Covid-19 and caring; What have we learned about Caring during the Covid-19 pandemic?

The last year has marked a change in history, how we navigate daily life, communicate with our loved ones, and maintain access to the support we need. It has been challenging, as working from home became the norm, schools closed their doors, and essential services became harder to access than before. As we stood on our doorsteps clapping for NHS carers, who have navigated us through this pandemic, another group we need to recognise, and who North Tyneside Carers’ Centre have continued to support through the last year are the unpaid carers. You. The hidden carers of Covid-19.

Carers UK reported that there were 9.1 million unpaid carers across the UK prior to the Pandemic, and Covid-19 has led to another 4.5 million people who are new to caring since the pandemic begun. Many carers also juggle work and caring responsibilities, alongside looking after their own physical and mental health.

In the past 12 months carers have told us that they have not had a break from their caring role, you feel exhausted and many carers have reported a significant impact in their emotional wellbeing. Whilst many people welcomed the slower pace of life that came with the first lockdown, carers report experiencing intense feelings of loneliness and isolation, as many local services were closed. According to recent research by the Alzheimer’s Society looking at the experience of dementia carers, carers were already likely to be seven times more lonely than the average person prior to Covid, with restrictions, shielding and anxiety about catching or passing on the virus, intensifying these feelings. Many day care centres and other respite facilities were closed during the first lockdown, meaning many of you were faced with caring for your loved one with little to no support. Sadly, there has been an increase in bereavement, directly impacting carers, who are often caring for the most vulnerable to the virus. At North Tyneside Carers’ Centre we recognised this, and developed a bereavement support group, to give carers the opportunity to meet others in similar situations to their own, so you can guide each other through the challenging, turbulent and often confusing times of Covid-19.

A Carer Said: The Carers’ Centre has been like the back bone for carers, I am so pleased to have found you as the support has been a massive help and I no longer feel like I am floundering. The regular calls during lockdown have really helped”.

As we moved our offices home, our focus was always on supporting carers, ensuring you have contact, and can participate in activities as you would in person. Many carers have been unable to access groups online, so phone calls as many carers have identified, became a life line. We know that restrictions easing will cause anxiety and worry for many, is it safe? Will attending the day centre be okay? Can people to come into my home again? Will I be okay traveling on public transport? Many carers have rarely left home or the person they care for in a year, so adjusting into the life we knew before will take some time. In time groups and activities will resume in person, at a pace you are comfortable with. Carers have become the backbone to society, you have done remarkable things, in circumstances we’ve never seen before. It is now time you are recognised.

Carers recognise the value of being able to meet others online, the year and journey many carers have experiences, and importance of being given the time, and to be listened to.

One Carer told us; “We have had such a difficult time during COVID lockdown trying to access support and PPE. Thank you for your tenacity and support, can’t thank you enough”. Another Carer added; Really enjoyed the online wellbeing session this afternoon. It seems like everyone engaged with it and enjoyed it.  l’m looking forward to the next one.”

We will be sending a survey out to all carers in mid May, on behalf of North Tyneside’s Carers Partnership board, to gather more research about  the impact and what support carers need coming through and beyond the pandemic.  Please look out for this and have your say on the support you need.