Sharing Stories

Allied Health Professionals x Working Carers

What is an unpaid carer?

An unpaid carer might be a partner, family member, friend or neighbour. They could be temporary or permanent caring for someone because of illness, disability, a mental health problem, addiction, or for an older person with care needs who otherwise could not cope without them.

Often individuals may not consider themselves to be a carer but carers come from all walks of life, all cultures and can be of any age. Many feel they are just doing what anyone else would do in the same situation; looking after their mother, son or best friend and just getting on with it.


What is a working carer?

Approximately, 1 in 5 employees juggle work with care, so it is more common than you might think for Allied Health Professionals to be a carer, alongside their professional roles.

In this article we wish to share Allied Health Professional (AHP) staff experiences and what support is available if you are an AHP and working carer, or if you may be considering a career as an AHP but have caring responsibilities.

Sophie’s Story

Shared by Sophie Dawson, Occupational Therapist:


Can you tell us a bit about your role?

So I’m an Occupational Therapist (OT); I first heard about this in college. I always knew I wanted to work in a professional caring role but was unsure which route to go down, then was told about OT and it fit perfectly with my values.

I am able to help people and feel like I’m making a difference to their daily living activities and hopefully making their live easier!

I qualified 6 years ago and have worked as an OT at Thompson Court for around 4 years now. It is an intermediate care setting, so we have assessment and rehabilitation admissions from hospital and aim to aid recovery to get people back home. It is a high demand and very busy setting.


Can you tell us about your role as a working carer?

Although I wouldn’t use the term “working carer” to describe my role as it just felt like how my life was at the time and I just went along with it and did what I had to.

My step-father became unwell in January 2022 with some undiagnosed symptoms, after a lot of back and forth to the GP/A&E, he was then diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

He had a really poor prognosis and was predicted to survive around 4-6 weeks from the point of diagnosis. He was 53. At the time, it probably felt like a really long time as he was in pain for an extended time.

My role felt quite insignificant compared to others’. However, I felt like it was my mum that needed the support. My stepdad was receiving around the clock nursing care in an exceptional establishment, but my mum was unable to look after herself and became completely physically and emotionally dependant on me.

I was ensuring she was eating, drinking, walking her dog. This did seem like a lot as well as working full time. I was ringing her every morning, every lunch time, and going to see her and my stepdad every evening. All of this on top of looking after my own daughter and working full time was quite a lot to juggle. I was also trying to ensure that my sister was kept informed; she is younger than me and works shifts so wasn’t always readily available.


When did you realised you were a ‘working carer’?

I realised I was a working carer after my stepdad passed away; 9 weeks after his diagnosis. Then it was the shift of support to my mum more than before; spending all of my time I wasn’t working with her to ensure she was looking after herself, paying her bills, making appointments and so on, regarding my step-dad. It feels like a blur looking back.

It was one of the most challenging times of my life, but work was my tonic at the time and kept me busy, kept me sane (as well as my daughter and partner).


What support did you receive from work?

Work were amazingly supportive. My supervisor sent me flowers, rearranged my calendar when I needed time off when my stepdad passed away, allowed me to book time off to help my mum move house after my stepdad had passed away.

If I’m honest with myself, I probably didn’t take the time I needed to process everything that I needed to, but it just felt like there was always something to do.

Kez's Story from the West Yorkshire ICB Resources

Freya’s Story

Our next story comes from Freya Sledding, Therapy Service Manager


Can you tell us a bit about your role?

Hello, my name is Freya. I am currently in a therapy management role and work at Airedale Foundation Trust.

Through my career as a working mum I have juggled bringing up a family in addition to working for the NHS since 1994. I have been very lucky and had supportive managers who when I have required facilitated me to flex my working.

As my children grew up this need reduced, and I began feeling less need for the flexibilities I had to call upon. Actually, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

My mum was diagnosed with dementia around three years ago and was a very independent lady who lived alone, enjoyed holidays and had an active social life.

Although we lived locally, she was always busy with planned activities but made her regular visit to my house to catch up in-between phone calls. If we fast forward 3 years, the outlook is very different.

She is on the cusp of just about coping living alone. She has moved and is in a warden-controlled ground floor flat with a cleaner, befriending service and between myself and my sister provide daily pop in visits to care for her.  She is unable to holiday without someone attending with her so again my sister and I share that responsibility.


Can you tell us about your role as a working carer?

My sister was made redundant at the start of the pandemic so alongside a very part time job manages the majority of mums care which involves daily administration of medication, dealing with correspondence, attending appointments, shopping  taking to dementia groups and social activities to name a view.

As a working carer I was lucky that my manager and organisation supported mine and my family’s needs.

