Learning Disabilities Carers During covid

It has been my privilege over the past ten or so weeks to keep in touch with a number of our carers of people with learning disability. The first thing I would like to say is that carers I have communicated with have all pointed out that “caring” for their family member is a life-long responsibility and that having a learning disability or autism is not something that usually happens at a certain age and then people get “better” from. In other words being a carer is what they are used to and they just get on with it.

However, Covid 19 and Social Isolation has brought new challenges. It is hard for the disabled family member to understand why they are not going to the day centre or able to go out and about like they used to. Explaining this again and again to your frustrated son, daughter, brother or sister can and does get frustrating for you as the carer too.

One carer told me how they had explained to their son that the centre is on holiday. Long holiday but so far so good! They are relieved that they are now able to, legitimately take him out for rides in the car without the fear of having to explain themselves to the police, if stopped!

Another, older carer told me how she had found lots of jobs for her son to do while he was off “work” at the project he goes to. So he had painted the garden fence, dug the veg patch and ….. and, last time we spoke it was getting a bit difficult to find more things. But no doubt this mum will come up with something. Carers are resourceful!

What it points to though is that the services and support people were getting need very soon to be replaced by imaginative interactions from the provider organisations, that keep people safe and well and give the carers that much needed respite and time to do other things or even have the luxury of having a rest.

As two carers of a daughter who has learning disability and high support needs and who has not been well recently told me: “We are sitting it out until our daughter gets better.” I am glad to say this person is on the mend and the family were able to go out for the first time for many weeks recently. But “sitting it out” can only last so long and what has been a sharp reminder to me in particular is that the day services and short-break facilities which people have accessed previously are essential to not only the disabled family members but to all the hard-working and committed carers too.

Peter Dawson – Learning Disability Engagement Worker, Derbyshire Carers Association

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