This week is Carers Week, which aims to raise awareness about carers and what they do. As someone who is a carer, I think it is important that more people realise what the role encompasses as it is often like having a full-time job. More people are carers than we think with around 6.5 million people caring for an ill, frail or disabled family member or friend across the UK without being paid. Also, three in four carers don’t feel their caring role is understood or valued by their community. By telling my story, I am hoping to change that and increase other people’s awareness so that carers feel supported rather than overlooked.
I work at Transport for London (TfL) in one of the Visitor Centres, which is a job that I enjoy. In fact, many of the skills that I use in my day to day job are ones that I have developed because of my caring responsibilities. I became a carer when my son, Bashir, who is now 23, was born. We soon found out that he had Down’s Syndrome, which isn’t something that my wife or I knew much about. Luckily, the consultant gave us a leaflet about the Down’s Syndrome Association, which is how we learnt more about the condition and met other parents who were going through the same experiences as us. Some of the issues that face parents of a child with a disability, especially if they are working, include trying to fit in and arrange numerous medical appointments as well as working out and organising the best opportunities for them regarding education and their wider potential.
I also became a double carer in 2006 when my wife was diagnosed with cancer. It’s been really important to work with my organisation to get the right balance between working and being a carer. Often you can end up struggling with all of the different responsibilities. By applying for flexible working, I have been able to get an arrangement that works for both me and TfL. It’s important for organisations to realise that employing carers can be beneficial. I have honed lots of skills as a result of being a carer. For example, I have developed a high level of resilience as you are always try to find out what the best support and services are for your family, which can take a lot of time and research. I have also become more alert, focussed and assertive as a result. Moreover, you learn the importance of compromise, as often you have to negotiate your needs with those of the person or people that you are caring for.
My advice to other people finding themselves in the same situation is to first of all look at in a positive way. Being a carer gives you a sense of responsibility and achievement that you might not have otherwise. Also, work with your organisation to find a solution that is beneficial for both sides and network with people in the same boat as you. They can often be a lifeline as they appreciate what you are going through. You can also look at the Carers Week website, which gives you more information: http://www.carersweek.org/
Written by Ally Khodabocus, Transport for London
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