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Welcome to the Carers’ Hearts blog. For this festive post, I hope you can join me in celebrating how special you are, in caring for a loved one or friend, often without thanks or recognition. Wherever you are on your caring journey or in the world, even if you are not sure if the term carer refers to you, the act of caring for another human being, without a financial or tangible reward, is one of the most powerful and inspiring activities we, as a civilization, are capable of.

For much of the time as an unpaid or working caregiver, it can seem like a relentless, unforgiving, at times, almost an impossible role to fulfil. The emotional, psychological, physical and financial impact can be overwhelming and isolating, as if you are living in a world with billions of people, but you are alone, invisible to those around you living a ‘normal life’, where every day they get to choose what they want to do with their lives.

But running in parallel with the negative emotions such as guilt, resentment and grief, are so many more positive emotions, thoughts and feeling, experiences and opportunities of making memories, evoked by spending time and helping those we love and care for the most.

I am often asked questions about ‘who is a carer’, such as:

  • How long do you have to be caring for someone to be considered an unpaid carer?
  • How much time each week do you have to spend caring for a loved one to be a carer?
  • If you care remotely, perhaps from another country, are you still a carer?
  • If you only get shopping or pick-up prescriptions, are you still a carer?

From the research I conducted for my master’s dissertation and the hours spent reading carers posts and speaking to carers and those who support them, my answer to these, and to so many more questions about who, or even what an unpaid carer is…is it doesn’t matter!

It doesn’t matter how much physical time you spend caring or supporting a loved one or friend.

It doesn’t matter whether you live in the same home as them, see them once a day, week or month, or whether you arrange care and support from the other side of the world.

It doesn’t matter if you spend your time talking to them when they are struggling with their mental health or pop in with some much-needed medication or supplies.

Yes, there are different legal definitions of what an unpaid carer is depending on where you live in the world. But the point is, what you do is ACTUALLY made up of all those wonderful things you can’t really measure (although as humans we do like to try!).

Caring for another human being, for no obvious reward, is made up of:

love, respect and compassion.

hope, friendship and kindness.

selflessness, loyalty and meaning.  

But these are not just words, as words alone can’t define who you are as a caregiver.

These are values, and values and strengths are what make a carer so special, what makes you so special.  

If you are someone at the beginning of their pre-caring journey, what you read about and see ahead of you might seem daunting or even depressing and you may feel that you don’t have the strengths or skills to take on the role of an unpaid or working carer.

Yes, you do.

As an active caregiver, you may often forget or you don’t have the time to stop and reflect, on the sacrifices you make to ensure that you can provide the level of care your loved one or friend needs. When you do finally find some time for yourself, the last thing you will probably do is recognise what an amazing person you are and treat yourself with self-compassion and kindness.

But you should.

If the active phase of your journey has now ended, you may feel exhausted, both physically and psychologically and feel left adrift in a sea of emotions, unable to define or redefine who you are now. Almost like a dream, did you really do all that?

Yes, you did.

As I write this post at the end of a year that has brought me both sadness, in knowing so many people have lost their lives and privilege, to be able to start Carers’ Hearts CIC, with my co-founder, Lorna, and support other unpaid carers.  Whatever next year may bring me, I know that even if I am feeling sad, frustrated or filled with guilt, that I am not alone. I am proud to be part of an amazing, strong and compassionate, global caring family. I might not be able to see you, speak to you or give you a hug, but I know you are there and that gives me so much comfort and strength.

The image for this blog was me saying a big ‘Thank You’ to you for everything that you do. Please also know there is a special place in my heart for you and your loved one. It is a special place because there are no boundaries or limits, there is no judgement and whether you think you are a carer or not, you are always welcome.

So, sending you a virtual hug and all I ask for in return, is that promise me that every once in a while, you will stop for one moment, show yourself self-compassion and kindness and remember what a special person you are and what an amazing thing it is that you do.

As festive holidays can be a particularly challenging time of year, for anyone, not just carers, in the resources section below, I have shared some national organisations who are there to support you.

This is the last officialblog post for 2020, I can’t believe it has been six months already, the time shared with you has done so quickly, but it has been special. However, I am not done with 2020, just yet!

So, keep an eye on our blog and podcast pages for some bonus posts and episodes during the rest of December. In it, I share details about my Reset 2021 challenge starting on the 1st January, which I mentioned in the post on the 16th November, “Make mine a large one!”. If you think there is a negative habit you would like to reset in 2021, it doesn’t have to food or alcohol related, it could be anything that is negatively affecting your mental wellbeing, and you would like to join me, to make sure you don’t miss any of the details, please sign up to receive update emails at enquiries@carershearts.org (you can unsubscribe at any time).

The first episode in 2021, The 3 emotional and practical phases of the caring journey will be published on the 6th January. Every unpaid and working carer will experience the phases of the caring journey differently and with different emotional intensities. So, in this post I will be exploring the 3 main phases of the caring journey; pre-caregiver, active carer and post-caregiver, how even planning for the practical side of each phase can evoke strong thoughts and feelings and provide some exercises and activities to support you as you transition through the phases.   

Thank you so much for reading this post. As we enter this new kind of festive period, whether you celebrate Christmas or other special occasions throughout the year, remember, of course, what a special thing it is that you do.

Resources

Crisis Text Line – US, Canada, UK and Ireland

The Samaritans – Australia

The Samaritans – UK

The Samaritans – USA

Mental Health America

UK NHS Mental Health Helplines


Health Direct – Australian Mental Health Helplines

Marmalade Trust – Christmas Cheer

Music Composed by Michael Coltham – Black Lab Music

Black Lab  Music