When does caring become Caring?

Sounds like a riddle, I apologise for that but there is a difference.

The thing is, there is an difference to me between caring and Caring. And it’s not just hitting the shift key before ‘c’. Its about the whole label of being a carer, or Carer.

You see, to my three boys they reckon i’m an idiot  just dad.  I’m not a carer, or indeed a Carer. I’m just him who makes breakfast, him who takes us to nursery or school, him who intervenes when we’re fighting, him who does the stuff dads do.  To my wife, Lynsey i’m no more a carer in her eyes than she is in mine. I’m a dad, a husband. Not even a carer with a little ‘c’.

Then there’s times when I realise i’m actually a carer, little ‘c’.

  • When my head is like a filing cabinet that has fallen over and i’m balancing organising the whole circus of professionals that surround Isaac, remembering to make his meds up, battling to get the resources that he needs (note ; not the resources he ‘wants’ – this is a crucial thing about us parents with children with disabilities, its about battling for needs not wants), working Mon – Fri on the ‘day job’, getting Jake to rugby and football and so on.  There’s the occasional moment where you sit there and think ‘ this isn’t ‘dad-dom’ this is ‘carer-dom’ because without Isaac having disabilities I’d only be carrying about half as much in my head at any given time.  Thats me being a carer, small ‘c’.
  • When my chin goes down and I convince myself that the world is a dark place with threats in every alley and that there’s a fight for every threat real or imagined.  That’s not the true me, thats the effect of the depression that the massive overload of everything else has caused me to experience sometimes.  How do I know that? Because I never felt that until 5 yrs ago.  That’s the effect of caring, small ‘c’.

So caring is basically a synonym for my life, as much as being a dad or husband is.  I know no other life – I don’t long for a ‘B.C’ (before caring) life because that would be to in some way wish to paint Isaac out.

With a big ‘C’ Caring is a whole lot different.  When people talk about ‘Carers’ it can be almost like if you put a lot of little ‘c’ carers together they become ‘Carers’.  We’re a homogenous group when we come together in some people’s eyes. We’re thankfully decades on from people talking about ‘the disabled’ as a group but sometimes when you look at the media there is presentation that ‘Carers’ are this same sort of subgroup.

Without doubt if you put a group of Carer’s together then I’d guess there’s some baseline similarities :

  • Exhaustion – physical, emotional, mental, whichever.  I don’t honestly think that any carer wakes each day 100% refreshed and with every aspect of their resilience recharged ready for another day.
  • Difficult experiences with agencies involved with the person they care for – I say ‘difficult’ because profanity wouldn’t be diplomatic.
  • Commitment – you can’t be a half baked carer.  You are or you are not.  ‘I’m a bit of a carer for my son’ – you’ll never hear that. The carers with a little c are the people who give everything.  ‘Effort is between you and you’ as Ray Lewis said and the effort required to give what you need for the person you care for is something nobody else aside from that person will see or care less about.

But that’s just my view.  I’ve sat in rooms full of carers at Carers events and aside from those baselines i’ve guessed at there’s not much else defines us.

Parent carers, sibling carers, husbands caring for wives or vice versa, young carers- all those sub group labels contain tens of thousands of stories and real people.  Go further and it may be carers dealing with dementia, a relative or partner’s mental health, a child caring for a parent who can’t face the world without a drink.   For policy makers and media I understand you need to rationalise the chaos of our carer lives and you want to categorise, file, organise.  The one plea I have is realise that when you say Carers you realise that there’s millions of individual stories in there, people who most of the time don’t realise they are even carers with a little ‘c’ because it’s their life.  Use grouping carefully and usefully to effect change for carers, as much as for Carers.

Im a carer who’s job made me get over any anxiety of talking in front of groups and with a passion to help other carers (blokes especially) realise that it’s ok to talk about being a carer. I’ve spent a lot of time this last few months being a Carer Champion (or other such titles depending on where i’ve spoken) and it worries me that when I tell my families story that people think I am a Carer not a carer. I talk because I want to cause people to think about other carers.  I want male carers to be reassured that the sky doesn’t fall in if you admit you’re struggling and you need help.

This week there’s going to be clips of my dulcet Boltonian accent going out on Radio 2 at different points as part of Carers Week.  My main hope is simple ; that one bloke who is a carer (not ‘Male Carers’ – too big a label….) may hear it and get help before he goes under like I did with depression.  One person. One little ‘c’ carer.  If us Carers can all benefit by proxy then beltin’ as we say up here nr Wigan, but really, one person at a time is fine with me.

3 thoughts on “When does caring become Caring?

  1. A very useful read. I heard Rick Bolton speak at the Carers Support Cumbria Summit on 10 June 2010 and listened with interest as he commented on the experience as a Carer acting as a relay between health and care professionals in ensuring the best care for Isaac within timescales. His work on men’s mental health was also very interesting.

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