What is caring?
When people need help with their day to day living they often turn to their family and friends. Looking after each other is something that we do.
Up and down the UK there are 6.5 million people caring unpaid for an ill, frail or disabled family member or friend. These people are called carers but they would probably say that they are just being a husband, a wife, a mum, a dad, a son, a daughter, a friend or a good neighbour.
Carers help with personal things like getting someone dressed, turning them in their sleep, helping them to the loo, helping them move about or administering their medication. Carers also help with things like shopping, laundry, cleaning, cooking, filling in forms or managing money.
The reasons people might need help can vary. Maybe they were born with a disability or had an accident that left them disabled. Or they have an illness or disease. Their problems may be physical or mental. They might need help because they are getting older and frail. But what doesn't vary is that they need help, and if you look after someone - for whatever reason - caring is part of life.
How does caring affect your life?
For many people caring is brief, maybe helping someone who has come out of hospital to get back on their feet - a few intense months that turn your life upside down and then it's over. For others it may be a regular obligation of a few hours a week helping out. For those with disabled children it can be a lifelong commitment. Some people are caring round the clock, 24 hours a day. How caring affects you depends on how much you are doing, what else is going on in your life and to some extent what kind of a person you are.
Caring can be a rich source of satisfaction in people's lives. It can be life-affirming. It can help deepen and strengthen relationships. It can teach you a multitude of skills and help you realise potential you never thought you had.
But without the right support caring can have a devastating impact. Evidence shows that caring can cause ill health, poverty and social isolation. When caring is intensive and unsupported you can struggle to hold down a job, get a night's sleep, stay healthy and maintain your relationships with friends and family.
When caring happens, many people are shocked to find out just how little support there can be. Help is often out there, but talk to any carer and they will tell you to be ready to fight tooth and nail for every bit of help you get. To find out more about the advice and support available here.
Caring is something that will affect each and every one of us. The statistics show three out of five of us will become carers at some point in our lives.