Would you expect someone stepping into your house to say hello and perhaps ask your name? Of course you would. But this is not the reality it seems for many carers. So said Dame Philippa Russell DBE at the QNI's conference on how nurses can support carers last week. Her presentation was a mix of facts and experience, gathered over many years as both a carer and an advocate for carers needs, having been Chair of the Standing Committee on Carers for two terms. She drew attention to the simple things that would make carers feel supported: recognising them and their expertise in managing the person they care for, including them in decision making and discharge planning, and acknowledging that their wellbeing is important.
One third of the population provides more than 20 hours care for someone per week. The NHS and social care owe a debt to the six million UK carers who play a huge part in keeping people in the community, and this will only increase in the future. Yet many carers, particularly the young, don't see themselves as carers. It's just what they do. Many young carers go on to care work of some sort.
At times, it seemed that the conference was pulling at the heartstrings of nurses already committed enough to attend. Some of the material on young carers was heartbreaking, but tears won't make their lives better. What they need is targeted support from school and community nurses. The conference focused on how simple interventions can help carers' mental health and physical health, and some good projects already out there. Simply asking carers how they are could make all the difference. Surely that's just common courtesy?