Do You Care? report highlights the need to increase early identification and support for carers
by Maria Holmblad Patients’ and Families’ Involvement Co-ordinator On Tuesday evening, Macmillan Cancer Support held an interactive panel at the Royal College of Nursing for the launch of its campaign report “Do You Care?”. The report outlines recommendations for policy and decision makers to prioritise carers, of which there are 6.5 million in the UK1. The event brought together carers, health and social care professionals and charity partners to discuss and share thoughts on how to increase the early identification and support for carers. Juliet Bouverie, Director of Services and Influencing at Macmillan, opened the event by sharing some of the alarming statistics about carers in the UK – nationally, only 5% of carers receive a formal carer's assessment while 89% of healthcare professionals agree that carers will often neglect their own health when taking care of someone with cancer2. We then heard from Sharon Blinston, who has been caring for her mother for several years. Echoing the experiences of our Expert Voices Group, Sharon shared that she didn’t call or think of herself as a carer. Rather, she is her mother’s daughter and ‘support partner’. According to Sharon, this disinclination to self-identify as a carer leads to many missed opportunities to access information and support. An important question that arose from discussions around the tables was how best education and training for carers should be made available, given that many carers perform technical tasks with little support from the health and social care professionals or the government. James Drummond, who is Lead Officer for Integrated Services, Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care NHS Trust, highlighted the importance of making various forms of online learning available to carers. To begin to meet this need, Marie Curie has produced a range of new video guides on practical aspects of caring for someone at the end of their life. These will be available on our website from December. To close the event we were all asked to make a pledge about what we would commit to doing in order to support carers early on. Amongst those shared by the panel members was James Drummond's pledge to sit down and listen (without interrupting!) to five carers a month while Sharon Blinston pledged to help other carers who are on a similar journey to access support early on.