According to Carers UK statistics there are 6.5 million carers in the UK. That’s more than the population of Scotland, where I live. It’s more than the populations of Wales and Northern Ireland combined. It’s even more than the audience who settle down on Sunday evenings to watch the new series of Poldark.
We’re a not-so-small army. But we’re a remarkably low-profile army. We don’t figure highly in the political, economic or cultural conversations of the day.
Of course, there’s a lot going on in the world right now. But when you put us all together, carers do one helluva job – a job that is a vital to our communities and our health and social care systems. We’re hardly insignificant.
As the UK population ages, as modern medicine is able to treat serious health conditions and injuries in ways that previous generations couldn’t, then the number of people requiring care is only going to increase. The demands on families, communities and health professionals are only to get greater too. Frankly, as a society, I don’t think we’re even beginning to get to grips with this. We’re barely even having the necessary conversations, never mind working out some solutions.
I think that’s worth taking about. But in our fast-paced world, being an unpaid carer isn’t really sexy, cool or adventurous enough to keep the media’s attention for very long.
There are organisations, such as Carers UK and The Carers’ Trust, who do a good job of putting carers first and working to raise awareness of just exactly what it is we do and the challenges we face. Last week was Carers Week and that brought some articles in the national and regional press and a few profiles on the TV news. Now we are into Something-Else-Week and carers will slip back into the shadows.
Based purely on what I’ve heard from other carers, I suspect most of us are simply too darned tired and harassed to put pen to paper (or fingertip to keyboard).
Most carers I know spend virtually all their time and energy simply keeping the whole show on the road – washing, dressing, feeding, cooking, shopping, cleaning, fetching, carrying….
I think that’s why our profile isn’t higher. We’re too busy with the day job to be shouting from the rooftops, canvassing our politicians and policymakers, staking our claim to the service providers, making our voices heard.
I’m proud to be a carer. And I may not be sexy or cool or adventurous, but I still count. And I have something to say.
In the cacophony of the modern world I hope this blog can at least make one more carer’s voice be heard.
We shouldn’t be a silent army forever.