carer and wheelchair

Informal Carers. The hidden unpaid workforce.

What is the difference between formal and informal care?

A person who provides care and assistance to another individual such as a family member, friend, or neighbour on an “unpaid” basis is defined as an informal carer.  Informal carers provide practical and emotional support to those close to them who may experience disability, chronic illness, mental health needs or recovering from an accident.  Formal care is provided by paid workers such as a nurse.

Informal Carers – I am One of 186 million.

At some point in their life, 3 out of every 5 people will become an informal carer.  So if you are reading this, the chances are you belong to a very special group of people. I say special because you give your love, support, and time to caring for someone close to you.  This may not be something you chose, it is indeed challenging and hard work both physically and emotionally and it has probably changed your life.  Believe me, you are special and should be celebrated by your community and society for the commitment and service you provide.  Read on and find out why.

“Informal Carers” – Global Statistics of an unpaid Workforce

It is estimated that there are over 186 million informal carers Worldwide. “Around the globe, carers are the invisible backbone of our health and social care systems, often sacrificing their own physical, financial and psychological well-being in order to provide care for a loved one”. International Alliance of care Organisations 2012

In the UK alone, economically, informal carers save the state £132 billion a year (Carers UK & University of Sheffield 2015).  Australian informal carers save their Government $60.2 billion and in America, unpaid carers save their states $470 billion (International Alliance of Carer Organisations 2015).

Current available statistics highlight that there are:

  • 6.5 million in the UK (Census2011)
  • 1 million in Canada (Portrait of a Caregiver 2012)
  • 2.7 million in Australia (Carers Australia 2015)
  • 65 million in the US (Caregiving in the US 2015)
  • 125 million in Europe (Glendinning et al 2009)

That makes a total of 200.2 million. However, the reality is an estimate and the likely hood is its much higher as statistics for countries such as Russia, China, Latin America, and the Indian Continent are not readily available.

Who are informal carers?

An informal carer is a mother or father, wife or husband, a daughter or son, a grandmother, your neighbour, the child that is late for school, the teenager who doesn’t go out at the weekends with their friends, your friend.  “They are not limited by culture of country, they are universal, sharing common traits and facing common challenges” (Embracing Carers 2015).  The reality is that anyone can become a carer. The role does not discriminate, it doesn’t choose based on your age, gender, educational background, your income or the suitability of your home environment.

Research indicates that women aged 30 – 64 make up the highest group of informal carers Globally.   In the UK, 58 percent of caregivers are female and 42 percent are male.  In the EU, a typical caregiver is a woman between 45 and 75 years of age (Embracing Carers 2015), and for the US 66% who provide informal care to a spouse or other family member are women (

Although informal caring roles are provided by women there are other groups of carers that are all too often invisible to society.

Young Carers                

A young carer is someone who is 18 years old or younger.  It is estimated that 7 – 8 % of children in Europe have caregiving responsibilities.  More alarmingly, the majority of childcarers are invisible to their public support systems. This means young carers often suffer silently.  The responsibilities of a young carer might include practical tasks such as cooking or shopping, personal care, emotional support, helping to manage finances, looking after siblings or giving medication. That’s a lot of responsibility for someone so young.

Caring responsibilities and Young Carer Wellbeing

Children who find themselves in a caring role often experience mixed feelings about the responsibility they hold.  They want to ensure that their loved ones are looked after and may feel worried about telling people that they are carers.  Feelings of anger, anxiety, and sadness are commonplace. For some young carers not being able to share their feelings or concerns can lead to depression and anxiety with self-harm being used as a way of coping with the overwhelming emotions felt.

The impact on their lives is huge affecting their emotional well-being, confidence, education, friendships, social interactions, and future opportunities.  In a study by Euro Carers (2017) 68% of young carers experienced bullying at school and a study by Carers Trust in the UK showed that 39% of young carers said that nobody at their school knew they were in a caring role.

Dementia Carers

Worldwide someone develops dementia every 3 seconds.  Currently, in the UK 850,000 people are diagnosed with dementia and 5.7 million in the US.

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of illnesses that cause degeneration of brain cells, leading to what is known as cognitive decline. This means that a person with dementia may have difficulties in reasoning, concentration, and short-term memory. Dementia can also affect language ability, both in terms of the way a person communicates, but also how much they can understand.

