What becomes of the carer?

As a carer, losing the one you are supporting can be a double pain of bereavement and redundancy. Here, guest blogger Christine Rae opens up about her experiences.

Why am I writing this piece about caring?   The reason is simple – because when I became an accidental carer for my Mum I couldn’t find the information I needed to do the task effectively. With hindsight I suspect it was available, but just not in one place, and the conversations I had with others in similar situations seemed to bear this out. This article illustrates my experience and it acknowledges my gratitude for all the help I got from those people who time and again rescued me from the mire.

Christine Rae

Christine Rae

To me there are two types of carer, visible and invisible. The visible ones are easily recognised, generally wear a uniform and have had some specific training to equip them for their caring role. Invisible carers on the other hand, have in most cases had no training at all, relying on a combination of love, basic instinct, resourcefulness and sheer good luck to enable them to look after their loved one, and are recognized only by their relationship to the person they care for.

I’d hear people saying things like, “Caring is a steep learning curve.”  “It’s a strain sometimes, but what’s the alternative?” “A warped sense of humour helps!” “One day I’ll remember all the laughter we shared, then I’ll feel sad and guilty.” “Mustn’t complain.”   “I love him but I get so tired.” “Where’s the five minutes I promised myself?” “It’s very isolating.”

And what becomes of the carer after their loved one dies? There is the immediate pain and grief, the keeping up appearances in public, the eventual rebuilding of some kind of lifestyle, and superficially at least, they look as if they are managing, coping, doing OK. It is the same problem again. They have loved and cared for their relative, in many cases for years, and have suddenly been deprived of that ability. They are suffering the double pain of bereavement and redundancy, and as a result of a loss of purpose and focus, need help and support to rebuild their sense of self-worth once more.

I found that the most important thing was admitting to myself that I was feeling vulnerable and letting other people help me. Don’t feel guilty about accepting it, they would not offer if they didn’t want to become part of your life. Let your guard down, open yourself up and let the world back in. It won’t flood in, it will only come in as quickly as you need it to, and one day the person doing the helping and supporting will be you, the no longer redundant carer.


This is a ‘Soapbox’ article from our Advantage Magazine (p25). Soapbox columns do not necessarily reflect Age Scotland’s views or policies. To submit an article call Advantage on 0845 833 0200 or email advantage@agescotland.org.uk

Ask your questions on the independence referendum

With the countdown to the September 2014 independence referendum now well under-way, Age Scotland is calling on older people across the country to put their questions to both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns. 

ballot box

Age Scotland has long been clear that Scotland’s independence referendum is not in its own right a later life issue, and understands that older people will hold as many different opinions about it as any other age group.  But there will be some matters that older people tells us are of particular interest to them that may be affected by a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ vote.

The most clear cut instances are those where powers are currently reserved by Westminster, such as State Pension and Welfare Benefits.  Under independence Scotland and the remaining UK could take different approaches to these.  But while Age Scotland is not wholly satisfied with the current Westminster approach to pensions and benefits, the Charity does not believe that independence is a necessary precondition for addressing any shortcomings.

With regard to areas that are currently devolved, including policing, housing, health and social care, independence will add few if any further strings to the Scottish Parliament’s bow.  Here the moot point will be whether having full responsibility for taxation and spending would prove advantageous, or disadvantageous, to policy in such areas. Yet the Scottish Parliament has never used its existing power to vary income tax by plus or minus 3p in every pound.  And from 2016, under the Scotland Act, it will be able to set a new Scottish rate of income tax and enjoy borrowing powers worth £5bn.

Age Scotland is inviting older people to submit their questions for both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ referendum campaigns by 28th February 2014.  Each will be sent an identical list of questions, and their responses will be published online and in the summer edition of our Advantage magazine.  Your question might related to one of the topics mentioned in this article, but doesn’t need to – we don’t presume to know what’s on every older person’s mind!  Wherever possible questions will be presented in the form we receive them, however should we receive similar questions on a topic we may need to edit these into a single questions. If we receive lots of responses we may also need to prioritise issues which are the most popular question choices.

Age Scotland believes that older people deserve the opportunity to hear from both sides on the issues that matter to them.  So please send your questions, and encourage others to send theirs – if not online then by post to: Advantage, Age Scotland, Causewayside House, 160 Causewayside, Edinburgh, EH9 1PR or by calling the Communications Team on 0845 833 0200.

Independence referendum an opportunity, not a threat

Age Scotland’s Communications and Campaigns Manager, Lindsay Scott, discusses how the Scottish independent referendum is an opportunity for older people. 


Finances, including pensions and benefits, feature regularly among the top three issues in any poll Age Scotland has conducted or commissioned in relation to older Scots’ concerns.

So it can fairly safely be anticipated that these will come to the fore again as older people look for clarity on just what an independent Scotland could mean for them.

