Are you a carer? You probably don’t recognise yourself as one and like me, you just get on with what life throws at you. I was approached by Healthwatch Essex to become an Ambassador and initially, I didn’t really know what this would entail but received training and I met lots of other lovely people in a similar position to me.
I have had the opportunity to work on some lovely projects, and asked, wait for it, to put my opinions forward at a committee level! Carers are often ignored so this has been great for my self-esteem. I was worried to join as an Ambassador at first as I am a full time carer for my seriously ill daughter and her gorgeous daughter. I was so worried of letting Healthwatch down in case I couldn’t deliver on any task due to my circumstances but, this has never been an issue and when I’ve had to miss something, the charity has given me full support, empathy and understanding.
Here are a couple of examples of projects that I’ve been involved with:
I sit on the Care for Carers Committee for Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals. This is to identify, support and generally help carers in hospital, either as patients or who they are caring for. For support, we have developed Carer Lanyards and leaflets displaying Carers First information and support that is available in the hospital. We are also currently trying to develop a Carers Hub as seen in Ipswich.
Ongoing works includes trying to get Carers the same discount as hospital staff for food in hospital canteens as we recognise the amount of time they relieve from healthcare staff by providing personal care for their loved ones. We have been promoting within wards that Carers can be on the ward 24/7 if they want to be with their cared for. Sometimes of course this admission to hospital can be a time for Carer respite but the choice needs to be ours and is now mostly. We are also trying to support Carers that when their cared for is discharged, there is adequate help and support for them both at home.
The outcomes for the above work are currently in measurement stage.
On behalf of Healthwatch Essex, I am also asked to sit with a group to share our experiences and hopes when policies or funding is being decided at Essex County Council.
Healthwatch has given me a voice as a Carer which is rarely heard. We are a hugely valuable army to Great Britain PLc. and Healthwatch underpin this recognition.