Dementia is progressive in nature, which for most people means that it will get worse over time. As the way the Dementia progresses will be different for each person, no two people will have the same experience of Dementia even if they have the same type and are the same age. (Expert Dementia Carer Training 2009, OLSW)

Caring for a loved one who has dementia poses many challenges.  Cognitive decline and personality changes can make communication very difficult, as the condition progresses keeping a loved safe can become more difficult restricting the ability to leave them on their own.  Often the carer is on 24 hour alert as many dementia sufferers find it hard to settle, particularly during the night resulting in interrupted of lack of sleep for the carer.  This has huge implications for their own personal health and well-being.

As with many unpaid carers they often put their own health need last.  A recent survey indicated that more than half (54 %) of unpaid caregivers don’t have time to book or attend their own medical appointments. 47 % have feelings of depression with almost 3 in 5 (57 %) feeling that they needed medical care/support for a mental health condition (e.g., depression, anxiety, stress) due to their role as caregivers.  Of these, a quarter had not sought medical help. (Healthcare Support Survey 2015).  Many carers identified they were using alcohol and/or smoking to cope with the stress they were feeling and over half felt over all their own health had suffered. Click here for free guide on managing carer stress

Connect with a Carer

“The majority of carers do not feel their role of supporting patients (loved ones) is understood and valued by their community” (friends, neighbours, local shops, healthcare systems, social services, and local Government agencies) (Healthcare Support Survey Findings).   The chances are you are or have been a carer or you know someone in your community who is an informal carer.

So with all this in mind how can you support an informal carer?  Often it is the little things that can make a world of difference you could connect by:-

  • Listening empathically can help carers feel understood and less isolated and it is someone else to talk to. Often carers are more isolated due to their caring role.
  • Practical help such as helping with some shopping, cutting the grass, putting out the rubbish, posting a letter, helping with transport to attend an appointment, or any of the 101 things we do to maintain a home on a daily basis generally takes time and time is a precious commodity for an informal carer.
  • Valuing an informal carer for what they do can be as simple as acknowledging the difficulty and the complexity of their role. Informal carers have many skills they have developed as part of their care role which is often overlooked.
  • Time for informal carers is precious. Any time you can give to ease their role can be really helpful. From offering to clean their windows to taking around a hot meal to offering an hour here or there can make a huge difference.  Don’t forget, this can be good for you too! See it as committing small acts of kindness. Helping others makes us feel good and in the sharing, we can learn new skills, gain new knowledge and create understanding.

Help a carer connect

For simple tips to help carer stress click here to visit the Humansense resource page


Like this blog? subscribe here to be notified of further ones

Bananas food to stabilize mood

Go Bananas!!!!  The yellow smiley super fruit

Bananas are a super food that can help to stabilize mood. When I was pregnant with my son I had a craving for bananas, I reckon my consumption of the things helped to increase the share value of the global banana market!  I would get through about 6 – 8 of the yellow delights a day.  In all honesty they were often the only thing I could stomach that literally didn’t make me want to throw up!  8 years on I still love them and eat a banana or two daily.  It got me thinking, what is it about bananas and how are they good for your health?

Banana Boost for body and mind

Eating bananas regularly can have a positive effect on our health and well-being.  Bananas give a natural energy boost, although they offer carbohydrates they are low on the glycemic index and are packed full of fibre. They contain plenty of nutrients and anti-oxidants. Bananas contain no fat or sodium and are cholesterol free.    Bananas are easy to digest making them an excellent choice for a post exercise snack or an “on the go” boost.  They are also good for your heart helping to lower blood pressure. At around 100 calories for a medium-sized banana you can’t go wrong.

Feeling Low? Grab a nana

When it comes to increasing mood bananas can’t be beat.  These little beauties contain B6 (potassium) vital for optimum nerve function and Tryptophan that helps the body to produce serotonin. Serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer and when levels are normal we feel happier, more emotionally stable and calmer.  A lack of serotonin can lead to depression and anxiety and creates sleeping, eating and digestion problems.

Bananas are the ultimate Green Fast Food

Bananas come in their own packaging that is totally recyclable. As well as making an excellent fertilizer banana peel has a variety of uses that could save you some pennies. So before you compost your peels you might like to think about using the inside of peels to:

Rub on your forehead to help ease a headache

Help stop inflammation and itching from mosquito bites

Clean and polish leather shoes

Rub your teeth to help whiten them

Use on scrapes or burns to lessen the pain, inflammation and prevent infection

Find out more fun banana facts at

We are all a little bit bananas

The old scientific name for Banana is Musa Sapientum which means “fruit of a wise man”.  Musa Sapientum is not used as the official banana name today, however Ancient man certainly knew the value of bananas.  The Egyptians depicted them in hieroglyphs and the fruit was probably first cultivated in Southeast Asia.  India grows more bananas that any other county with over a 100 million being eaten every year Worldwide.

