We would be utterly remiss if we did not feature the voices of real carers in the run up to Carers Rights Day. It is their needs and experiences which must inform any efforts by others to improve their health and wellbeing. Freda McEwen cares for her 20-year old son Tony who has autism. She is a former trustee of Carers UK and runs a non-profit organisation in her local area. She believes that, with the right support, carers can aspire to full and rewarding lives.
Caring for my son who is now 20 years old and was diagnosed at the age of four is a role that has become second nature to me.
Initially, caring for my son was very tough as I was ignorant of where - and how - I could find help. After some time, I recognised my caring role and sought support from Carers UK who directed me to practical help and told me about the financial support I could receive.
Once I identified as a carer, I found services were much more understanding of my role. My GP was very helpful, supporting me by ensuring that I received health checks every 6 months and the flu jab. My workplace also recognised my caring role and gave me a few days extra annual leave.
It was tough working and being a carer, especially in a demanding work environment, but the measures my employer put in place to support me really helped. I was allowed to have a flexible working pattern and they understood if I had to leave early to go to meetings about Tony’s behaviour.
I had a carer’s assessment when he turned 16. This helped me to understand the potential impact of caring on my health. It also enabled me to look at my needs rather than concentrate only on Tony’s, as I had done previously.
Caring can be isolating. However, volunteering for Carers UK enabled me to meet other carers who were thriving in their roles and saw it as a privilege, as I do.
With support, I have been able to do a lot of things I have always wanted to do – I have published three books and I now run a non-profit organisation in my local area.
I would like to emphasise that with the right support - and positive networks - a carer can aspire to reach their full potential.