Carers Need Care Too
The Nightingale’s mission is simple and it has been for over 20 years—to improve the quality of life for people diagnosed with cancer as well as their family and friends. Over the years we have found that carers of people with cancer are the least likely group to seek help for themselves. They will often find The Nightingale for their loved one but coming in for themselves? No!
We hear time and time again, ‘I don’t have the cancer so I don’t need the help’, which is absolutely not true. The emotional and physical struggle that carers go through is life changing. They may not have cancer but cancer is seeping into their life too.’
Clare, now a Nightingale client, works full time in adult social care so she knows the importance of external and non medical support. Despite this, it didn’t make looking for help easier.
“Maybe being a type of professional care giver as well as an informal one, first to my mum and now my dad, has made me less responsive to my own needs. This is despite knowing that we have to put our own oxygen masks on first in the event of air cabin loss before helping others!!”
Clare’s dad, Joe, joined The Nightingale at the start of 2022 after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“The diagnosis was slow in coming. Dad’s PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) was raised and he was given a variety of tablets and monitored through out patients, but for a long time he was in the ‘not too concerned’ category.
We were told enlarged prostate was common amongst men my dad’s age. When he got pain in his hips and back new scans were done and ‘something’ was found. It was presumed metastatic prostate cancer. Hearing there was something on his hips was shocking, scary, confusing. I remember being struck with thoughts of, ‘What if Dad stops being able to walk? Will his bones break? How will we manage?’ .
It’s amazing how you settle into a new reality after getting all of the results. I had become Dads main carer so I was seeking ways to alleviate his pain. I wondered about massage but wanted to go somewhere that would understand cancer.”
Since becoming a client at The Nightingale, Joe has received massage and reflexology. When Joe’s legs began swelling, his day-to-day activities started to be affected. His shoes were tight and it was hard to walk.
“I was chatting to Fiona about the challenge I had experienced finding help for Dad’s swollen legs which were increasing in size. It was the main reason I had initially contacted The Nightingale, wondering if massage or any alternative therapy would help. The swelling distressed Dad greatly and his legs were becoming painful to touch. During a visit to the centre for Dad’s massage, Fiona told me she would chat to the Lymphoedema nurse. When Fiona rang me to say the nurse would see Dad I felt like crying at the possibility of help.
The whole Nightingale experience has been fantastic for Dad. Not just the reflexology and therapies but it’s a good reason for Dad leaving the house. A treat and a treatment. The trips to the centre have been such a respite, Dad describes The Nightingale Team as, ‘lovely people who work hard on his feet’, because he walks out of the treatment room much easier than he walked in.”
We have found that out of 424 clients, only 40 are caregivers. That is only 9% of our total clients. Carers UK report that 60% of carers report a long-term health condition and that over a quarter of carers feel lonely often or always.
So why, if so many carers need help, do so few seek it?
Fiona, our Head of Services, has found that, ‘When you have cancer, your life is scheduled with appointments and treatments, you have a plan. Carers are often along for the ride and don’t know how to offer support. When they come into the centre, they don’t feel like they’re doing anything that warrants support for themselves.”
When Fiona offered our services to Clare, she was surprised. “I didn’t cry then but I certainly did at home. I was so very moved. I didn’t ask, it was offered. I was offered counselling too if I wished. Being recognised as a person who needs help to keep up all the juggling was unbelievably welcomed. The simple kindness and interest, not just toward Dad but to me too, was obvious and so appreciated.”
Though they don’t often think it, The Nightingale is for carers too. Our doors are always open to carers who need support while they’re supporting someone else. If you know a carer that could use some TLC, tell them about The Nightingale.