Chief Executive, Carers UK
The isolation many of us have felt during this time is not a new issue for unpaid carers. If you’re caring for someone, it’s important to try to not let your own needs slip. Take time to look after yourself and make sure you feel connected with those around you.
While COVID-19 and the lockdown have brought challenges for many of us, it is fair to say it has been an especially challenging time for unpaid carers looking after a family member or friend who is older, disabled or living with a physical or mental illness.
The isolation many of us have felt during this time is not a new issue for some carers – particularly those who are caring many hours a week for people with complex health conditions and disabilities.
Our previous research shows that one in three unpaid carers say they feel lonely, always or often.
We know many people find it difficult to talk openly about their caring role, sometimes because they don’t think they will be properly understood, or because they don’t want to ‘offload’ on someone.
The lockdown and social distancing restrictions will have intensified that feeling of isolation for a larger number of carers, many of whom are currently unable to take a break from caring to spend time with friends and family, or take part in an activity outside the home as they might have done before.
Despite those difficulties, at Carers UK, we’ve seen carers tackle some of the difficult challenges that lockdown has presented, proving that keeping connected and staying well during the pandemic is possible.
If you’re caring for someone, it’s important to try to not let your own needs slip – take time to look after yourself and make sure you feel connected with those around you.
Why not try the following suggestions to stay in touch with the people you know?
Make time to call family and friends
It’s reassuring to know that, during this time, it is possible to communicate easily, even from far away.
Making time to pick up the phone to call family members, or friends you haven’t spoken to in a while, can help.
Carers have been quick to make use of video conferencing services to communicate with friends and family living elsewhere – instant messaging apps are also popular.
Reach out to your neighbours
The ‘circle of care’ for many carers and the people they are looking after has become bigger thanks to community responses to coronavirus, with neighbours coming forward to help unpaid carers with accessing food, other supplies and providing moral support too.
Reach out to your neighbours if you haven’t already and let them know that you need help on an ongoing basis – they may be able to lend a helping hand.
Connecting with others
Talking about and sharing your feelings with someone who understands can be a massive relief and release.
Carers have been making use of supportive online groups and sources of help, including Carers UK’s online forum and Care for a Cuppa video chats, where you can connect with other carers facing similar challenges at the moment.
Look after yourself
Don’t forget to take time for you. Combat any rising anxiety levels by setting a strict time limit on how much you read about coronavirus on social media and in the news.
Make sure to allocate a time slot in your day for an activity you enjoy – whether it’s to read, write, paint, cook, do some gardening or knit.