When Fiona was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, her main fears weren’t about herself.
She was far more worried about her five-month-old son. How on earth was she supposed to look after him whilst recovering from the effects of cancer treatment? The simple answer was she couldn’t. She couldn’t even look after herself.
This is a situation that begins for 6,000 Brits every single day. That’s also the daily number of people it’s estimated take on new caring responsibilities in the UK.
In Fiona’s case, it was her loving husband who took on the role of carer. As well as continuing his full-time job, he would look after both mother and baby. Before work, he would prepare the day’s food and drink for his son and wife. After coming back, he would ensure that both had everything they needed. Just like any new parent, he would inevitably spend most of the night caring for his son too. It was a real super-human effort, but one which was completely necessary, as Fiona could barely get out of bed.
It took 18 months for Fiona to be able to start looking after herself again. Looking back on this torrid period of their lives, she often wonders how on earth she and her husband got through it. She soon realized that there were probably thousands of other carers across the UK who were living their lives as her husband had done.
Who takes care of the carer?
She was absolutely right. Carers aren’t just trained professionals who are hired to look after vulnerable and disabled people. There are many more individuals who provide care for loved ones every day for absolutely no pay. A lot of them will have to take on this role for more than 18 months. For some, it will last until their patient dies.
Perhaps the hardest part of this physically exhausting, emotionally draining, unpaid job is taking care of themselves at the same time. Who is there to take care of the carer? In many cases, the patient isn’t even well enough to say thank you.
The ‘Who Cares’ award
Fiona wanted to do something to give recognition to these incredible individuals. With the help of the Genetic Alliance UK charity, she created the ‘Who Cares’ award.
The ‘Who Cares’ award gives Brits the chance to nominate someone who they believe deserves recognition for their outstanding care work. There are few restrictions as to who can be nominated. The judging panel is simply on the lookout for Britain’s best carer.
The winner is celebrated at a special awards lunch and gifted a weekend break for two but, perhaps more importantly, they can get the recognition that reminds them how special they are. Looking after a sick or vulnerable person is such a selfless task that carers often forget that. A nomination for this unique award could give them the mental strength needed to continue coping with such a monumental task.
The deadline for the 2013 ‘Who Cares’ award nominations is May 3.
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