Getting carers healthy and connected in their communities

The theme for Carers Week 2019 is: ‘Getting carers healthy and connected in their communities’.

When I became a carer for my daughter in 2002, I was forced to juggle both looking after my other children and a stressful job as a social worker. I was exhausted, emotional and was desperate for both information and support from people who understood. Although caring is a privilege and may be rewarding, it can still be incredibly hard work. It took me many years to admit that and to ask for help.

I believe that talking about these issues and bringing ‘care’ to the forefront as a society will make us stronger as individuals and collectively. Carers Week 2019 (June 10th to 16th) offers an opportunity to raise the profile of carers as well as celebrating and recognising the work that goes on behind the scenes.

In Working with Family Carers, a book inspired by my own experiences, I discuss some of the issues faced by carers in the UK. From identifying carers and providing information and advice and, given the likelihood of practitioners themselves providing (and receiving) care, it also offers a discussion regarding maintaining resilience and the extent to which personal experiences guide and inform practitioners response to work with carers.

Statistics show there are over 7 million carers in the UK, a number acknowledged to be seriously underestimated .We know that at least one in five of us will become carers in our life time. Caring needs to be seen as a part of life, the majority of us will be givers and receivers of care at some point and sharing information and supporting each other will help us all in understanding the importance of care. Organisations such as The Carers Trust and Carers UK are great sources of information for carers, students, and practitioners.

I personally appreciate the work of both organisations who supported me during some very stressful times, and because of this, I have chosen to donate all the royalties from my book Working with Family Carers to be shared equally between Carers Trust and Carers UK as a way to acknowledge this and give a little back.

Valerie Gant April 2019

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Working with Family Carers: An Insight

In light of the recent publication of her book Working with Family Carers, Dr Valerie Gant, University of Chester, reflects how the summer holiday can be a period of stress rather than relaxation for carers.

As the holiday period reaches its end and we continue to bathe in the sunshine, I think again about issues faced by many carers.

While the six-week school break is seen as a welcome relief for teachers and staff, it is similarly often a cause of anxiety and stress for pupils with severe learning difficulties and their parents/carers.

Changes in routine (and weather) can be incredibly difficult to navigate. It is of course not just school-age children and their family carers who struggle with those intensifying summertime pressures…

Light nights and intense heat can make caring more difficult for older adults and also for those caring for people with dementia.

For those carers able to afford a holiday – note the word ‘holiday’ not ‘break’ – a change of scene is not necessarily as good as a rest.

Researching for my book Working with Family Carers, I was privileged to speak to many family carers as well as people in receipt of family care. It soon became apparent that it is the ordinary, taken-for-granted activities, holidays and summer days that are the most challenging to navigate.

Helena Herklots, the outgoing CEO at Carers UK, recently suggested there is evidence of the carers movement growing in momentum, I would like to think this is the case and that support for carers will be a year round activity, not just one marked by ‘Carers Week; or ‘Carers Right’s Day’.

As a parent-carer myself, I believe such recognition, acknowledgement and hopefully support, when needed, needs to be an ongoing activity and not just a seasonal event.

Roll on September!

You can find more about informal caring in Valerie’s book and see our other titles here.

 

Lights, Camera, Action! Mental health and physical health: One Health

In this post, Daniel Wilding discusses from his personal and recent participation in a film produced by the mental health charity Mind, how recovery from mental health is inter-linked with, and can in fact improve bodily health.

In May 2018, I was delighted to be asked by the policy and campaigns team at the mental health charity Mind to participate in the making of a film they produced for their ‘One Health’ campaign. Since, I have been reflecting on the ways in which my General Practitioners (GPs) over the years have helped me to manage my mental health (recovering from anxiety and depression) by improving my physical health. I still use the strategies today.

My motivation to become involved in the project mentioned above came from a shared desire and passion to use film and social work to campaign for services to offer advice, support and interventions that would help people improve their physical health as a way of managing their mental health. I wanted to write this blog to disseminate that important message.

In my view, as a community mental health practitioner, social worker, and expert by experience, the help I got from my GPs was crucial in my own recovery, maintenance, and aim to achieve optimum mental health. I received help with my weight and food management, exercise, alcohol intake, mindfulness and sleep.  The film acts as a powerful form of communication to service managers and policy makers, as to how crucial the care of people’s physical health is when recovering from mental ill health. Therefore, I feel the film will provide social workers and allied health professionals with additional insights into this area of mental health care.

A prominent theme in the campaign and film is the role of the GP in supporting people to make changes to their physical health that will help manage their mental health and individual participants’ experiential narratives of this. However, social workers are, by our professional role as agents of change, in an ideal position to support our GP colleagues with this aim.

I wanted to bring to the attention of readers and viewers the importance of understanding how and why making changes to one’s physical health will simultaneously improve mental health. Robust and evidence-based interventions regarding diet, weight, exercise, alcohol reduction, smoking, and sleep can improve physical health outcomes for people recovering from and managing mental ill health.

The video (Mind, 2018) makes three crucial arguments:

  1. Intervening in a person’s physical health to manage their mental health is not a new concept. It is a current and real concern that needs to change at a policy level. Participants’ stories contained within, testify this works. However, greater action needs to be taken by health and social care professionals and the government. The multitude of cases and individual stories prove the above.
  2. There is a focus on GPs providing the help discussed, but social workers and service users themselves can assist in producing a positive change throughout society.
  3. Physical health support to improve outcomes in managing mental health requires practitioners who are educated about holistic interventions. Social policy change may emerge from qualitative data captured through the medium of film, hence shining a spotlight on the issue leading to political action and change.

References

Mind (2018) Mental health and physical health go hand in hand: Find the words. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVEmJAbPisA&t=13s (Accessed: 18 July 2018).

We publish a range of books on mental health, such as Critiquing Personality Disorder:  Social Perspective by Julia Warrener and Modern Mental HealthCritical Perspectives on Psychiatric Practice edited by Steven Walker.