Carers – we can be like ninja’s ; ruthlessly efficient where it comes to tasks relating to our cared for, committed despite enduring testing and difficult circumstances and pretty much undetectable. There, the similarity between me and a ninja ends – if you’ve met me you’ll know I can’t do anything undetected, bit too big.
But what I’m getting at is that we don’t have a jester suit saying ‘carer’, we don’t have a t-shirt even, not even a hanky with it on, nothing. Even if someone handed me a t-shirt with ‘carer’ on the front would I wear it? Probably not, I can’t wear that for the day job so it’s no use to me, it’d show ‘i’m vulnerable’. Good luck spotting me then.
Do I need to be spotted as being a carer? If you ask me, I’d probably have said not around 5 years ago. I would’ve said no thanks, I can handle it all myself thanks.
5 years ago tonight I would have been bedside at Royal Preston Hospital, as we had been for over 90 nights by that stage at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and Preston with a very poorly newborn Isaac. He was about 4 weeks post tracheostomy at that stage. I’d have had no idea what the following years held. So I would have been a carer in the making, a future carer hiding in plain view, but not even thinking about me (or us, as in me and my wife) as it was, rightly, all about Isaac. I would have told anyone who may have suggested we need support to get lost. Which, even if they had opened that conversation once, would have counted as a ‘would not engage’ in someones records.
Time went on, and as I’ve written on here before, I went under. I was still hiding but by this stage I was hiding under a pile of caring. I came into contact with my GP several times, but the connection between caring responsibilities and being depression was never something that the GP connected. Did I need to be spotted? Yes, at that stage I did. Had someone said ‘you really need to realise that being in your position is bound to string you out’ I would have probably agreed. I remained hidden.
So, where do services expect to find these elusive carers? There’s a lot of talk about early identification and prevention, I totally agree but in order to identify a carer you need the awareness to underpin the sharpness of your vision. It’s the ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ situation. A hundred carers could be missed by just one pair of eyes in a key professional who knows that there ‘a strategy on carer identification’ but doesn’t know how to spot the glimpses of ‘carer’ coming through the camouflage of someone who has other presenting problems.
Ok you can build assessment tools to raise that acuity but i’ve yet to find, or use, a checklist that can replace some well grounded understanding and professional empathy around an issue. So let’s not over simplify the issue by saying it’s possible to systemically solve – you may garner minds but you’ll not engage hearts or fire a passion to make things better, to spot the little things that will lead to engagement, to draw out the hidden ninja carers.