As an ageing population takes its toll on the NHS, and the number of people with co-morbidities is expected to rise to 2.9 million by 2018, more emotional and practical support needs to be provided for long-term carers of patients.
All too often the emotional and physical needs of carers take a back seat to the immediate looming healthcare needs of the patients, leaving many drained and experiencing severe stress.
In an interview with Nursing in Practice, Guardian columnist and BBC radio presenter, Jackie Ashley, said that more support should be available to carers.
Ashley is an advocate for support for better rehabilitation for stroke survivors and for carers’ rights, following her experience of being a full-time carer for her husband, TV presenter and journalist Andrew Marr after he suffered a stroke January last year.
“Carers need to be slightly looked aftered themselves as well. I’m lucky, I’ve got supportive family, but I think for someone, say an older woman with only her husband she’s looking after and no other family, I think that would be extremely difficult to manage because you do become completely exhausted by it.”
Ashley also said that in the case of stroke patients, there is not enough information available to support carers in the transition from looking after the patient at hospital, where there is a lot of support, to caring for them at home:
“Certainly at first, a lot more advice on how you achieve the basics of life [would be useful], be it getting showered, getting dressed, getting from place to place. All those little things you eventually work out a way, but at first you are completely at sea. You suddenly come home and you realise there’s this person who can’t move his left arm and left leg very well and how are you going to manage? And there’s very little information given as to what you should be doing.”
Ashley will be talking more about her experiences of being a full-time carer for her husband at the NHS England Health and Care Innovation Expo 2014, taking place 3-4 March in Manchester next week.
Elaine Roberts, Director of Life After Stroke Services of the Stroke Society, North of England says that the feedback they receive from patients and carers after they have left the hospital is that it’s like “falling off a cliff edge” where they go from receiving a lot of support to having very little.
A tool developed by the Queen’s Nursing Institute, which helps community nurses to support carers more fully, was launched earlier this month. The tool which was developed with funding from the Department of Health is a free resource helping nurses to make an assessment of carers as well as signpost them to relevant resources.