This article was originally published by The Croydon Citizen on 05/04/2016
The reality of being a Croydon carer
After outliving both parents in adulthood and observing responses and reactions under those circumstances, it was apparent to me that the state of being a carer and caring presents itself in varying degrees. Taking care of someone requires perseverance, strength and patience with added good humour. Not everyone has the capacity to do it. The tasks vary according to the causes of caring responsibilities: physical disability, mental health issues, learning difficulties and so on. I have observed sometimes that the hardest disabilities are the ones that you cannot see, and they are usually harder to explain to others.
It is very easy to not acknowledge yourself as being a carer, especially when those that you care for are loved ones. Within a family it is expected and ingrained behaviour to care for each other. It is only when finding support elsewhere that your role is clearly labelled. So it never surprises me when I meet someone who says that they are looking after their mum or dad or partner and yet do not define themselves as a carer and miss out on the support and opportunities to which they are entitled.
Sacrifices are part of caring too. What many take for granted is extremely precious for carers: I always find that time is a great commodity that I never have enough of, and it goes too fast. Therefore respite is a necessity, not only to do what you wish in your free time but also to have a break. Everyone needs rest, especially carers. It is vital to have an activity or hobby as well as a caring role, as it gives a sense of added value to you as a person and increases self esteem.
The Whitgift Foundation’s Carers Information Centre in George Street and the Autism Family/Parent Support group, which is affiliated with Croydon Care Solutions Autism Service, do offer support. Such groups lessen the isolation often experienced by carers, which can happen at any time.
My local group at the Carers Support Centre, which was recently disbanded due to cuts, hopes to be resurrected at some point this year as it is greatly needed, especially by those who cannot attend during the day. Many support services have been cut or closed down. But as important as it is to emphasise caring for others, it is just as important to care for yourself. The truth is that we are all carers, by some definition or another, at some point in our lives.
By Loren Dixon