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Carers are not always seeking out the support they may need

‘Hidden carers’ refers to informal carers who may not recognise themselves as carers and so do not, or struggle to, access support. This may apply to carers of people with long-term conditions, such as heart disease, whose role involves more emotional work than practical tasks.

This qualitative study of 19 informal carers of people with long-term conditions in north west England identified several barriers preventing them from identifying as carers.

They reported fears about adopting the label of carer because they were concerned that this would threaten the identity of the cared-for person and their focus on ‘self-management’.

Such barriers prevented carers from feeling ‘qualified’ to access support, despite the responsibilities undertaken. These might include subtle changes in relationships such as taking on household management tasks previously done by the other person. Those carers who accessed support emphasised the benefits of space to think about their own needs and feeling connected with other carers.

Participants felt that health professionals were in a position to validate the role of carer and encourage support seeking.

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