*** Navigating your way whilst supporting someone ***

Our lives are busy. When asked “How are you?” in the lift or on the podium, the chances of an automatic response “I’m well” or “Good, thanks” are pretty high from a fellow resident.

Underneath the surface of the automatic response, though, we might uncover the number of residents who, on top of their day jobs, suddenly find themselves looking after someone. Perhaps a resident is helping a neighbour recovering from a stroke or a fall.  Perhaps another resident is dutifully looking after their partner diagnosed with dementia or cancer.

For just a moment imagine you are the resident in one of the situations above. Where is the first place you look for information on how to handle the next steps? Do you dust down a deteriorating copy of the Britannica Encyclopaedia, ask Google or Alexa? You may be able to easily find the prognosis of the diagnosis.  You may start to mentally prepare for the changes ahead. How effective is Google in finding the resources you need on your doorstep here in the City?  This is where City Carers Community fits in. With our collective lived experience of City groups, which services are for whom and how to engage. If the person you look after isn’t in the City we can also point you in the right direction.

If you find yourself taking the person to appointments, helping with shopping, helping around the house or you are a general listening ear or company – you may be a carer.

The NHS England definition of who is considered a carer is as follows: “A carer is anyone, including children and adults who look after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support. The care they give is unpaid.”

The 2020 Census (carer results were released on January 19th 2023) revealed that over 500 of us in the City of London self-identify as a carer.

Paid vs unpaid/informal carers

To address the elephant in the room – what was your first thought when you read “carer”?  Did you think of someone in a blue uniform visiting clients on the estate?  The most common misconception is that a carer is a paid healthcare worker. Over time homecare staff were shortened to “carer”. This not only confuses an already murky pond for the public, but it also ensures most of us in the Barbican would not naturally identify ourselves as “carers”.

The Care Act 2014, was designed for the Local Authorities & Corporation of London to look after the health and well-being of those that look after someone, where the caregiving is unpaid.  The entry point into the City recognising you as a carer is via a carers assessment.

Are you a carer?

Some of the most common phrases we hear at City Carers community start with “I am not a carer but I look after…”. For example: “I am not a carer but I look after my husband with severe asthma”, “I am not a carer but I look after my child with mental health needs” or “I am not a carer but I look after my father with mild memory loss and he lives 100 miles away”.

In all of the examples above the individual is most definitely a carer if the care they provide is over 35 hours a week. If there are any children in the household they too are classed as young carers.

Are you already registered as a carer?

Check with your GP, be it the Neaman Practice, the Clerkenwell medical centre or online GP. Ask if you are registered as a carer in your GP record and also in the records of the person you look after. 

Advantages at your GP

Bit by bit GPs are trialling different ways to support carers. One of the main benefits we found is the ability to request back-to-back appointments for you and the person you care for. Another benefit is being able to speak to the GP on behalf of the person you are caring for without them needing to be there. The same principle applies to hospital records.

Who we are

We are a community group and we started in April 2020 during the height of the pandemic as a means to share and learn from each other the information we needed as carers, from priority lists to social support. We are the only resident-led group for unpaid carers across the City to be part of the imagine fund.

Within the group there is a wealth of collective information sharing.  It is priceless being able to speak with other residents who are a few steps ahead of you in experience.  Our community provides relief – knowing you are not on your own.  We normally meet up on Zoom.

Through our collective voice, we also raise the profile of unpaid carers in the City with our local councillors. 

Recognising the gaps, we had the chance to attend parliamentary round tables for National Carers Week. I wonder if we can have a similar initiative in the City for  National Carers week from 5th -11th June 2023.

Changing the topic slightly, what happens if you live on your own and a neighbour/family member helps you with your shopping, or takes you to appointments, or helps filling in online forms? If the help they are providing you is not paid then they too may be a carer. They are welcome to contact us.

Perhaps you have had a lightbulb moment. Recognising yourself as being a carer – supporting perhaps your partner through a diagnosis / trauma / dementia / mental health / substance misuse.

Recognising the word carer is the key to opening up the doors of support for you.

Let us help you

Contact us to help you navigate your way through social services, NHS services, and community services whilst supporting someone. The Zoom sessions are open to any City resident who is caring for someone, and similarly for anyone caring for someone who lives in the City.

We host Zoom sessions on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Mondays of each month at 11 am or 8 pm for an hour. Individual 1 to 1 Zoom times are also available by appointment.

To join the Zoom sessions or to receive a summary of the session or to ask us a question for the next session or just for further information, please email: CityCarersCommunity@gmail.com.

City Carers Community – Navigating your way whilst supporting someone , by Shirley Islam – City Carers Community” published in the spring issue 2023 Barbican Life magazine