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My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s; looking after the carers I employ is important to me

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Claire Miles

Managing Director of Centrica Hive

For the three million people in the UK who both work and are informal carers, balancing caring responsibilities alongside a job is a daily challenge. Sadly, a lack of adequate support means that one in five carers are forced to stop working altogether.


There are many ways that businesses can provide support to carers, from offering flexible employment policies that help carers manage their responsibilities alongside their work to providing networks for colleagues to come together and share their experiences.

This is something we have developed in partnership with Carers UK over the past 15 years. We are now working with them to identify what other opportunities there are to support this group who make up a significant proportion of our workforce.

Smart home tech can be very reassuring

One area we are increasingly focused on is how smart home technology can provide the reassurance that helps carers manage both their caring and their working life. This is something that is particularly personal to me, as my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011 and I class myself as an informal carer.

My mother is fiercely independent, but I worry that sometimes she could put herself in unsafe situations without realising. Simple tasks such as boiling the kettle can have serious consequences due to her difficulties with tremors. 

I want my mum to feel independent for as long as is safe

Sadly, one of the inevitabilities with this disease means there will come a time when she cannot live independently. However, with the help of smart home technology, together we are delaying this for as long as possible. For example, I use a number of Hive sensors and plugs around my mother’s home, which, when viewed through the app, allows me to check in anytime to see if my mum is up, had her cup of tea or left the house.

Importantly, it is not a tool to replace in-person care. For me, I still see my mother just as often, and she still has the same care network around her – it just means that I don’t have to worry, knowing that she has returned home safely after a walk in the winter, and she has put on the kettle like normal in the morning.

Carers’ tech helps the whole family feel connected

Smart home technology can keep families, friends and loved ones connected more easily, bringing even greater peace of mind for carers and those they care for and enabling people to live independently in their own homes for longer. That’s why I believe this is an important area for further innovation.

However, progress will be dependent on businesses (like ourselves) prioritising product and service development. I think we are just at the start of the journey to unlock how smart technology can help one of society’s most pressing issues and we look forward to fully exploring the potential it will play in supporting the growing caring community.

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Home » Carers » My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s; looking after the carers I employ is important to me
Your Later Life 2020

Dealing with bereavement and grief as a carer

Helen Walker (pictured)

Chief Executive, Carers UK

Everyone feels and reacts differently to becoming bereaved. There is no right or wrong way to deal with how you feel about this. 


COVID-19 has meant that some carers are having to face the loss of the person they looked after, maybe under very difficult circumstances.

Grieving will feel very different  right now, as carers are not able to reach out to others in the ways they usually would, and support services are not all operating as normal.

In the immediate aftermath of losing someone, there are usually many practical matters to deal with, from registering the death to organising the funeral. It can feel like your emotions are on hold.

It may help to break these tasks down, listing them in order of priority and ticking them off once completed.

Carers will experience a whole range of emotions, especially if this signifies the end of their caring role.

Consider a memorial service

The way funerals are taking place at the moment may not be the way you would want to say goodbye to someone.

You might want to start planning a memorial service or gathering for those unable to attend. That way, you know that everyone who wants to say goodbye can, and you have a chance to celebrate their life as you normally would have done.

Understandably, you might feel too upset to face these tasks. If you feel able to, tell the people around you what you need from them and how they can help.

There are professionals who can support you.

Expect unexpected emotions

Everyone feels and reacts differently to becoming bereaved. There is no right or wrong way to deal with how you feel about this. 

As well as the emotional pain of losing someone they love, carers will experience a whole range of emotions, especially if this signifies the end of their caring role.

Your feelings could range from relief at having more time to yourself, to guilt at feeling that way, to a desire to make some big changes, to feeling exhausted, alone and unable to do much at all.

Feeling free to acknowledge these complex emotions can be an important part of coming to terms with your loss.

Sometimes it can help to share your feelings with a close family member or friend or you could turn to a bereavement charity such as Cruse Bereavement Care or Sue Ryder’s Online Bereavement Support.

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