New figures suggest that there are now more than 130,000 people in Devon who are carers, the figure having risen by half again because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Worryingly though, just 21,000 of that number – roughly only one in every six – are accessing vital information and support that is available to them.
This week is Carers Week, and Devon County Council, NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Devon Carers are shining a light on it to encourage people who are carers for friends and family to recognise themselves as unpaid carers, and to come forward for help.
Vera Tooke didn’t think she was a carer because Graham, who she cares for, is her husband. Graham has Parkinson’s disease and Lewy-Body Dementia.
“There are people who need a little bit of help and those who need more,” said Vera. “Looking after someone else is difficult, but I didn’t see myself as a ‘carer’. The label didn’t feel right.
“I was coping with the physical aspects of looking after my husband, but dementia is something else. I felt I couldn’t leave Graham to do the things I needed to do. I felt guilty and worried when I did. He was very much against anyone else helping him, even family.
“I then admitted to myself that I was a carer and I contacted Devon Carers for a carer’s assessment. They were brilliant. A carers assessment has nothing to do with judging how you are functioning as a carer, it looks at your own needs as the carer.”
Devon Carers recommended that Vera also contact Devon County Council’s Care Direct Plus, who assessed Graham’s needs and provided them with equipment to make life easier for him and for Vera at home.
They also gave advice about respite care, so that Vera can pursue her own things.
“I didn’t know this help was available until I spoke to them. So, it is worth contacting them,” said Vera. “I am immensely grateful for the help we are getting from Devon Carers.”
Vera’s story isn’t unique. She is one of thousands of people across Devon working around the clock to help and care for relatives and friends who couldn’t manage on their own.
But while the coronavirus pandemic has meant even more people in Devon taking on caring responsibilities, Devon Carers saw a 50 per cent reduction in the number of people approaching them for support between April and June last year.
Devon Carers, which is commissioned by Devon County Council and NHS Devon, provides information, advice and support for people who care for others, whether they need help because they are ill, frail, disabled or have a mental health or a substance misuse problem and couldn’t manage independently without their support.
They, the Council and NHS Devon CCG are urgently appealing to carers to get in touch.
“With the impact of the coronavirus pandemic more people are caring for loved ones than ever before, and for some, that can feel quite overwhelming, especially at such a difficult time.
“Many people won’t even think of themselves as carers because the person they are looking after is a relative, but caring can bring a whole host of responsibilities and worries and which can often have a real impact on a carer’s health and wellbeing.
“This Carers Week we are recognising the contribution that unpaid carers make in Devon and encourage them to contact Devon Carers where they can access much-needed support.”
It’s not only adults. Children and young people in Devon also share caring responsibilities for their loved ones.
“During Carers Week we want to acknowledge young carers. They do a magnificent job, are valued and we are committed to supporting them.
“Many young people don’t realise they’re carers as they help to look after a family member and they often put others needs before their own. This can result in young carers feeling worried and isolated.
“But support is available, so please get in touch. Devon Young Carers is on hand to help with everything from accessing benefits, your rights as a carer, tips on looking after yourself and putting you in touch with other carers to help support you.”
Devon Carers is running a full programme of events just for carers throughout Carers Week and the timetable is full of online events from musical theatre and yoga sessions to name a few.
Find all events information run by Devon Carers on their website and to book your place email them with your full name, date of birth, activity title and date to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note these events are open to carers only.
If you help someone who couldn’t manage on their own, or know someone who does, please get in touch.
Support is available for adult carers at devoncarers.org.uk/support or support for young carers is available at https://www.westbank.org.uk/Pages/Category/young-carers or call 03456 434 435.
Commitment to carers
In Autumn 2019, Devon County Council and NHS Devon CCG, as part of the integrated care system for Devon (the partnership of health and social care organisations working together with local communities across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay), signed up to a Devon wide Commitment to Carers. More information on this can be found at icsdevon.co.uk/priorities/carers/
Who is a carer?
A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, mental or physical illness, substance misuse issue, or who needs extra help as they grow older.
For some, taking on a caring role can be sudden: someone in your family has an accident or your child is born with a disability. For others, caring responsibilities can grow gradually over time: your parents can’t manage on their own any longer or your partner’s mental or physical health gradually worsens.
The amount and type of support that carers provide varies considerably. It can range from a few hours a week, such as picking up prescriptions and preparing meals, to providing emotional support or personal care day and night.
Caring will touch every one of us in our lifetime, whether we become a carer or need care ourselves. Whilst caring can be a rewarding experience, it can also have a huge impact on a person’s health, finances, and relationships.
About Carers Week 2021
Carers Week will take place from 7-13 June 2021 across the UK.
Carers Week, established by Carers UK 27 years ago, is an annual awareness campaign which takes place to celebrate and recognise the vital contribution made by the UK’s 6.5 million carers. It is also a time of intensive local activity with hundreds of activities planned for carers across the UK.
There are lots of different ways to get involved in Carers Week. From sharing information with a struggling friend, to holding a virtual information event in your workplace, we all have a role to play to help get carers connected.
Visit the Carers Week website (www.carersweek.org) and:
Add Your Voice for Carers Week by spreading awareness of caring on the Carers Week website or on social media
- Run an activity and register it on the Carers Week website so that others can find it
- Follow Carers Week on Twitter @CarersWeek and use the hashtag #Carersweek
- Like Carers Week on Facebook (www.facebook.com/carersweek) and join in with the conversation