Your first thoughts are always for the victims of asbestos related diseases and a life cut short, but the terrible legacy of asbestos affects the whole family.
Once exposed to asbestos dust it can take 10 to 50 years to develop symptoms but when they do take hold they can leave the sufferer in need of everyday care.
Breathlessness, tiredness, coughing and chest pains are all common symptoms. Simple tasks like gardening, washing the car, walking up the stairs or just walking down the hall to the toilet can be impossible without the help of a loved one.
It can be further complicated by the fact that asbestos affects mainly the older generation. Many people who develop an asbestos-related disease are already caring for a loved one with an aged associated illness, such as arthritis or dementia.
According to the Health and Safety Executive the number of UK deaths per year from asbestos related mesothelioma and lung cancer is more than 5,000 and growing. To those 5,000 sufferers add nearly 1,500 people diagnosed with pleural thickening or asbestosis every year. That means year-on-year there are at least 6,500 unsung heroes who suddenly find themselves caring for a loved one affected by asbestos conditions.
The carers are wives, husbands, sons, daughters, other family members or friends who still have to live their own lives and work to make ends meet. These carers hold a family together and enable loved ones to get the most out of life, while they continue to juggle work, family life and may be in poor health themselves.
This is exactly why we are supporting Carers UK’s annual Carer’s Rights Day on Friday November 28. We help hundreds of people caring for a loved one with an asbestos-related disease to access important financial and practical support. It is essential that carers know what they are entitled to and that they take the help on offer.
It is also essential that the people diagnosed with asbestos diseases know that they have the right to seek compensation for their exposure to the deadly dust and for them to start the claims process as quickly as possible. It could mean a significant difference to the care that they receive and allow them to secure their carer’s finances now, and for the future.
According to the charity Carers UK, there are 6.5 million people in the UK who are carers, supporting a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill. That is 1 in 8 adults who care, unpaid, for family and friends. The charity estimates that within our lifetime, there will be 9 million carers.
Carers UK says that having the right information at the right time can make a huge difference when you are looking after someone. Each year Carers Rights Day tries to bring organisations together to help carers in their local community know their rights and find out how to get the help and support they are entitled to.
This year’s theme is ‘Looking after someone? Know your rights’. Accessing services and entitlements can be complicated and it is not just new carers missing out on vital financial and practical support. Even those who have been caring for years can be unaware of their rights and benefits.
It is even more important to focus on carer’s rights this year because big legal changes within the Care Act 2014 will come into force in April next year for England.
To get involved in Carer UK’s ‘Carer’s Rights Day’ can be as simple as spreading the word on social media or in the workplace, right through to holding a coffee morning for a benefits drop-in session. Whatever you do, don’t let ‘Carer’s Rights Day’ pass unsung…