Hein has been a GP for nearly 20 years and works at Churchdown Surgery. He is also the Deputy Clinical Chair at Gloucestershire CCG where he leads on, amongst other things, Carers, Frailty, Dementia and End of Life.
Several weeks ago I met an elderly couple for the first time in my GP surgery, I will refer to them as Mr and Mrs Jones (not their real names). They had been married for many years and Mrs Jones expressed concerns around her husband’s memory which had been deteriorating over the past 18 months of the covid pandemic. In particular she had noticed that he could not recall recent events, seemed easily disorientated, repeated himself and seemed down in himself which their wider family had also observed between the periods of lockdown.
When I asked Mr Jones about how he felt about the situation he responded that he thought he might have dementia which he was quite philosophical about but was more concerned about the potential burden of care on his wife, who was becoming his Carer. In particular he expressed concern about the impact of his declining health on her, but also what would happen to him if she could no longer cope or indeed became unwell medically and needed to go into hospital herself.
I too suspected dementia and fleetingly considered his 2 important points as my attention was squarely focused on getting to the bottom of his symptoms so we could get a diagnosis and a plan. His memory test showed a significant impairment and the blood tests and CT scan added strength to our suspicions and so I made the diagnosis of dementia.
It was only later that I reflected on his 2 questions of me:
- Who would look after his wife who was also is carer?
- What would happen to him in the advent of a sudden deterioration in his own wife’s health where she needed hospital admission?
As a GP, I have met many patients and also their carers over the years, both young and old, but this was the first occasion where a person so simply and insightfully distilled down the importance of identifying as a Carer and it has really stuck with me.
The importance of registering as a Carer is not just so that we can get plans in place ahead of time to help all of us if and when a crisis should arise through the carer’s emergency support scheme (accessed through the Gloucestershire Carer’s Hub), but also so that your practice team can help to look out for you the carer. In other words, once you register with your GP as a carer they will know about you and you will then be able to access:
- a dedicated carers lead/ support with information and advice
- annual flu jabs
- annual health check
- Once registered as a Carer and with consent of their cared for they can attend appointments and access information required to support the person they are caring for
- referral to the Glos Carer Hub which then offer help with contingency planning should an emergency happen to you, the carer. They provide information, advice and guidance which is completely individual to what a carer needs and includes help with financial and legal support. Their keyworkers provide the statutory carers assessments which looks at how the caring role affects the carer and assists them to create a support plan that builds resilience.
- Gloucestershire Carers Hub also provide peer support, information and skills sessions but importantly wellbeing support, both physically and mentally. Glos Carers Hub pride ourselves in being here for carers for whatever they need as the emotional support is such a large part of our roles, a carer knowing they aren’t on their own.
You can hopefully see just how important it is for both Mr and Mrs Jones that she register as his Carer with our practice so she can access the above support. If you consider yourself to be a Carer of someone, then please let your practice know as soon as possible so they can register you for the above reasons and very importantly refer you to Gloucestershire Carer’s Hub so we can take care of you.
Building on this article, I will be writing a monthly blog on various aspects of ‘carer health’ including:
Attending for your 2nd COVID vaccine
Mental Health / coping with stress and anxiety
Social Isolation and where to get help