Thursday, 12 January 2017

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Coping with Caring

As a group, our caring responsibilities were diverse, reflecting our individual circumstances, for instance, some of us were caring for elderly parents, others had dependent children (both young and adult) with additional needs, or partners with their own significant and long-term health needs.

It was clear that the implications of 'caring' go way beyond looking after a loved one who is ill. The most challenging circumstances appeared to be when a family member experienced their own struggles, including their physical and mental health, and are very dependent upon us. For some of us, especially those with secondary breast cancer, and those of us managing ongoing health difficulties, adopting a position of acceptance, seemed the only - and best - way forward. Acceptance is relative though, as we have a varying ability to influence the way we can shape our near and distant futures.

Naz emphasised that when we are confronted with the role of caring for a significant other, it is inevitable that we need more emotional and physical support, because we implicitly tend to put our needs second, and focus our energy on our loved one. The accumulative effect on us of meeting these needs can be draining, even if we are caring for people we care deeply about, and increases our vulnerability.

Naz also explained that there is research to show that vulnerable carers are at most risk of developing clinical conditions, even though they may find it rewarding to look after their loved ones. Even more challenging is how this relationship sits with the outside world, especially at times of celebrations, including Christmas, when we are encouraged, as one of our members put it so eloquently, to 'see the world through rose tinted glasses' and yet our reality may feel very different.

As carers, our balance shifts and we can end up undermining any new hopes and initiatives in favour of our altruistic passion to care for those dependent on us, a problem that is exaggerated if the person we care for is in our immediate family.

It was apparent from the huge responsibilities described by our members that carers need more recognition and support. We heard stories of love, strength and resourcefulness from women supporting and caring for others, while quietly and privately dealing with their own struggles. As carers, we are in need of more attention, comfort and resilience and while in reality this can feel immensely difficult, we shared that creating even small spaces to nurture ourselves as well as being able to share our feelings with others was incredibly helpful.


Many thanks to Diane for allowing us to use this wonderful photograph

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