Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice What Your Patient is Thinking

Why carers matter

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 13 June 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2385
  1. Helen Cowan
  1. Correspondence to: helen.cowan{at}

Helen Cowan’s husband is quadriplegic and she helps care for him at home. Here, she describes the importance of health professionals recognising the part played by carers

When my husband is admitted to hospital you might assume that I can take a step back from being his carer, but the reverse is true. Although my husband is usually an independent and professionally successful man, when sick he becomes tired, confused, and vulnerable. Because he is bed bound I become his arms and legs, helping him to turn and reposition, wash and dress, and get his food and drink. Crucially, I become his eyes, monitoring his body for signs of pressure damage. I also become his motivator and mood monitor: depression and anxiety are never far away when disability suddenly looms larger than in normal life.

Carers are not just visitors

During one admission, I stayed at my husband’s bedside for 48 hours. Much as I would have liked to hand over his care to staff, I knew that this would …

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