Carers can only care well if they are cared for – that is one of the messages to come out of the Sussex Caring for the Carers 2017 conference at Brighton and Sussex Medical School last Thursday.
To celebrate Carers Week, the conference invited local researchers to share what they are doing to support carers who care for people with a wide range of conditions, ranging from disabled children, to those with mental health issues and people with cancer and dementia. Speakers included researchers from the Universities of Sussex and Brighton, along with carers involved with research.
“Throughout the day several key themes emerged again and again,” said Research Fellow Cassie Hazell, who organised the day. “Firstly, that carers are a vital part of our society and healthcare system – but are rarely given the recognition they deserve. And secondly, how important the carer’s quality of life is on the wellbeing of the person being cared for. If the carer feels unable to cope and take care of themselves, they won’t be able to provide the best care for their loved one. It’s essential that support and services are put in place to support carers.”
“Carers themselves play a key role in shaping meaningful research, through participating in lived experience advisory panels, along with taking part in research itself.”
The often unrecognised toll that caregiving can take on carers was another recurrent theme of the day. Dr Carl Walker, a psychologist from the University of Brighton worked with 18 parent carers of children with ADHD on a programme to create a support network – he spoke of his surprise when he learned that all 18 were on antidepressants.
But participants were also reminded that on the flipside caring can also bring real rewards, in terms of both personal growth of the care giver, and moments of joy spent with their care recipient.
BSMS Communications Manager and carer Julie Wilton, who attended the event said: “Caring for a disabled child has had a massive impact on every aspect of my life. For me it was particularly valuable to hear other carers’ experiences at the conference, and to feel that I’m not alone. I hope that some of the exciting research we heard about will translate into better support for carers, enabling them to provide the best care that they can.”
Attendees were able to visit a ‘marketplace’ of stalls by local organisations providing support for carers during break times.