Learnings for Australian Carers from UK COVID-19 Experience
© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
Today England enters its second national lockdown for four weeks, and reports more than one million active COVID-19 cases and the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Europe.
Our thoughts are with the residents of England. Now more than ever may they draw strength from their famous morale boosting World War II slogan, "Keep Calm and Carry On".
In particular, we think of the carers within their population. This is prompted by the recent release of "Caring behind closed doors", the second report compiled by Carers UK on the impact of COVID-19 on carers across the United Kingdom.
Released in October, the report presents grim findings from an online survey of around 6,000 UK carers during the month of September.
Survey findings: The impact of COVID on carers
Since the first UK lockdown of late March (and reopening in June), UK carers reported that:
- 81% were providing more care than before the lockdown, principally because the needs of the person they provide care for (40% of respondents) had increased or local day and community care services had closed (38% of respondents).
- 74% reported higher levels of fatigue and stress.
- 64% had not been able to take any breaks from their care giving.
- 58% said their physical health had been impacted and 64% said their mental health had deteriorated.
While such a survey has not been released in Australia, listening to my clients, it is fair to say Australian carers, particularly those in Victoria, have endured similar hardships during the pandemic.
The more positive findings
What is interesting in the UK Report are the positive findings buried behind the headline points demanding more government support and funding for carers.
Those positive findings reveal: how some carers managed to take breaks; the positive impact of technology; and how flexible workplaces allowed a slowing of the pace of life and more time for the carer.
There is certainly something to learn from those positive findings.
The minority of respondents (27%) who had been able to take some sort of break during the COVID-19 pandemic, had:
- Arranged for family or friends to provide care.
- Formed a support bubble.
- Put in place a day care, in home care or other support service.
- Accessed online activities.
Continuing on the theme of technology, 33% of respondents reported that they had started using new technology and digital services during the COVID-19 pandemic. They said it allowed them and the person they care for to keep in touch with others and not become socially isolated.
The most popular type of technology used, by far, was the video conferencing tools of Zoom or WhatsApp. These tools were used:
- To keep in touch with friends and family and/or connect with other carers (58% of respondents).
- To access local support services for themselves or the person they care for (15%).
- For online video consultations for appointments with their GP and for other health and social care services – i.e. telehealth (16%).
- To connect with other carers through forums and support groups (13%).
- For online mental health support services (5%).
Not surprisingly, carers with supportive employers who allowed them to work flexibly and access carer's leave fared much better, financially and emotionally, than those without such employer supports.
For you 'to do' today
In my experience, and as expressed in prior blogs, it is always important for carers to have in place a support bubble - a network of family, neighbours and friends and trusted paid carers - who you can call on when the going gets tough.
This same network could also help you increase your savviness around technology. Technology will open your world up to an array of online supports such as the Australian Federal Government-funded Aged Care Gateway and SANE Australia online support forums.
For help in setting up your support bubble, I encourage you to contact me, Danielle Robertson, to discuss how you can share the load with others through a structured care plan, and look after yourself.