Carers are only human, which makes them equally susceptible to the same mental and physical health issues that any of us can experience. On top of the normal risk to health, carers may also acquire health problems as a direct result of their caregiving responsibilities. Ill-health can be especially problematic for carers as they may not have the free-time or the financial resources required to seek medical assistance.
As the vast majority of carers are female, it is women and girls who suffer disproportionately from health concerns that arise from caregiving. Mental health problems can appear due to the loneliness and isolation that caring can cause as well as from worrying about their loved one’s needs or financial insecurity. Aches and strains can occur from the physical nature of caring with such pain worsening over time.
Bhindira, from Nepal, is a carer for her son, Shrijan, who was born with cerebral palsy. As her son grew, Bhindira found it more challenging to lift him for daily activities like feeding and toileting. By the time Shrijan was approaching the age of 10, she was suffering excruciating pain in her abdominal area from the lifting. Bhindira suffered in silence as she believed no-one would be able to help her relieve the pain.
Working with our in-country partners, we have created health camps that enable carers to access the medical attention they need. At these health camps, qualified medical staff gather on a voluntary basis in regions throughout India and Nepal, with carers being invited to attend the camps to discuss their medical concerns. Through our research we have found that women carers are often affected by gynaecological problems and aches and strains, so we ensure gynaecological and orthopaedic specialists attend these camps.
As a result of our work with Cerebral Palsy Nepal, Bhindira was able to attend one of these health camps. She was issued essential medicine to relieve her pain and is now able to access follow-up health care from her local hospital at a subsidized rate. In her own words, Bhindira stated “I did not have money or the courage to visit the doctor. I feared that I would never get better and Shrijan would suffer. That worry has been lifted from me now.”
Through these health camps, we have contributed to a significant reduction in the number of carers who identify as having significant health concerns. Among the carers we have worked with across India over the last three years, the figure has reduced from 55% to 16%.
We aim to decrease this number even further by continuing our efforts so that all carers can access the medical help they need, just like We aim to decrease this number even further by continuing our efforts so that all carers can access the medical help they need, just like Bhindira has.