Clare and David, on whom they rely on for support.
Over the past twelve months, David’s sister’s condition deteriorated and in September she became seriously ill and nearly died. She survived multiple operations and a long spell in hospital to finally move back home to her parents.
Due to lasting complications, David’s sister now needed a much higher level of care and support from her parents. However the stress of the previous few months and increasing strain on her parents had finally became too much. Just before Christmas, David’s mother broke down – unable to cope anymore. The family had reached crisis point.
Where to turn for help?
Clare stepped in to get help on their behalf but despite her determination and persistence, she was unable to find a solution:
“I was being batted constantly between the GP, the Crisis Intervention team and social services. No one felt it was their place to help. I kept saying that any one of these people could die at any moment but nobody felt it was their responsibility. We were between a rock and a hard place.”
Eventually the family paid privately for respite at a cost of more than a thousand pounds a week and it was shortly after this that Clare was recommended Norfolk Family Carers by an uncle.
“I emailed the contact form on the website and within an hour, Julie, the Family Care Adviser, had called me back. I actually felt the stress lift off my shoulders. She took us seriously. She was professional. She arranged to come and meet us at my inlaws’ house – the first time all five of us had actually sat down in a room together and talked about the situation. Julie had clearly done her research and showed she really understood the very complicated disorder which my sister-in-law suffers from. She handled an incredibly delicate situation with sensitivity.”
It felt like we finally had clarity. For someone external to come in and pick through the emotions of a very difficult situation and help us find a way forward was absolutely invaluable. I think we’d have drowned as a family without it.”
Norfolk Family Carers support
Thanks to Julie’s input and suggestions, the family now have several plans in place which will make a real difference to their lives, however Clare says she wishes she’d found out about the service before Christmas:
“If I, as someone who is competent, confident and strong-willed couldn’t get the help we needed from social care in our time of need – how will others who are less confident manage? I find that very scary for other people.”
Several of our team are carers themselves. Julie looks after her dad who has MS and her step mum who has dementia. She knows all too well about the challenges and rewards of looking after someone else whilst also trying to raise her own family:
“I think it really helps that I am also a carer outside of my role at Norfolk Family Carers. I know the pressures family carers are under and the concerns they have – but through my job, I also know how to navigate health and social care, understand a carer’s legal rights and also the importance of a carer’s own wellbeing.”
Clare and her family received in-depth family support which is now fee-based, following the charity’s loss of council funding last year. All profits from fee-based services are reinvested back into charitable work, helping the organisation to improve the lives of local family carers.
Click HERE for more information on how you can receive support from Norfolk Family Carers.
If you’re worried about a relative and not sure if they need more support, here’s our guide to ‘When to Step in’
*We have changed some of the names in this story to ensure privacy and anonymity for our client.