Viewpoint - Carers in sickness and in health

The carers who work tirelessly to look after others need support, says Natasha Azzopardi

Not long ago, I was reading the paper on the London Underground when I came across a picture of a middle-aged Chinese man sitting in a waiting room, cradling a frail woman against his chest.

The caption told the story of how a worried son walked into A&E carrying his mother wrapped up in a cloth against his chest.

The picture made it round the world, having the same effect on everyone. The man didn’t think he was doing anything special, ‘It was my duty, she is my mother,’ he said.

This week (18-24 June) is Carers Week, a UK-wide annual awareness campaign that celebrates and recognises the nation’s carers.

But also because I work in a small team aimed at providing support and education to carers, helping them remain physically and mentally well enough to continue caring.

I have become increasingly aware of how often carers are overlooked by us health professionals.

A few facts might help put things in perspective.

There are 6.4 million carers in the UK and they save the nation £119 billion a year.

Three million carers juggle work with caring responsibilities and 1.2 million carers care for more than 50 hours a week, equivalent to a full-time workforce greater than the NHS.

It’s predicted that 13 million people will become carers in the next decade, 75 per cent of carers feel that their health is worse as a result of the strain of caring, but only 27 per cent are able to find time to visit the GP.

So maybe the next time you see a daughter or husband accompanying their mother or wife, think about whether they might benefit from an assessment.

Might they need treatment for a MSK issue, manual handling training, equipment and/or back care or stress management advice?

But as 95 per cent of carers ‘cover up’ that their health is suffering, it might not be easy to identify.

Natasha Azzopardi is an injury prevention specialist with Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust

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Natasha Azzopardi

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