I attended a conference last year where a carer gave a powerful presentation on what, as a carer, they were carrying each day. They were passed a balloon for each of the roles and jobs they had to do. Their hands were soon full. They squeezed in more between legs, under arms, chin and between teeth. And yet the balloons kept coming until the carer - and indeed the stage they were on - was overwhelmed. It was a poignant reminder of how much unpaid family carers carry on a daily basis.
Like us all, there were the 'normal' bits of life - the shopping lists, bills to pay and household chores, the work worries and lunches to make the night before tasks.
So far, so normal.
But then came the invisible extras that so often go unnoticed.
The need to coordinate several diaries to make a medical appointment for their loved one - the loved one's diary, potentially their paid carers, transport arrangements, their own diary to attend, cover for their other responsibilities such as other children... and even having done all of that admin, knowing the appointment might be delayed or cancelled - perhaps even without notice.
The fact that they need to be an expert in their loved one's conditions - whilst medical and other professionals may be very experienced, they are often experienced in their 'bit' of someone's condition, not in the interactions and presentations of a whole person with often multiple conditions, treatment and needs. Family carers may not be healthcare professionals - but they are often experts in their loved one's particular combination of needs, medications and the interactions of symptoms, reactions and necessary management.
The requirement to not just advocate for their loved one, but to have to fight for them, often daily, just to ensure they get the basics of care and provision that are needed.
The calls to get equipment serviced, stocks of medications replaced, district nurses visiting when needed.
The forms to fill in to ensure that the limited support their loved one gets continues, their benefits are in payment, their needs are reassessed and the charges they pay are right. The forms are endless, the pages long and repetitive. The information is often known by those asking the question. And still the time to complete the forms is required - an absolute must, apparently.
And all of this so far takes no account of the care they are actually delivering - the jobs done around the house, the feeding, cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping for their loved one. The medications administered, the exercises supported, the activities delivered, the chatting, hand holding, back stroking. The human touch delivered.
And none of that takes account of the isolation of caring - the fact that carers are often so tired from working the fullest of full times - often on top of a full time job - which leaves little energy for other activities, friendships and self care, such that they are often running on empty.
And yet still they keep going, they keep caring and they are there to deliver, to support. To care.
To all the carers out there who feel that the load and burden they carry is not appreciated I say, we see you, we support you, you matter. What you do is not invisible.