New Blog from Laura Bennie of Scottish Care

‘Cinderella Syndrome……..’

‘Remember Cinderella, when the clock strikes midnight, everything will change.’  Sage advice from the kind and generous Fairy Godmother in the much loved children’s story ‘Cinderella.’

With the festive period now in full swing we find ourselves rushing around full throttle, busy with work, parties to attend, presents to wrap, trees to trim and in my case a very demanding ‘elf on the shelf’ who needs to be moved around the house on a nightly basis!  Then suddenly the clock strikes and everything changes………

Prior to joining Scottish Care I worked for 17 years as Project Manager with East Ayrshire Carers Centre, a voluntary organisation providing information, advice, support, training, leisure, respite and social activities to unpaid, family carers of all ages in East Ayrshire.  On a daily basis I developed services and provided support to a number of individuals, all suffering from ‘Cinderella Syndrome.’  Bong, the clock strikes and a mother gives birth to a child with complex needs, bong, a husband keeps watch by the bedside of his wife who has suffered a life changing stroke, bong, a long expected dementia diagnosis is finally given.  All major events which will change life as they know it and nothing will ever be the same again.

Carers Centres of which there are more than 25 all over Scotland, have a very particular unique selling point in that they are there totally for the carer, the family member or friend devoting their lives to those most dear to them who have become disabled, frail or suffer at the hands of a drug or alcohol addiction.  They are the number one priority.  Typically, when a carer first presents they are at the end of their tether, unable to cope and on the verge of becoming unwell themselves.  Sometimes, the listening ear of someone who is non-judgemental and who they know they can talk to in confidence is all they need to get them back on track.  More often than not however, much more complex support is required.  Carers Centres can assist with the completion of benefit forms, referrals to social work to access assessments and additional services and in the case of East Ayrshire Carers Centre, in conjunction with the local authority, carry out a ‘Carers Assessment’, taking into account their needs for additional support and respite. Centres can also provide the carer with a much needed social outlet.  Many carers suffer from loneliness and isolation and meeting people in a similar situation at training events or social events such as coffee mornings can have miraculous effects and supportive friendships can be developed which go far beyond the scope of the work carried out by the Carers Centre. 

Being a family carer is difficult for adults but it can be even more traumatic for young carers and young adult carers who commonly are caring for a parent, grandparent or sibling on a daily basis providing personal care and support far beyond the expected capabilities of their tender years.  The youngest carer I ever supported was a 7 year old girl who was looking after her mum, a single parent, who was receiving treatment for cancer.  This vibrant young girl, with bouncy red curly hair, not unlike Annie, the character in another much loved movie, was brutally honest yet pragmatic as I chatted to her and summed up how many carers feel when she said, ‘I do lots of things for my mummy, like carry buckets of sick when she’s not so well, but if you really, really love someone, you don’t mind.’ 

In general carers don’t mind, they carry out their role willingly but additional external support is often assessed as being necessary and many rely on the support provided by Care at Home services on a day to day basis and Care Homes for much needed respite.  They open their homes and their hearts to carers and entrust the well-being of someone very precious to them.  As one carer said to me, ‘the carers that come into my house four times a day are amazing, so kind but I told them right at the start, she might just be one person to you but she’s the world to me.’  So if you’re reading this and you’re perhaps a carer, a nurse, a provider, a social work professional and you’ve just had a difficult conversation with a family carer whose being demanding, critical or emotional, please remember, the person they care for may be just one person to you but they’re the world to them.  So, as the big day approaches, take 5 minutes out of your hectic schedule and find the number of your local carers centre and when your next talking to a family carer, ask them if they are aware of the services a carers centre can provide to them, it just might be the best gift you give this year.

As it is Christmas, my gift to you is the ‘happy ever after’ part of the Cinderella story.  I recently met the 7 year old Annie lookalike who is now 27 and I can happily report that she proudly achieved a second class honours degree, has met her Prince charming and is an amazing mother to a beautiful baby boy, and her mum, who made a full recovery, is a very proud Grandma.  Merry Christmas.

Laura Bennie   

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