Some people become carers overnight. When somebody has an accident or is taken ill, they can suddenly be in need of support from those around them. For others it can happen gradually, such as when parents become unable to manage on their own, or a partner's health deteriorates.
Not everybody realises that they have become a carer. The gradual development of a mental or physical health condition can see someone's needs build over time, and their loved one slipping into the role of carer without acknowledging the impact it's having on their lives.
In Dorset, Healthwatch have been working to understand people’s experiences of becoming carers for people with mental health conditions.
"This was a great opportunity for us to share the experiences of local carers, in their own words," says Louise Bate, Engagement & Communication Lead for Healthwatch Dorset. "We wanted to raise awareness of carers' issues and show the crucial role friends, partners and family have in supporting people with mental health problems."
Working with Bournemouth University and Dorset Healthcare NHS Trust the local Healthwatch has produced a video featuring local people talking about when they first realised that they had become carers and how their lives have changed as a result.
They spoke about the problems they have faced and the effect caring has had on their relationships, as well as some of the things that have helped them cope since becoming carers.
Looking after yourself: top tips from carers
Take time to be compassionate to yourself.
Be honest with the person that you may not know what they are going through but that you care and want to help.
Find your local carers support groups – they can be vital in giving you the support you need and helping you speak to people in similar situations.
Make the time to do things that you enjoy, such as walking the dog, getting exercise and meeting friends.
Acknowledge that you may not be able to ‘fix’ the person you are caring for but that you are there to help and support them.
Healthwatch Dorset will be promoting the videos on #CarersRightsDay and using them in workshop sessions with students to discuss mental health awareness and carers issues.