As you read this more than 6 ½ million people around the country are caring, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is older, disabled or seriously ill, many with dementia. Many have had to give up their jobs and are also struggling financially.
They don’t see themselves as ‘carers’ – they are spouses, parents, sons, daughters or friends, and because of this many don’t look for the vital information and support that could help them. (And with the current state of social care they are likely to find themselves banging on closed door, anyway.)
Family carers can be achingly isolated and lonely. Caring often begins in a small way and becomes more demanding as time goes on. With dementia, in particular, carers can be drawn into a condition known as ‘role entrapment’. The director of a community based work in Birmingham told me of the time they met Alfred, a 79 year old caring for his wife with dementia, who had not been outside his home for two years. An extreme case, perhaps, but there are so many others.
Carers Week is an annual awareness campaign to help them get connected, and for their value to be recognised. The charity, Carers UK, say that the Week is brought to life by individuals, groups and organisations throughout the country holding all sorts of events, from coffee mornings to afternoon teas and whatever other ideas occur to them.
It’s an opportunity for churches to create special events. Carers would surely like the kind of pampering day that was organised some years ago by a church in Wiltshire. People were invited to come for neck and shoulder massage, hand massage and manicures and pedicures, aromatherapy and other treatments.
It could also include inviting carers to a dedicated Sunday Service. A daughter who came to our Pilgrims’ Friend stand at a Christian event one year told us that her mother, who had dementia, had resolutely refused to go to church with her and had been dismissive about the Gospel. Then one week she suddenly changed her mind and said she would accompany her. The daughter said she’d been apprehensive about her mother’s behaviour in church, but was amazed when her mother committed her life to Christ.
Christians are among the kindest, most giving people in the world: in one year in England and Wales their collective work in the community amounted to £3.5 billion, according to the fund-allocating Cinnamon Trust. Many will see Carers’ Week in June as a heaven-sent opportunity.
(As well as their usual platforms, Churches can advertise their special events on line using the interactive map on the Faith in Later Life website.)