Two of Jersey’s most senior care professional are urging unpaid carers to look after themselves and seek help and support when needed.
The winter period can be a particularly difficult time for those in the community who are caring for a relative at home, but two years into the pandemic, and with Jersey’s Government urging all Islanders to be more vigilant with growing Covid cases, it could leave many carers feeling further isolated.
November 25th is Carers Rights Day, which aims to ensure unpaid carers understand their rights and receive the correct help. Tracey Gentry, Clinical Director of the LV Group and Manager at Saint Joseph’s Residential and Nursing home, and Ceri Powell, Head of HR at LV Care Group, have been on the front-line of care for many years, and are well aware of the challenges that looking after a family member can bring.
Tracey commented: “If you are employed, then you can take holiday and get to go home at the end of the day, but for someone giving care at home it can be 24/7, with no opportunity to have downtime and recharge your batteries. That’s very hard psychologically, emotionally and physically. We often see this, and it’s guilt which usually prevents the carer from seeking much needed support. They have to look after themselves too.”
LV Care Group will shortly be introducing a nursery for its care staff to ensure it’s offering flexible working opportunities that fit in with family life. Ceri urged anyone who is a carer, whether of children or an elderly relative, to speak to their employers if they’re struggling.
“We’ve been working mums, so we know what the challenges are in terms of balancing family life and also your allegiance to work. We all have the right in law to request flexible working, but it’s more than that. It’s about valuing our employees and working with them to give them the the opportunity to be able to work and still fulfil their caregiving role.”
The pair had some further advice for caregivers:
- Being a caregiver can be stressful and isolating and people feel guilty if they aren’t there 24/7; and it can break relationships sometimes. You need quality time, not just quantity and that means having breaks and talking to other people.
- If it’s impossible for you to leave your loved one on their own, then invite people round instead, or even use zoom or Facetime etc. It’s very important that you speak to other adults and have some contact with life outside of the caring situation.
- Take a holiday. At LV, we also offer respite care which gives the caregiver a break and can also serve as an introduction to the possibility of their loved one moving into full time care.
- Don’t struggle on feeling guilty because that could lead to a crisis. As a family you should recognise when looking after someone at home is putting more strain on them and on the caregiver and accept that professional care might be a better option. If you leave it until a crisis, for example when an elderly relative has fallen and broken a bone, then it will be harder on them to suddenly be put into a care situation. Plan it and introduce it slowly. Often we see that family members are getting far better quality time with their loved one when they go to visit them, than struggling to look after them at home.
- Family dynamics can often make caregiving situations harder. It might be that one relative is carrying the caring workload far more than another, or that there is a difference of opinion in how care should be given. It’s very important that families work together and recognise that the carer needs support as well as the person needing the care.
There are plenty of professionals and support organisations in Jersey who can help. Ask your doctor, or ask a care professional for recommendations. The Listening Lounge, the free mental health and wellbeing service, is also available for anyone who needs to talk about their situation and seek support.