I have worked as a community nurse since 1997, working with patients at home. I have had several roles within district nursing and hospice care but all of these roles have involved working closely with carers.
I have often found that lots of the care given at home comes from relatives, friends and neighbours. Sadly, resources from local authorities do not often stretch to 24-hour care at home and without these wonderful relatives, friends and neighbours carrying out caring duties, many patients wouldn’t be able to stay at home. Yet nearly half of cancer carers report that caring impacts on their emotional wellbeing and mental health. (1) Carers sometimes need a listening ear to feel that someone cares about them too. Also to feel appreciated for what they do and that they are doing their best. It is paramount that nurses do all they can to support these carers, including assessing their needs.
But my role is not just about supporting carers, it’s about working together with them. By doing so, we can often help the patients live with their condition at home for longer. Lots of patients that die at home could not be at home without their carers. However, this doesn’t come without its challenges. Sometimes I feel like a peacekeeper. I might have to persuade the patient that the carer needs a rest. Patients also often confide in me and ask me to have a 'word' with the carer about something. This can be tricky when the carer feels they know best but they might be doing something that goes against my professional judgement. However all nurses must try to listen and respect the carer’s view. It is important for the nurse to offer education to carers in a non-judgemental way at a level they can understand. This can be hard as time is often limited due to high workloads but taking this time to build up a good rapport can be invaluable to all involved.
How has working with carers affected me and my career? I would say it has often restored my faith in human beings. Neighbours that have gone the extra mile, estranged partners that have reunited to care for a loved one and people that have put their life on hold and often neglected their own health. These are just a few examples of why I continue to work in the community with patients and carers.
As a nurse if you can do your best to support the patient and their carers I believe this is when you can truly make a difference.
No one should face caring alone. For advice on how to support carers please download our guidance for professionals on identifying and signposting carers at: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/supportingcarers
About carers week
Carers week, which takes place between 8-14th June, is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges carers face and recognise their contribution. This year, Carers UK has come together with five other major charities: Age UK, Carers Trust, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support and MS Society – to focus on building carer-friendly communities. These are communities that support carers to look after their loved ones, while recognising that they are individuals with needs of their own.
The carers week charities are here to help nurses. We can be somewhere they can refer carers to for expert information and advice, and we can provide a range of local support services for carers and their families. We’re encouraging nurses and health professionals to think about how they can support carers and how they can work with carers and the carers week charities to create a carer-friendly health system. Carers week 2015 wouldn’t be possible without our sponsors Sainsbury’s, Nutricia and the Lockwood Charitable Foundation.
Twitter: @CarersWeek #CarersWeek
1. Ream E et al. ‘I’m just in the shadow to keep an eye’ – an investigation to understand the need for support in family members of people having chemotherapy. King’s College London. 2012.
Macmillan nurse consultant
Sarah Bache is the expert blogger for the Nursing in Practice cancer resource section.
Sarah has been a qualified nurse since 1995 and is currently a Macmillan Nurse Consultant at John Taylors Hospice in Birmingham. Sarah first trained as a district nurse before becoming a Macmillan community specialist nurse.
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