How’s YOUR health?
As a parent carer, we often put ourselves last. We look after everyone’s needs except our own. We often don’t even tell people we are not feeling well.
We forget what normal is. Not just with regards to parenting or our child’s needs, we also forget that daily stress is not the norm for most people.
Had she changed what she was eating? Had her sleep patterns changed?
When she eventually posted on social media to share how ill she had been and to ask people for suggestions, she was totally overwhelmed at how many parent carers said “me too, Debs. This is how I feel right now”.
Debs had forgotten that our norm is not the norm. She realised that she had had a really stressful few months.
- Her twins were leaving primary and going to secondary. Both in different primary schools so two lots of leaving parties, assemblies and plays. Not that different to some other parents.
- The usual chaos of end of year awards and sports day. Again, not that different.
- Whizzing around between three different schools. Spread across 50 miles.
- Her son who is severely visually impaired was moving into a secondary school with no experience (but a real desire to learn), and let’s just say the transition wasn’t as smooth as it could have been.
- Her eldest son’s school decided to present the idea of moving some of the children into a new unit within a mainstream setting – really unexpectedly.
- There was a totally unnecessary battle over disability parking (unnecessary as the parties concerned really should have known what the law and their own policy said)
- Her PA quit with no notice – by text – leaving her with no help over the summer break.
- There had been a reduction in DLA which was having to be appealed (apparently her son chose to be anxious and refuse to move)
- New transport had to be organised for the twins.
- The new school’s SENCO decided to quit within the first few weeks of the school term.
And these are just the edited highlights.
Add to that the general chaos of school holidays, changes to routines and making sure that three children – each with a different SEN and/or Disability – were happy during the holidays. What did Debs expect?
Parent Carer Health – Have your say
Once Debs started to get many comments and private messages from other parent carers, all sharing similar stories about their health, we wanted to know how prevalent this was. Was it just that Debs is friends with people who happened to be ill? Or is it common throughout the parent carer community?
We have launched a questionnaire to find out about parent carers’ health. We have already received over 800 responses so far. We know that people who are feeling ill will be more inclined to respond, but we have had responses from parent carers who are well.
This questionnaire takes less than 5 minutes to complete and will stay open to responses until 30 November, 2017.
In January, we will be sharing the results with you and others.
The results we have so far are heart breaking.
- Parent carers who haven’t asked for help because they are scared of the consequences if they say they need help.
- Parent carers who asked but either no help was available or the help offered was of no use.
- Parent carers who believe that their parent carer role may not be responsible for their ill health but is definitely a factor in their ability to recover.
- Parent carers who are stressed by the Education system, the lack of mental health services (both for them and their child) and finances.
- Parent carers who have never been offered a Carers Assessment or requested one only to be told they don’t meet the local criteria.
Please take 5 minutes to let us know about your experience. Just click on the image above or here to go through to the survey
What is Stress?
Stress: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances
So many parent carers live in an almost constant state of stress. What impact does that have on our health?
From NHS Choices Website (© NHS Choices)
Stress causes physical changes in the body designed to help you take on threats or difficulties.
You may notice that your heart pounds, your breathing quickens, your muscles tense, and you start to sweat. This is sometimes known as the fight or flight response.
Once the threat or difficulty passes, these physical effects usually fade. But if you’re constantly stressed, your body stays in a state of high alert and you may develop stress-related symptoms.
Symptoms of stress
Stress can affect how you feel emotionally, mentally and physically, and also how you behave.
How you may feel emotionally
- irritable and “wound up”
- anxious or fearful
- lacking in self-esteem
How you may feel mentally
- racing thoughts
- constant worrying
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty making decisions
How you may feel physically
- muscle tension or pain
- sleep problems
- feeling tired all the time
- eating too much or too little