Classed as a berry that grows on a herb bananas come in a range of varieties including ones with fuzzy skins, stripped with pulp the colour of bright orange sherbet and ones that taste of strawberries when they are cooked. To top it off humans share 50% of their DNA with this super fruit. If that’s not bananas, I don’t know what is!

Niki x


Create a ripple effect with an random act of kindness

Butterfly Effect

Ever noticed how good it feels when someone does something nice for you? Ever noticed how it feels to do something nice for someone else? The simple act of promoting kindness no matter how small can have a huge impact.  “The Butterfly Effect”  comes from the Chaos Theory – whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere. Small ramdon acts of kindness work in the same way and they can be contagious!   Giving a small act of  kindness it about giving something of ourselves as human beings.  It makes both the giver and the recipient feel good or valued. These small acts of kindness actually have a positive effect on our overall well being and the well being of others.

A sense of self

As human beings we are social creatures by nature.  Early humans knew the importance of being part of a social group.  It provided protection (safety in numbers), the hunting and gathering of food, the sharing of knowledge and skills, all of which helped to increase the chances of suvival.  Research shows that being part of a functioning group or community also helps to provide a sense of self, validation and cohesion through the sharing of ideas, skills and tasks.

Many people living in the World today are faced with a variety of social and economic pressures. These can constrain the individual and distort the sense of self.  The added pressure and overload of social media delivering tradegy and  balanaty can result in leaving us feeling isolated, fearful and inadequate.

Kindness is good for your body and soul

When we commit an act of kindness we trigger the release of  Oxcytocin  (our love hormone) into our bodies.  Oxcytocin  has cardioprotective qualities.  It releases a  chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels and therefore helps to lower blood pressure and protect the heart.   Oxcytocin is also released when we see others commit act of kindness. In this case Oxcytocin increases our optimism and self esteem which is why when we see an act of kindness we are more likey to carry one out ourselves.

Research carried out by University of Britsh Columbia highlighted a positive impact on anxiety and stress.  A group of highly anxious participants committed to make at least 6 acts of kindness a week. Their results showed a general increase in mood and relationship satisfaction and a lowering of anxiety after a month of taking part.  In another experiment by Christine Carter at UC Berkeley (Greater Good Science Center) participants reported feeling calmer and less depressed and others fedback they felt more energetic and stronger after they has helped others.

Carrying out small acts of kindness particulary towards others who are struggling in some way increases our feeling of grattitude of what we do have and develops our empathy for others.  It can also help us to try new things which aids self confidence and self esteem increasing overall life satisfaction.

Love Yourself Too 

Being kind to others is one thing but what about being kind to ourselves?  For many people giving “self kindness” is hard when we are focusing on so many pressures and looking after others. It is however important for our personal physical and emotional well being.  In a study by  Bluth et al 2016 called “Making Friends with yourself”  in which  participants were asked to carry out small acts of kindness for themselves showed that those involved reported experiencing less stress and anxiety and increased their ability to have more self-compassion alongwith improved mood.

Be a butterfly and spread kindness

Its official, being kind is good for you. Whether its being kind to yourself or carrying out a small act towards someone else start spreading those beautiful wings we all have and create some kindness. It will travel a long way!

Ideas for kindness acts

* buy the person behind you in the queue a coffee at the coffee shop

* have a clear out and donate to a charity shop

* switch off your phone and have a relaxing bath or read a book

* smile at the next 3 strangers you meet

* spend 5 minutes talking to your neighbour

* give a friend a hug or why not hug yourself 🙂

* give someone a compliment

* thank someone for what they have done for you

* compliment yourself on an achievement

* buy a homeless person a coffee or a sandwich

* let someone pull out in front of you in a traffic jam

*    pick up some litter and put it in a bin – kindness towards our environment

You can find more ideas on random acts of kindness at the web link below…

Have a beautiful day xxxx


Hello World

Connect with the world (and beat the fear)

hello, salut, hei,

Welcome to my first blog here at Humansense. I have decided to take the plunge and start a blog, something I have wanted to develop for a while but put off because like many of us experience anxiety and fears that stop us from doing things. For me, writing means putting myself out there, my anxieties focus around “what if I get it wrong, what if I am not good enough or worse still what if nobody is actually interested”?!

