Coping as a carer during Coronavirus, a personal take

Being an unpaid carer can be hard at the best of times; add into that the uncertainty around an invisible virus whose name we did not even know until late 2019, and the caring role just became a whole lot more challenging. I know because I am an unpaid carer. 

We are living through unprecedented times. Tough decisions must be made by Government, by health and social care authorities and local and national voluntary organisations. These decisions are not made on a whim or to ‘get at the public’.  They are made for the greater good of all of us and our health. We can complain and rage against authority, but what does that achieve? It adds to anxiety, it spreads untruths, it slows down processes trying to help.

So how am I coping?

Well I’m following the advice for a start. Hard as it is to be isolating it must be done. I’m trying to support my husband through this while his face-to-face support service moves to telephone support and reduced hours. I am keeping in touch with my elderly parents via telephone – digital age has passed them by. I take them essentials, a round trip of 130 miles, once a week and wave through a window to them. These are difficult times indeed.

Finding yourself constantly checking social media or TV for updates? Try not to do this. I know it’s natural to want information, but some of that is not helpful information and just raises worry and anxiety levels. I take a break from it all. I find watching some movies or comedy shows really takes me away from the situation, and it also helps my husband relax. Music is great as well, if it is lively music. Move around to the music, encourage the person you care for to do the same if possible, moving is a way of getting some exercise.

Get information when you can. Check out the latest guidance on Coronavirus. 

Changes to the way support is provided

If you are concerned about changes being made to the way support is provided remember that these changes are only for the duration of this national medical emergency. Talk to someone at a local carer service. I miss my one-to-one contact with fellow carers and support worker, so I keep in touch via email or phone. 

I write down how I am feeling and put it in a jar to be dealt with later. When I return to the jar sometimes the worry is not that great anymore. Other times I know it is something I will deal with when life gets back to normality. 

I am realistic, there are only so many things I can control and deal with. Accepting what you can control is essential. We can worry about reduced support, but we can’t do anything about that at this critical time because services are facing the same issues, we all are. I have to trust the people running services to be making the best decisions, not just for me, my husband and my parents, but for all of us. Get more information about local carer services and other types of support on this website.

Mental health support in Scotland

The Scottish Government’s Mental Health Secretary has just announced £3.8 million to increase the capacity of NHS 24’s online and telephone services. Part of this, £2.6 million is to expand Breathing Space, NHS 24’s Mental Health Hub, and £1.2 million to provide extra capacity for Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).  Last year when I was off work due to carer stress, I used this computerised CBT and have to admit I found it easy to use and very helpful. Find out more about Breathing Space. Tel: 0800 83 85 87.

There will also be a dedicated page on mental health support on the NHS Inform website as part of new measures announced.

Mental health support from organisations across the UK

  • For those caring for someone with an eating disorder, or if you have an eating disorder, get support and advice from Beat Eating Disorders.
  • For those caring for someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or if you have OCD,  tips on how to keep well can be found on the OCD UK website.
  • People with autism or carers of people with autism can contact Scottish Autism which provides advice via email and a call-back service.  
  • Or find information on the National Autistic Society’s website.
    The Mental Health Foundation provides generic advice including information for example, on staying connected with family and friends, being active, stress management and on keeping a daily routine
  • For children and young people in Scotland, YoungScot has published an online resource containing advice, and also links to other help and support.
  • You will also find lots of information about Coronavirus wherever you are in the UK on The Mix.

This information has been put together by a member of Carers Trust Scotland staff.

Date revised: 02/04/2020