Five benefits of building a carer support network
Our friends at Mobilise share their top tips to create a carer support network:
You may be wondering, ‘what is a carer support network?’ Put simply, it’s about finding and connecting with other carers just like ourselves.
Surrounding ourselves with those who just ‘get it’ allows us to open up about our challenges, and find comfort in others who understand.
Don’t let the word ‘network’ put you off though – it’s not as time consuming as the name may suggest.
In fact, there are many carer support services that host fun, engaging activities to take us away from caring for a little while – giving our minds that little refresher we need.
Here, we share five benefits of having a carer support network.
1. Learn years’ worth of knowledge in one conversation
One of the great things about meeting other carers who have been looking after someone for a while, is that it gives us a broader view of the types of support out there.
We’re able to learn fast from other carers’ experiences, better preparing us on how we can navigate the support system. There’s almost always another carer a little further ahead, who has overcome a similar challenge and has the answers that can help us.
“I’m quite isolated and the support I get from being part of a carer support group is fantastic in many forms. I’ve made friends and learned so much.”
We may also meet carers from different councils and find out about how support differs according to the specific region. Such as whether there is local funding in our area.
Local funding from our council can include; paying for our respite, additional one-off payments to support us in our caring role, or covering the cost of home adaptations or mobility equipment.
2. Create a safe space for us to be our true selves
As carers who understand one another, there is often little to no room for judgement. We’ve all been there before. We know how exhausting it can be. We understand the complex emotions that caring can bring.
A supportive carer network can be a safe space for us to be our true selves. It’s a place where we listen, respect each other’s decisions and we know that it’s OK to vent.
By having this safe space that we know we can always turn to, we’re more likely to be open up about our emotions and struggles.
3. Reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation
Sometimes we just want to be listened to and not feel like we’re being a burden. Especially if we are the sole carer for the person we’re looking after.
Not having the option to do so – especially when we’re cautious of being negative around our friends and family – can lead us to be distant from those who really care about us. And over time, we can be engulfed in this loneliness without realising.
Being around the right people makes us happy. Research show that having a support system can help boost our mental health, and in turn our physical health.
And whilst caring comes with highs and lows, and everything in between, we may find that there is huge benefit in finding ‘our tribe’.
4. Enhances our self-esteem
Adding to the point above, the right support network can build our sense of belonging, at a time when we may be feeling detached from our previous (before care) life. With the right support network, as carers, we can feel supported and empowered by other carers to navigate the system.
5. Create long-term friendships
When we’ve been caring for a while, we may feel our old life (and friends) slipping away. We’ve seen wonderful friendships blossom through the right carer support network. Our online cuppas are just one example of how carers have been supporting each other – from all types of caring role and from across the UK.
So, where can we start?
There are several ways we can create or find our own carer support network, including:
- Find your local carer support group. Get started by using this nifty tool to search for your local carers service. From wellbeing sessions, to practical benefits’ advice, we have the option to access in person face-to-face support.
- Make the most out of social media or online groups. Facebook is a great place to find carer support groups, including conditions specific support groups.
- Get in touch with your GP surgery. Ask your GP surgery or pharmacy if they’re aware of any local carer support groups.
- Join the Mobilise community of unpaid carers just like yourselves. From carer cuppas, to daily interactions in the Facebook group, carers from across the UK share their advice, tips and wisdom.
- Create your own. If we’re all for finding our own tribe, why not create our own? Is there any local groups we can set up? Do we have any friends and family that are already part of this tribe that we don’t realise? Ask them to join! If this is your calling, don’t be afraid to start your own.
Before you start, our guide to finding the right (and safe) peer support group is definitely worth a read.
Mobilise is an online community of unpaid carers supporting carers. If you are looking after someone, feel free to join our UK-wide private Facebook group, where carers share top tips, advice and experiences of what’s worked, and what hasn’t!).