“But your’e a counsellor” I hear you say.  Yes I am, as is Dom but we experience a range of emotions like everyone else. We swear, laugh, get sad, feel anger,  we have disagreements, sometimes we argue and we make mistakes. What we aim to do is negotiate our way and learn from our experiences in what can be a beautiful as well as a harsh World.

So, here we are. Taking a risk, like we all do when we start or try something new.  We don’t know where it will lead or if it will be a success, they key thing though it that you made the first step, had some faith and took some action.  My hope is that we can create writing and resources that you will find interesting and helpful, thought provoking and supportive, uplifting and positive and of course a good dose of humour!

We are looking forward to sharing our experience of being therapists and human beings and our knowledge we have gained so far. Our resources and blogs will cover all sorts of issues from coping with anxiety and stress, managing conflicts, using strategies to manage difficult emotions, relaxation techniques, getting the best out of ourselves and increasing personal happiness!

We also hope our blogs and resources we will be creating  will help trainee therapists  gain insight into what is important when working as a therapist, caring for self and others in the process and useful strategies for helping others get the best from their sessions.

We hope you will join us in our new adventure and we hope it inspires you to start your own.

speak soon


Feeling Flighty? Get Grounded


Butterflies in your stomach, feeling sick,  dry mouth, quickened breathing, sweating? Sound familiar?  Well if it does you are not alone.

Anxiety can be felt by anyone. In fact most recent statistics indicate that there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK (Mental Health Foundation 2013) and thats just those officially recorded.  Globally the second most prevelent mental health issue was anxiety (depression being the first – will come to that in another blog) Global Burden of Disease 2013.  As therapists, anxiety is something we work with a lot. Helping clients understand what anxiety is and how it effects them is important in coping with anxiety.  A technique we teach to clients to help manage anxiety is Grounding, its really simple and very effective, a great tool to have up your sleeve.

So what is anxiety?
Basically anxiety is a primeval survival mechanism that alerts us to danger and helps us to deal with emergencies by preparing  the body to “fight” or “flee” and is commonly known as the “fight / flight” response.  Anxiety is what we can feel when are worried or afraid and is often linked to thoughts about things we think may happen immediately in a situation or things we think might happen in the future.  Feeling anxious isn’t nice and for some it can be overwhelming and very frightening.  Panic attacks are an extreme anxiety reaction are can be completly debilitating for the person experiencing them.

Triggers and symptoms
Anxiety and triggers can be as unique as the person experiencing them.   There are however some common triggers that can influence anxiety difficulties  – childhood difficulties such as experiencing a loss or separation, past experiences such as bullying or social exclusion.  Current life stressors including financial problems, work pressures, exhaustion or being out of work.  Physical illness such as living with a serious health condition or mental health problems  such a depression can trigger anxiety as can taking certain drugs or medications.  Typical symptoms include fast heart rate, sweating and hot flushes, nausea, pins and needles,  trouble sleeping,  jaw clenching and headaches and other body pains.

Grounding for anxiety
Grounding can be done at anytime, anywhere.  You can ground standing, sitting or laying down.  When you feel yourself becomming anxious – heart racing, feeling hot, racing thoughts………follow the steps described below and tame your anxiety.

1  STOP .  You can say Stop in your head, out loud, see a stop sign etc – whatever works for you.  You can literally stop what you are doing and stand with both feet on the ground, if you are sitting put both feet on the ground.

2  BREATHE.  In through your nose and out through your mouth at a steady pace (if you need too, count in your head to  3 for breaths in and then the same for breaths out).  Really focus on the feel and the sound of your breath, take all your focus to it.  Do this 3 – 4 times or for as long as you feel you need to.  This can be sufficient in helping to calm you down and refocus, however, you can also do step three too.

3  FOCUS YOUR ATTENTION.  Keep your breathing steady  and focus your mind , try any of the following…

* take your attention to your toes / feet, feel them in your shoes or on the floor, wiggle your toes
* carry a small item with you in your pocket like a pebble or cyrstal and focus your attention on it, the shape, texture, temperature etc
* look around you and focus on something and really study it, like a picture, flowers, a sign. Break them down and focus on the colours, shapes, items etc
* what can you hear? focus on the birds singing or the rain pit pating, or focus on your breath
* as you breathe in and out just allow your self to slow down or have a soothing mantra to use such as ” I am able to “cope”  or “This will pass”

Allow yourself to just be in this space for as long as feel comfortable and then gently open your eyes and smile.  Great stuff. Now go and enjoy your day!

For more information on anxiety visit our downloads page at