The Prime Minister’s pledge this week to create a new National Care Service for the elderly has been exercising my thoughts.
The scheme is anticipated to benefit about 350,000 and should be applauded.
But amidst the approval and pats on the back are serious questions about how this scheme will be funded. It is also worth considering that if there are doubts about sufficient funding for a scheme that will benefit a few hundred thousand people, what hope do the millions of carers in the UK of ever seeing anything like a national strategy?
There is also an important point of clarification to be made – when there is talk about money being made available, this does not necessarily mean direct payments to carers to help them carry out their role.
In some cases, direct payments would be good. But on the whole the funding needs to be available to provide carers with something far more valuable – time.
This weekend is a classic example of the sort of help I need.
I am embarking on my long-awaited 100km (62-mile) bike ride as part of the Minutes Not Money challenge.
The training has gone well, I’ve got a fab new t-shirt to wear, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to complete the ride.
But my brain is currently working overtime to ensure that Rachel will be OK while I disappear for the best part of a day to take on the bike challenge.
I know she will be more than fine. We are going to stay with my parents this weekend, so I can be as confident as I possibly can be that Rachel will be in very safe and caring hands.
My mum and dad will be falling over themselves to ensure Rachel has everything she needs – although hopefully not literally in the case of my mum, who has undrgone two replacement knee and one replacement hip operation in recent years.
But knowing that care and support is available doesn’t stop my brain whirring into life every now and then. There is also the nagging belief that I really should be helping my mum and dad, not them offering me and Rachel support – none of us are getting any younger (even if my dad still insists on helping “old” people out, who invariably turn out to be younger than him).
It is the little things that keep popping up, all those tiny routines and mundane tasks I do as second nature every day and which I won’t be around to perform – from making sure Rachel takes her supplement first thing, to helping her get ready and carrying the various bits and pieces she needs during the day downstairs.
All tasks my mum and dad will be delighted to help with and would do without hesitation. It is the fact I won’t be there to do them myself that I’m finding hard to accept – the irony being, of course, that I won’t be there as I’m attempting to raise awareness for the role of carers and ME/CFS.
Equally, at the end of this month I need to spend two days (including an overnight stop) in London for work. I’m already making plans in my head so that my caring role will be not be missed.
But, once again, I know I don’t ned to worry as either Rachel’s mum or her dad will be quick to offer their help and support.
It still doesn’t stop the worry, or stop the planning.
So the type of support that carers often need is not necessarily financial – at least not in terms of direct payments.
Of course money is important.
But it is also about having the resources to buy them some time to do all the other “stuff” that life throws at them, above all it is having confidence in a system of help and support.
We are lucky in having family, friends and neighbours more than happy to step in at a moment’s notice to hep us, many others are not so fortunate.
That is why asking people to donate Minutes Not Money is so important to me.
Thanks for your time.