The Hidden Lives of Carers

Two women sit with their heads resting supportively together. One looks slightly downwards. The other smiles at the camera.

I have written many words on living with chronic illness – but relatively few about the struggles faced by those caring for us.    

This week (8th – 14th June) is Carers Week, an annual event raising awareness of the millions of adults and children who care for a loved one.  The number has increased dramatically during the current pandemic, as outside care has become either impossible or too risky to access.  It is estimated that, in the UK alone, the number of unpaid carers has risen from 9.1 million before the pandemic, to 13.6 million today. 

At times the impact of caring can be so great that the restrictions resemble those faced by the one who is ill or disabled.  Carers can lose the opportunity for employment and education.  Many lose their social life and friends.  Even leaving the house can become impossible.  

In October 2016, I spoke to BBC Radio Bristol about the impact of severe ME on families and loved ones.  I described the unique care needs of this illness, and suggested ways in which outsiders can offer their support.  Today, to mark Carers Week, I share the interview again. 

The photograph above shows me with my mum, who has cared for me for thirty years.  She had not quite reached her forties when she gave up her life to provide the constant care I need. Her sacrifice is beyond measure, and her lost years must be counted alongside my own.

My other radio interviews can be heard here.