Caring for someone with a terminal illness or near the end of their life is both physically and emotionally draining.
It’s something that we will all likely have to do at some point in our lives, whether it is for a family member or a friend.
Recently-published research by the University of Edinburgh, NHS Lothian, Voices of Carers Across Lothian and Marie Curie Cancer Care highlighted that more needs to be done to ensure that carers have access to support services and vital benefits.
The Scottish Government is currently consulting on new carers legislation and it is crucial that the Government’s proposals reflect the needs of this specific care group.
Carers of terminally ill people are commonly overwhelmed by the all-encompassing demands of their caring role which increases with the progression of the illness.
When a person is caring for someone every hour of every day, it places an enormous strain on their health, work commitments and general wellbeing.
Ultimately, if the carer is not getting the support they need, how can we expect the cared-for person to be receiving the best possible care?
It greatly increases the chance of the ill person being admitted to hospital where they may need to stay for a considerable length of time. It can become impossible to discharge them back home and lead to them dying in hospital.
Most people, when asked, would much prefer to be cared for and die at home. It’s also much more cost effective to provide care at home than in a hospital.
By ensuring that the wellbeing of the carer is at the heart of the patient’s care package, it greatly increases the chances of them remaining at home for as long as possible and dying there if that is their wish.
Our GP surgeries are the best place to identify carers of those with a terminal illness and GPs and nurses must be supported to do so.
Yet we also need to ask carers to empower themselves to stand up and be counted.
We can be doing so much more to support carers of the terminally ill.
We just need to know who they are.
• Richard Meade is head of policy and public affairs in Scotland for Marie Curie Cancer Care