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Who Cares for the Carer?

An article in the BACP magazine ”Therapy Today” dealt with the problem of people suffering a long term illness being at increased risk of suffering from depression.

The problem is well documented and completely understandable. Their illness has probably robbed the patient of any prospect of a long, meaningful and happy life. All too often there is also the added burden of progressive physical or mental disability. No wonder then that a person in this situation may feel that life has been unfair and there you have fertile ground for depression to take root and develop.

Not only does this create an additional burden for the sufferer to bear but it does the same for those caring for them.

Professional carers will have the training and resources to deal with all this efficiently and as effectively as is possible. However for many sufferers a large part of their care relies upon non-professional carers in their own homes. At home they are looked after by a spouse, son, daughter or other family member. Of course the medical professionals and social services have their roles in the patients care, but for the majority of the time the main, non-professional carers have to cope as best they can.

As a result they are often left feeling isolated and out of their depth. In my role as a therapist with an interest in pain management, I see people who are desperate for some form of relief from the pain of arthritis, cancer, rheumatism or other debilitating disease.

Hypnotherapy can be of wonderful benefit in helping to control the pain, Not only improving mobility but also helping to keep a positive attitude to their illness which in turn helps with alleviating the potentially damaging psychological effects.

All too often though, I feel that it is the carer who actually needs help the most. Frequently overlooked working quietly in the background, his or her life has been turned upside down by their partner”s or parent”s illness. Taking on the responsibility of becoming the carer may have meant giving up work. They will almost certainly have had to sacrifice their own social life and ambitions.

They will have lost contact with friends, for whom they no longer have time and seen their future dreams turn to dust. So often they take on this role willingly out of love for the ailing relative, but with precious little outside support.

In the case of terminal illness, these valiant people will be expected to ”soldier on” afterwards. Not only do they have to cope with the loss of a loved one but, in many cases, they are left feeling that their purpose in life has also gone. So much of their lives have been spent caring for a loved one that the death of that loved one leaves an enormous gap to fill and too often the carer loses the incentive to look after themselves.

So let’s hear it for the army of carers out there, the unpaid cooks, cleaners and launderers, who selflessly give so much of themselves, providing emotional, psychological and physical support.

These are the people who desperately need help, but seldom ask for it.

If you know someone in this position, take the time to ask how they are. They will probably claim to be fine thanks, one copes you know! Don’t take that response at face value, try and find out what they really need and how you can help. You may not get very far at first but simply maintaining that contact and letting them know you are there can be so important.

Of course professional help is available and if you would like to comment on, or talk about any issues raised here, our contact details are here. Do get in touch!

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