Did you know that in the UK each day 6,000 people start looking after someone?

Whether it’s looking after a child with a disability, a partner with a chronic condition or an elderly parent who is vulnerable, more of us are becoming unpaid carers for someone close to us.

The figures are suprising - one in eight workers in the UK is now a carer.

If you are reading this and you are not a carer, know that you may become one at some point in the future, or one of your friends or colleagues will.

My eldest daughter is autistic, pre-verbal, has severe learning difficulties and sensory processing disorder.

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If you haven’t heard this term before, it means there is an imbalance in the way the information is received and filtered through the senses and interpreted by the brain.

She has an Education and Health Care plan, a legal document that outlines the support she needs at school and the type of school she needs to go to, with input from professionals including an occupational therapist and a speech and language therapist.

All these factors mean her interests are restricted and unusual. Everyday life is challenging for her and this has a massive effect on our family.

She needs a lot of support and constant supervision at home and when out and about in the community.

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This can be things like help managing her emotions - for example when waiting for food to be ready, and supervision when playing near her young brother.

As a family, we cannot do things spontaneously and must always be alert to potential triggers and dangers. These can include things like background noise, which she cannot handle being exposed to, or even overexposure to things she enjoys. Our kitchen cupboards at home are locked to prevent constant access to food.

Dangers for my daughter include crossing the road, because she doesn’t yet understand that green means go and red means stop or that cars are dangerous. But they can also be more unexpected things, like stopping her from eating flowers - this is why we never buy them.

Instead, we buy good chocolate more than most.


This heightened state of alert is necessary to avoid, minimise or face crisis, yet it makes our experience as carers exhausting. Being always alert makes it difficult to switch off.

Life as a carer can be isolating and sometimes your personal freedom can feel tiny, with all your decisions taken away from you and being taken because of somebody else’s needs.

I am fortunate because my husband is a stay-at-home parent and my employer, Activate Learning, is flexible and understanding.

This has allowed me to continue working throughout this difficult last year, juggling a work-life balance as best I could.

Life as a carer can be tough at times. Some people might feel pity for you - a no-no. I am fortunate to have my family to help. Others don’t get why you come back from a holiday more stressed than you left (being somewhere unfamiliar can be stressful).

'Ableist society'

Sometimes people you bump into may ignore the fact that your daughter is there with you, which is the product of an ableist society.

Some people might even get angry or be judgemental of your parenting style. If the person you care for displays unusual behaviours when out and about, for example. A meltdown and a tantrum can seem very similar to the uninitiated.

One of the upsides of my life as a carer has been meeting some amazing people through the years, my ‘tribe’, and feeling that instant connection with them.

If you are a carer, please know that you are not alone and that you are making a difference to someone else’s life.

We all may struggle at times, but if it doesn’t work out today, tomorrow is another day.

If things are tough now, please spend a few minutes scrolling through the sources of support below, ideally with a cuppa and some biscuits. Because kindness matters; kindness to others but also kindness to yourself.

Sources of support

• Social workers may help you access respite care, which is very beneficial both for the carer and for the person you care for. If you have access to a social worker, speak to them. If you haven’t and need it, ask for an assessment.

• Carers UK and Carers Oxfordshire can help you access invaluable resources.

• Look out for other relevant, local support groups. Even if you cannot get out there to meet them face-to-face, speaking to someone who has gone through the same circumstances that you can help diminish the sense of isolation.

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