Caring for our Carers

In a speech at the Annual Marie Curie Palliative Care Conference 2017 Professor Gunn Grande will talk about better ways that clinicians and healthcare professionals can better care for their patients by engaging with the people who have the most input into the patients care and daily life: the carer(s). There are many obstacles to better communication with carers, not the least being that many people are in a carer role and yet do not think of themselves as carers, identifying a child, a wife, a husband.

Prof Grande goes on:

So, as clinicians and healthcare professionals, we need to take this as a starting point and ask a dying patient, ‘who is the person who gives you the most help and support?’

Once we have established the individual or individuals who are taking on the role of carers, we then need to properly explore with them what they are struggling with and what they need to make this easier.

Main concerns for carers are about gaining the information and know-how they need to care for their family member or friend with confidence as a lot of carer distress stems from the uncertainty involved and not knowing what to do. It may also, for instance, be that financial worries are a major factor and a person needs simple help with filling out forms or applying for additional benefits. In some cases, carers may need counselling to help them deal with the trauma of facing the loss of a loved one. However, we need to ask the individual what they need to ensure that the burden is not so heavy that they can’t cope at all. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

There is good support for carers in some areas of the UK but not in others. This is clearly important for palliative care but is as important for people who are chronically ill rather than terminally ill as of course they will live for many more years and thus the demands on the carer take place over a far longer time period - in the case of people with chronic fungal lung infection it can mean decades of coping with what can be the increasing needs of the patient, not to mention the emotional stress of watching the health of your parent or spouse gradually deteriorate.

Carers play a big part in minimising the cost to the NHS of caring for chronically ill people as well as maximising the comfort of the patient, it is time the NHS made care of the carers a high priority.

Support for carers at Carers trust

Resources for carers on NACpatients

Original article in the Hippocratic Post.

Patients stories: 

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