Given our older population’s proven propensity to vote in relation to their younger counterparts, financial matters will undoubtedly play a pivotal part in deciding the outcome of the planned referendum on Scottish independence.

And if there are no clear economic benefits, the government will almost certainly face an uphill struggle to persuade a majority of older Scots that independence is the best way forward.

That is why it is important that older people get involved now in deliberations over just what a yes vote in the coming referendum could mean for them and the country as a whole.

Let’s face it, the future solvency of an independent Scotland cannot be guaranteed; although some broad arguments can be made about the merits of being a small country with a large banking sector, having around another three decades’ worth of fairly substantial oil reserves and a burgeoning renewable energy sector.

But when it comes to dividing up public debts, pensions’ liabilities and what’s left of the UK’s gold reserves for example, there could be quite a bun fight.

The Scottish government says that a key principle underpinning the referendum is educated choice and this will ensure voters have the information they need to participate in the national debate and to make an informed decision.

The problem is that this will not be provided until the Referendum Bill has received Royal Assent (expected in November 2013), when the government will publish a comprehensive white paper setting out full details of its offer to the Scottish people.

The onus for providing clarity prior to what will be a defining constitutional moment doesn’t just rest with the Scottish government, however.

Putting aside the inevitable pettiness, partisanship, positioning and political posturing from both camps, it is also incumbent on the pro-union parties to outline just what their vision of Scotland is and what this would mean for the country’s ageing population, for many of whom, the status quo is no longer as attractive as it once was.

It is for example acknowledged that considerable support exists across Scotland for increased responsibilities for the Scottish Parliament short of independence, “devo max” as it has come to be known. What this would entail also needs to be clarified and explained.

The consultation document recently published by the Scottish government is a chance for everyone to influence this referendum on our country’s constitutional future. We should see it as an opportunity to shape the future, not as a threat.

So why not get engaged in the process, ask what you need to know and make sure your own views are made known? That way, regardless of the outcome, you will be able to say you actively participated in something truly historic.

Saltire image © Alistair Williamson 

Independence referendum consultation paper released

Age Scotland Parliamentary Reception 2011

Age Scotland Parliamentary Reception 2011

Last week we discussed the importance of including civic society in the debate around Scottish independence and the referendum.

There was plenty discussion on our Facebook wall around the idea that older people should have their views consulted (as well as a spectrum of people from different ages and backgrounds) in the debate around independence and how a referendum could potentially be run.

The Scottish Government has now released its consultation paper on the subject. The consultation seeks views on a number of issues, including what the ballot paper should say, what spending limits should be set on campaign groups and how the referendum should be managed and regulated.  It also sets out the timetable for parliamentary and public debate.

If you wish to add your voice to the independence debate, now is the ideal time to do so.

We would encourage people to submit their responses to the consultation paper, so that the Scottish Government can receive a representative number of views from people across Scotland.

Inclusivity an imperative if independence referendum is to be meaningful

Age Scotland’s Communications and Campaigns Manager, Lindsay Scott, discusses the importance of including older people’s views in the independence referendum. 

Age Scotland Parliamentary Reception

Attendees at the Age Scotland Parliamentary Reception 2011

Despite, or perhaps because they are our elected representatives, it’s high time that Scotland’s politicians realised it’s not just them who should determine policies for the nation we live in.

The constitutional future of our country is the most important political decision that any of us will ever make and it is crucial that deliberations are moved away from the control of politicians and that civic society has its say on the independence debate.

People want and deserve to be much better informed about this debate and right now the focus on legality and process in the arguments for and against a new constitutional settlement for Scotland is actually a distraction. The role of civic society is crucial to ensuring there is a substantive debate on the issue.

Age Scotland believes that it is incumbent upon Scottish civil society to come together, that business, the trades unions, organised religion, all political parties and bodies such as the Scottish Youth Parliament can all widen the scope of debate and help thrash out what could emerge as the thorny issues. We would be happy to help facilitate older people’s involvement in this process.

Age Scotland has no opinion on the constitutional settlement per se. What we are concerned about is how will a post-2014 Scotland meet the needs of our ageing population and how will we tackle the big issues i.e. poverty, discrimination, fairness, growth and prosperity?

At Age Scotland we have been listening to our members who have deep roots and powerful affiliations in their communities. They have a genuine desire and strong appetite to play an active role in examining and determining the kind of society and country we would like to be in the future.

There is no doubt that many older people feel their voices have been missing from recent discussions about the health and care implications of our changing demography. Over the next two years, it will be to the detriment of the whole debate and in the long run democratically damaging if we don’t respect their wisdom and experience and tap into those as part of each and every conversation.

We eagerly await the publication of the Scottish Government’s consultation paper on the proposed independence referendum within the next fortnight and are hopeful that its stated commitment to establishing consensus will herald a change in the tone and inclusivity of this important debate.