Together with the support of respite we manage to keep my mum at home and hope we can do this for as long as possible. I try to support my sister my taking on duties that I can do out of working hours such as meal preparation, sorting out respite, lasting power of attorney, emails and correspondence .

This often extends out of my expertise .. last weekend was spent repairing the TV that she had fiddled with, fixing her wardrobe and reassuring her about my sister going away. The needs can be varied and at time bizarre!  It’s often the unplanned care that causes most distress or flexibility.

Last year my sister’s daughter became very ill and for a short time I had to do more.


What support do you receive from work?

Having employers and managers who understand this makes such a difference.

As I write this my sister is away and we are juggling respite with a new care agency.

The responsibility and burden of being a carer alongside a busy day job is demanding. I could not give up work and appreciate for the most of times I can flex the two important roles I have. Work means a lot to me both financially but its also important to who I am. I know others may want to give up work but for me that’s not the answer. Continuing work should be open to people that work in health and care settings. The NHS and Social care needs people to remain in work (we all know the workforce challenges!) and to bring their lived experience to work to improve the services we provide.


Is there anything you have learnt from being a working carer?

Being an unpaid carer helps me empathise with the people I manage but also spurs me on to meet the needs of carers in the services I manage.

Don’t be hard on yourself, get support when you need it although we work in a caring role being a carer brings its own stress and challenges .. you are not super human.


Do you have any advice?

I would recommend checking in with the unpaid carers you have in your team and listen to the challenges they have.

It’s really important as health care workers we support these people as best we can to continue to juggle work and their carers role. You might be able to support something practical which helps or just be a listening ear to offer support.

Have a look at the new AHP strategy #AHPsDeliver. We all have a role to commit to care for those who care whether that be our paid / unpaid carers of our patients but also our colleagues and friends .

As AHPs we do put people first. AHPs will continue asking “what matters to you?” at both individual and community level, and the AHP community will work with other health and care colleagues and beyond traditional boundaries to ensure AHP approaches are always person and community centred and compassionate.

Carers Week Video 2022

Carol’s Story

Story shared by Carol Blackwell, Occupational Therapist


Can you tell us about your role and how you came into the profession?

I am an Occupational Therapist and currently, I work in a split role between being a team leader for  Stroke and Neuro therapy services and Long Covid coordinator for Act as One Long Covid Recovery pathway.  I qualified in 1995, having gone to undertake my training straight from School,  as I always knew I wanted to be in a caring profession.


Can you tell us about your role as a working carer?

I have never really thought about the title of being a working carer until this project came along, but I was acutely aware of the stresses of juggling work and home life with all that goes along with that!  As a family, our lives turned upside down 4 and a half years ago when my husband was diagnosed with kidney cancer. For the past 4 years he has had regular immunotherapy treatment.

Our Son the following year was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 9, which again changed the way we live as a family. The ups and downs of managing blood glucose levels is a daily battle and supporting him to become more independent with his condition and injections can be challenging, especially now that the teenage hormones are starting to emerge! It has been a steep learning curve and continues to be an emotional rollercoaster.


What is it like being a working carer?

As said, it is a juggling act….for the most part work can be a distraction. I have worked in the same area for a long period of time, so the team feel like work family. All have been a huge support to me on every level and there have been times that I wouldn’t have managed to keep my work life balance in check without them. At present the addition of a split post creates a different challenge and can be stressful at times,  but can allow for more flexibility with working from home.


What support have you received from work?

All my line managers past and present have been phenomenal and so understanding. The team with which I work also support me so much, especially when needing to take leave at short notice to take hubby for treatment or my son to appointments. We are fortunate at Airedale Hospital that everybody tends to know everyone, so a reassuring smile as you walk along the corridor, can make a huge difference if I am having a ‘wobbly’ day.


Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?

By highlighting working carers and sharing these stories, it helps to reassure that we are not the only ones going through this experience. It’s a journey and we all can learn from our experiences as a working carer.

Thank you for giving a name to what I do!!

Carers Week 2022

The Working Carers Passport

If you are a working carer, work alongside a working carer or manage a working carer, it is worth being aware of the Working Carers Passport.


What is the aim of the Working Carers Passport?

The aim of the Working Carers Passport is to help employees to balance work and unpaid care, to support their health and wellbeing and ensure, they remain well and at work.


What is the Working Carers Passport?

The Working Carers Passport is a tool to aid organisations to be a supportive employer, helping to balance the employee’s unpaid caring responsibilities and need for flexibility with the needs of the organisation.

This guidance supports managers to have supportive conversations with their employees who have caring responsibilities. Evidence shows allowing greater flexible working arrangements enables working carers to balance work and care successfully, enabling them to work with flexibility and peace of mind.


How do I find out more?

View the Working carers passport – manager guidance.  Further guidance can be found at Alternately your local carers organisation can offer further help or support.

Working Carers: In the NHS