What I learned during Carers Week
by Ruth Bravery Director of Community Involvement
I met some amazing people during carers week.
I'd like to pay tribute to the people who did everything in their power to give someone they cared about the best care possible at the end of their life. I heard stories of such determination and courage in the face of horrendously difficult situations. All the people whose stories I heard talked at times about the things that could have been done so much better by health and social care providers. I was particularly struck to hear three separate stories about the serious issues that can arise when someone has motor neurone disease. The person doing the caring described the arrangements for care in the home as like something out of a Monty Python sketch. However it was far from funny, with some particularly hairy moments when the emergency response professionals were unaware how to manage a patient with non-invasive ventilation. I think all of us who work in health and social care need to challenge ourselves to match the courage and determination shown by people who are caring for someone, and make things better for people who are dying and those who are caring for them. The particular lesson was to listen to the carer and patient, who really did know best. So it was interesting to finish my week at the Marie Curie Hospice, Bradford. I met a team of Marie Curie nursing and hospice staff who were providing carers with a terrific personal two-hour session. The session covered everything from money worries, information and complementary therapy to help with relaxation. Interestingly, even though they were caring for someone who was already a patient at the hospice (and therefore the patient was already accessing good quality care), the needs of the person doing the caring had not really been met previously. These special sessions therefore seemed to have a big impact in helping these carers deal with some of the huge challenges they were facing. It was a stark reminder for me that there is still a huge gap in meeting the needs of people doing the caring. I would suggest we start by simply asking and listening.