Hi my name is Hannah, I am 25 years old and I am a carer for my mother with Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. I have been a carer for the past 10 years and I am proud to represent carers as a member of the NHS Youth Forum.
Being a carer has its rewards and challenges. My mother and I have an amazing relationship and facing the challenges that her health condition brings together with my sister have made us strong, resilient and it's been a reminder not to take the special moments for granted, especially with a progressive condition.
However, it does present its challenges; especially around employment, mental health and finances. I have often had to turn down work because my pay would go over the Carer's Allowance threshold and I would have to do loads more work hours to make the same equivalent financially. This does not help carers progress in their careers as they have to turn down extra work/training which would be beneficial for their personal wellbeing and career to financially stay afloat and support their loved ones.
As a carer, despite the worrying number of carers experiencing difficulties with mental health, services are often disjointed making navigating various systems within the NHS and Adult Social Care very hard. I get support from my local carers hub which during lockdown has provided numerous classes including a book club and dance classes and a focus group session with my local MP Caroline Lucas. I am also going to learn guitar through a volunteer programme with the hub which I am very excited about!
Online support for carers during lockdown is invaluable to the health and wellbeing of carers. That social interaction and connection with others that are facing similar issues to yourself makes you feel inspired and less isolated. My advice for other carers is to keep taking those vital breaks. In lockdown without our usual support networks it can be easy to over exert yourself and keep going but to look after others you have to look after yourself!