With an estimated 84,000 unpaid carers in West Sussex, the County Council and Carers Support West Sussex are keen to spread awareness about carers support during the charity campaign week, National Carers Week 2016 (6-12 June), with one local resident sharing his experiences and insights into caring and using vital support services.
West Sussex resident Michael Hydon didn’t sign up to be a carer but, when his wife Julie’s health began to deteriorate, taking care of her was his number one priority.
Living in Fernhurst, Michael dedicated much of his time to caring for Julie until she died peacefully at home in 2011.
“The caring role can creep up on you,” he said, “But you just get on with it, don’t you? It’s what you do if you love someone.
“We were very happy. However, she had severe osteoporosis with some bad fractures and digestive issues in addition that caused her to continue to lose weight, in spite of me cooking three hot meals a day.”
Today Michael is continuing to share his own experience – including offering tips for carers – in the hope that others will find the vital support they need when taking on the role.
“I’ve been there and worn the T-shirt,” he said, “I can meet carers now in that situation and quickly understand how they’re feeling. They deserve all the support they can get.”
Caring can involve various tasks, such as physical care, personal care like washing and dressing, managing medication or providing emotional support.
For some, doing this for a spouse, relative or friend can mean they don’t necessarily see themselves as a carer – yet approximately a third of ‘carers’ aged 65-74 provide 50 or more hours of unpaid care every week.
Carers Support West Sussex is on hand to provide help and guidance to anyone caring for someone else who depends on them. They are particularly keen to hear from men who are facing pressures similar to those experienced by Michael, but have yet to come forward for the support to which they are entitled.
“I’d say I was a ‘hidden carer’ for some time and was unaware of Carers Support West Sussex,” Michael revealed.
“When the penny dropped that I urgently needed information and support, I discovered that there was a carers group meeting in Midhurst and joined it.
“I wish I’d done that much earlier.”
The West Sussex County Council, local charity Carers Support West Sussex and Clinical Commissioning Groups in the county are also supporting the annual carers awareness week running from 6-12 June by asking local residents to help make the county more ‘carer friendly’.
Peter Catchpole, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Later Life, added: “Michael’s determination to support carers is admirable, and we hope his story will encourage more people in West Sussex to reach out for support. If you are a carer and would like support, please contact Carers Support West Sussex by calling 0300 028 8888 or visit www.carerssupport.org.uk.”
If you are a family or friend carer and would like to find out more information, or how to get involved in Carers Week, visit www.carerssupport.org.uk.