May 2017 Blog – Who Cares?
Derbyshire has an estimated 118,000 unpaid carers who provide care and vital support for family members or friends. That’s more than one in ten of the population whose loved ones simply couldn’t manage without their help. It’s an important role that will fall to three in five of us at some time during our lives.
Working in a community pharmacy means we often get to know the people who come in and learn who looks after who by seeing the prescription they bring in or collect. In day-to-day interactions we get a feel for how they are coping and are able to offer advice and support where needed. These are our opportunities to try to spot if the carer is being affected by the stresses and strains of their responsibilities which may be beginning to wear them down and affect their health.
A key part of what community pharmacy does for these carers or the person they care for is signposting – not called an ‘essential service’ for nothing. Whilst we can help answer queries on medication, or provide healthy living advice, other agencies have a vital role to play. In particular, Local Authorities who provide key public services and support for carers:
- Derby City Council – http://www.derby.gov.uk/health-and-social-care/carers/
- Derbyshire County Council – http://www.carersinderbyshire.org.uk
Unfortunately, the demand for services, particularly from the elderly, is only going to increase, because of demographic changes. In a recent report, Future of an Ageing Population, it was stated that as well as an increase in the amount of ill health, population ageing would mean a greater prevalence of age-related conditions. In fact, the ‘oldest old’, who have a substantial risk of requiring long-term care, are the fastest growing age group in the UK.
Increasingly, there is a move to transfer care into the community in an attempt to reduce people’s reliance on hospitals, nursing homes and other high-cost services. This not only shifts costs, but further shifts responsibility onto families and communities. None of this will work unless there are enough unpaid carers willing and able to respond to the demands.
There are many ways in which unpaid carers can help:
- Personal needs – help with cooking, washing, etc.
- Practical – shopping, changing light bulbs, mowing the lawn, etc.
- Finances – ensuring bills are paid, appropriate benefits claimed (if applicable)
- Emotional – a listening ear, somebody to sit and chat with
- Supervisory – help with taking medicines and monitoring changes in health
- Personal Assistant (PA) – manage GP and hospital appointments,
The amount of support required will vary according to individual needs and circumstances, but will, in all likelihood, increase over time. This generally means an increasing burden for the carer and can lead to difficulties if their own health suffers.
The one thing that is certain is that it’s not an easy job. Caring can be stressful and have a negative impact on the carer and, when asked, around 85% of carers say that their responsibilities have affected their mental and physical health. When a carer can no longer cope it can lead to an emergency situation. Therefore, it’s vital that the carer looks after their personal health and wellbeing.
As community pharmacists we can help to support this in these ever changing and challenging times. If we can care for the carer then we really can be a vital part of the community in which we work and live.
Chairman, Derbyshire LPC