A Cumbrian charity wants to shine the spotlight on ‘hidden carers’ who are supporting loved ones who are using alcohol or drugs problematically.
Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service (CADAS) is urging carers who might be struggling and needing support and guidance to get in touch.
It is running a dedicated online group and one-to-one sessions over the ‘phone or internet, which offer a variety of therapies and techniques to help such carers cope with stress and anxiety.
The charity’s message that help is available has been issued to coincide with national Carers Week, which runs from June 8-14 and whose slogan this year is ‘Making caring visible’.
“Those who are caring for people with drug and alcohol issues are often called the hidden carers,” explained CADAS Chief Executive Officer Leigh Williams.
“If your partner is, say, in a wheelchair it is obvious to most people that you are a carer and it is more likely those carers will seek a carer’s assessment and any entitlements they might be due.
“But if your loved one – a spouse, parent or a child – is using drugs or alcohol you are much less likely to tell people about it because of the stigma surrounding the issues.
“But they are still under the same pressures. They might be exhausted and need respite but they often don’t recognise they are carers. They are carrying this burden on their shoulders without recognising they are carrying out caring tasks and will be entitled to carers’ assessments and possible support.”
Ms Williams said the caree might not be working so the carer might have to earn money for the family, then come home, look after the person and the house and do more than their share of childcare.
“Sometimes the loved one has lost their licence so the carer is having to do a lot of driving, taking them to appointments and collecting medical prescriptions. The person might have anxiety or depression so often the carer has to support and encourage them to do things.”
Carers ranged in age from eight to 80, said Ms Williams. “We have young children who are taking on more responsibilities because their mum or dad has an alcohol problem. There are also elderly people worried about an adult child whose life is in tatters or their grandchild, who might have drug debts.”
She said pressure could take its toll on carers – and could even lead some to use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism themselves. Services offered to carers included talking therapy (similar to counselling), a variety of stress-relieving and mental health-focused activities including mindfulness, tai chi and even Emotional Freedom Technique (aka ‘tapping’).
CADAS runs a parent carer family support group every Tuesday from 4pm-5pm via Zoom. It offers strictly confidential support for anyone who is affected by someone else’s substance use, or who is caring for someone with problematic substance use.
It also runs a confidential adult drop-in group via Zoom every Thursday from 1pm-2pm for anyone struggling with their own substance use and who might want to meet others in recovery. It is also open to carers.
“We are here to help the hidden carers,” said Ms Williams. “They do not have to carry their burden alone.”
If anyone wants further information about the help available to carers looking after people with problem substance use they can ring 0300 111 4002; contact Leigh Williams on 07786 620159 or Rich Cason, who runs the support groups, on 07493 865636, email [email protected]