Carers Need Care Too

By the Tonic UK Team

As a healthcare communications agency we are dedicated to supporting the patient community, and working to improve the lives of patients and their families. But the work we do often extends to carers as well, who have a vital role in the care of patients.

This week is national Carers Week in the UK – an annual campaign dedicated to supporting the millions of unpaid carers across the country who look after a parent, child, partner or friend with a disability or illness, or who need age-related support.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the challenges carers face, recognise the contribution they make and share ways to connect and support carers, so they can stay healthy and connected.

Healthy and Connected is the theme for this year’s campaign to highlight the importance of the health and welfare of carers.

Carers Week aims to shine a spotlight on the needs of carers both within the community, in the workplace, in schools and across health services. The goal of this week is to advocate for carers to get the practical help they need such as flexible working hours and remote working. Sadly, 72% of carers have to give up work to care for their loved one, so flexibility in the workplace is crucial to help reduce this trend.

What does this mean for our industry?

Pharmaceutical companies work closely with patient organisations to support and better understand the needs of the patients they work to treat, and some are now launching new initiatives to gain more knowledge about the growing carer community. Last year Merck carried out an international survey of 3,500 carers to uncover the everyday challenges that carers face in looking after their loved one. The research found that 47% of carers had feelings of depression, while 54% did not have time to attend their own doctors’ appointments. It also found that a concerning 55% of responding carers felt that their own physical health had suffered. Merck said the results speak for themselves, and have since launched an initiative called Embracing Carers, which strives for increased awareness and support for the carer network worldwide.

A Government report from last year found that 25% of carers had not had a day off in over five years. Ministers state they are now looking at a new action plan to improve carer provisions as part of the UK’s social care strategy.

More needs to be done to recognise and support this invisible army.

Carers across the UK – Fast Facts (from Carers Trust)

  • There are around 7 million carers in the UK – that is one in ten people.
  • Three in five people will be carers at some point in their lives in the UK.
  • Out of the UK’s carers, 42% of carers are men and 58% are women.
  • The economic value of the contribution made by carers in the UK is £132bn a year.
  • By 2030, the number of carers will increase by 3.4 million (around 60%).

Follow @carersweek on social media to learn more, and use #carersweek to join in!

What I Have Learned from Working with Patients

By Chrissie Hannah, Senior Account Executive

It’s one of the key buzzwords in pharma – patient-centricity. All companies say patients are at the heart of what they do; if they don’t, they certainly strive for it. The online space is rich with articles on how this can really be achieved and how it’s measured, but ultimately there is nothing more valuable than that face-to-face time with the patient, getting to know them, and genuinely caring about helping them.

Over the last year, I have had the privilege of working on a particularly inspiring project, partnering with patients, for patients. On behalf of one of our clients, we aimed to develop an awareness campaign that showcases the lives of six women from around the world, to highlight what survival means to those living with terminal breast cancer.

What first struck me was that patients really want to get involved. I had imagined there would be difficulties finding someone willing to share details about their difficult journey and terminal diagnosis. However, the ladies involved not only agreed to take part, but were very passionate about the campaign. They wanted to help us spread the message of positivity to others suffering with this terminal illness.

We interviewed them over the phone, then spent time in their homes for a photoshoot. As we listened to each of their stories, and got to know them the more time we spent with them, I realised I had started to become emotionally invested in the work. The campaign objectives had already been established, and were still being met, but after speaking with these patients I started to have an additional purpose. I could see that the project was really helping them. As they talked openly about their diagnosis, life, family and the future, they seemed to find it healing, almost therapeutic.

The finished product was a beautiful bound book of each patient’s photos and stories. The feedback received from the women involved was overwhelming – they loved seeing other stories alongside theirs, and felt more motivated than before to share their own story. Although the full project is not yet complete, it shows this first part of the campaign achieved results on many levels.

Of course, this is just one disease area with a specific audience. However, I have learned so much from this wonderful, inspirational group of women. By connecting with patients at this level, you can really get to the heart of their thoughts, hopes and fears – and could end up helping them in more ways than one. Working this closely with patients on such an emotive and powerful project reminds us of the greater good in our work, and why we do it.