Worcestershire Association of Carers
It’s estimated that 63,000 people across Worcestershire are unpaid carers, looking after a relative or a friend. It can be a demanding, difficult and sometimes unrecognised role according to Worcestershire Association of Carers.
‘There are more people in this situation than many of us realise and the numbers continue to grow’ says James Harris from the Association of Carers. ‘They might be caring for a spouse or elderly relative who can no longer look after themselves, or looking after someone who is disabled or terminally ill. All our support services are free and we help people in many different ways.’
‘Perhaps our most important service is the Carers’ Helpline’ says James, ‘which offers basic advice and is often people’s first point of contact with us. ‘When people first contact us we look at all aspects of their caring role; how they are coping practically, but also the emotional and financial impact on their lives. As well as giving advice we often refer them on to other organisations in the county that will be able to offer them further help.’
The Association also runs ‘Talk Time’, a volunteer run service which offers friendship and a listening ear to carers who become isolated from the outside world because of the demands on their time. ‘They don’t necessarily talk much about the issues around caring’ says James, ‘its more of a chance just to have a chat about what’s been on tv, or other things going on in their lives.’
Regular courses and practical sessions are also very popular. ‘Our Legal and Financial course helps people with areas as diverse as setting up a trust, writing a will or navigating their way through the care system’ says James. ‘We also run Caring with Confidence sessions which gives carers practical ways in which they can deal with the day to day challenges they face. We run these courses at a variety of locations and in the evening as well as during the daytime, so that people can find a course that fits around their lives.’
There is a GP Support Service, that helps both carers and local health and social care services to make sure people have the correct help, and the Association runs twelve Carers’ Groups across Worcestershire. ‘These are a chance for people to meet others in a similar situation’ says James Harris. ‘These are all run by volunteers and meet once a month. The most valuable thing is carers helping each other and sharing advice that’s invaluable.’
‘We help around 8,500 people in Worcestershire which is still only a small number of the total number of unpaid carers’ says James. ‘Part of the difficulty is that a lot of people caring for somebody don’t even see themselves as a carer. We do our best to reach out to these people and try to raise awareness of the help they can access through us.’
The Carers’ Helpline can be reached on:
0300 012 4272 between 9am & 7pm Monday to Friday, and between 9am and Midday on Saturdays.
Erika from St. John's in Worcester cared around the clock for both her husband and mother, before losing them both within 8 months of each other.
‘I cared for my husband for four years after he was diagnosed with cancer. At the same time my mother had a series of mini strokes. I'm an only child so I had to care for them all on my own. Its mentally, emotionally and physically draining. I felt my world had been shattered and you have to deal with it; you can't escape it.
It’s very demanding, you're dealing with it 24/7 you may have to go to hospital in the middle of the night. You're on tenterhooks all the time. Watching somebody you love suffer is very difficult. I wanted to wave a magic wand and make it go away, but you can't, its there in front of you all of the time.
I always had to pretend to be chirpy and happy which was very difficult because inside I was dying. You'd put on a smile and try to appear positive and happy. I always put others before myself because they were the most important thing in my life. Those two people were my world and when they died it was like part of me died. I felt redundant; I had been a full time carer, dealing with health professionals and care homes and suddenly it stopped.
Having professional support on board has helped me to rebuild my world piece by piece. You never get over losing somebody but you have to re-build your world and keep busy.
Worcestershire Association of Carers have been fantastic. If I needed help with something there was always phone support. I attended a monthly group where I could talk to other carers, who are the best people to talk to because they're living and breathing it every day. You can pick up tips and ideas and you realise you're all in the same boat.
I also attended the Association's bereavement course and discovered other people felt the same way that I did. I suddenly realised that I wasn't the only person going through this on my own, but that every day somebody else will walk in my shoes.’
Worcestershire Association of Carers always needs volunteers to help to run its support services. If you think you might be able to help, please contact Alison Cutner on (01905) 751347 or by email: email@example.com
Click on 'related pages' below to watch the short film of Erika's story.