Carers are unpaid family members or friends, any age, any background who assist another person in some way, not necessarily frequently or regarding anything medical. In this post I ask who supports these informal carers? Carer support groups or friends or both…?
All of us are carers at some point in our lives – to children, parents, partners or friends. We often volunteer at times of crisis to cook a meal, mow our neighbours lawn or drive a relative to hospital for an appointment. It is misconstrued that carers deliver medically orientated care – that just isn’t the whole truth – commonly carers are shopping, cooking, cleaning and performing minor roles to assist another person retain their independence.
I call myself a carer although, nowadays, I rarely contribute to Emily’s activities of daily living. I pop the kettle on for tea and let the dog out into the garden. I might fuss about the laundry or pester Emily with the copious paperwork she receives. If I go to Woolworth’s Emily may accompany me because she is perfectly capable of shopping for her own toiletries. I’m a carer but I just push the supermarket trolley or drive the car!
I am not cooped up or incapacitated by my caring role. I travel alongside Emily, we are like tram lines – separate but going in the same direction. The point I am making is that the label carer is broad and varied and it need not be onerous! There should be separateness and individualism, self-determination with choice and opportunity for carer and the supported person. Carer is not a derogatory or rude word – carers are constructive people giving someone less able a helping hand.
But my caring role does extend my physical and mental day so who supports the carers?
Carer support, self-care and friends
Support or self-care has to be incorporated into my working day / week. Everyone needs to be reminded to take time out but especially caregivers as they can develop an overly strong sense of responsibility which may lead to diminishing social opportunities as they prioritize their carer tasks.
With limited time, support can come in many forms and not all need to be conventional. I try to cycle several mornings a week – my cycle buddies are not the usual carer support group but they are supportive none the less.
I also exercise with my girlfriends as we seek to be energetic, walk the dogs and share a giggle over coffee… these are my social support groups introducing balance to my body and soul.
Let’s be clear about this – being a carer is a natural role within the cycle of life yet support is key to reinforcing a carers longterm, physical and mental, strength. As the role is natural so the support group doesn’t have to be a formal carer support group – socializing and having fun can be the tower of strength needed to maintain a healthy temperament.
Carer Support Groups
While my friends are priceless with their ability to fortify my inner oomph and vigor there is also a need for specific support especially when addressing something like spinal cord injury (SCI) as it has long-term / lifetime implications. While my friendship group boost my outlook there is still a need to share with my SCI carer peers because I know how much I benefit from tangent ideas, practical skills and their insight into shared issues.
I have made time to attend SCI carer support groups and always come away buoyed up with enthusiasm. I have taken notes and transcribed information into this blog A to Z. Fellow caregivers answer questions I hadn’t thought to ask! I meet people who understand what I’m experiencing which reinforces my normal and comforts me.
Here are just some of the benefits of an organised support group:
- You can share regarding your caring role. You have an appreciation of the demands and the energy required to thrive as a carer.
- You can learn from experienced carers and guest professionals. They address care issues – information is empowering, knowledge allows choice and furthers opportunity.
- Oftentimes, people don’t understand the caring role so a caregiver can gradually feel isolated. In support groups, fellow caregivers understand your trials, frustrations, joys and concerns.
- As the support group members feel more connected, you may decide to meet beyond the support group.
- Expand your horizons as you learn new recipes, care techniques, accessible venues around town and diverse holiday ideas tested by others.
Carer support groups or friends or both?
Carers mingle amongst us, unbeknown, because caring is such an integral part of family life and friendship. I hope I have highlighted that support can be achieved informally over coffee or with a scheduled program through a carer support group. As we are all different we can choose what support suits our lifestyle best but one thing I’m certain everyone needs a little support and self-care.
There is supportive writing online here @EverydayCaring – follow this blog – also see the support group page You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive updates on a new SCI carers support group initiative in NSW Australia. Contact us – totally confidentially – we will use your email address to deliver dates and times for SCI carer support group meetings and the latest SCI carer news.
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