My daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in November 2020. She was 9 years old. She’d lost a lot of weight, was drinking a huge volume of water, complained of a tummy ache, was very tired, lacked her usual energy and just before her diagnosis she started to smell sweet.
Thinking about her symptoms is upsetting, but important as I didn’t have a clue what was going on. It was COVID. Before lockdown, she’d been struggling in a difficult class at primary school. I thought she might be depressed. When her Dad told me he thought she had Diabetes, I laughed. Then I googled the symptoms and thought – OMG.
When we went to the Drs, her blood sugar was off the scale, and she had a lot of ketones – one of the things that’s dangerous. The Dr and I had a bit of a coded conversation about how poorly she was. Could we go home and pack a bag? Could she walk from the car park to the hospital? The answer was no. We needed to go straight to the children’s emergency room. The Dr rang ahead to let them know we were on our way.
Anyone who’s spent any time in a children’s hospital knows how upsetting it is. If you haven’t, I hope you never do. We were lucky. My daughter had moderate DKA – which meant no long-term damage and she was diagnosed with a manageable condition. It could have been much much worse. We were in the hospital for three days. The nurses and consultants were amazing. They started to stabilise my daughter within 24 hours. The other two days were teaching me how to manage her condition. Overnight I became her carer.
Carers UK, estimates there are 5 million people juggling work and care in the UK. That’s 1 in 7 in every workplace. They also report that “given the stresses and strains that can result from balancing work and caring, it is unsurprising that 1 in 6 carers give up work or reduce their hours.”
Imagine how many people that is where you work. Do you know how your organisation shows up for them as an employer? What’s included in your Carer Policy? Does it only focus on their caring responsibilities or does it also ensure they get the same growth opportunities?
For me the first couple of months were tough. I cried a lot. I felt I was letting everyone down, constantly, that I was never fully present anywhere. One of our clients has a Carers Employee Resource Group. It’s such a great idea. Talking to other people who understand what you’re going through would have really helped me navigate those first few weeks and months.
The Carers Leave Act is being enacted next year. It sets out how organisations should offer support to unpaid carers in their workforce. If this is news to you, Carers UK is providing a stand-alone set of resources to support employers to become Carers Leave Act-ready.
It’s the perfect reason to look at your organisation’s employee experience through the lens of your unpaid carers. Mobilise a carer working group. Use their insight to guide your decision-making. Co-create a healthier future, together.