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It's National Carers Week this week

Christine Harrison

Carers Week 2021 is about making care valued and visible and to remind everybody of the crucial, often behind-the-scenes work of carers in society.

Recognising the vital contribution made by the 60,000 people across the county – one in ten of us – who look after family members or friends and have been caring more than ever over the last year.

The work of those who provide care as part of their everyday lives has been critical during the Covid-19 pandemic with many providing more care than before.

In a recent survey of unpaid carers in North Yorkshire, 74% of respondents said that they had increased the help they were providing and giving more emotional and practical support.

In the North Yorkshire survey, carers told how important it is to for them to keep up their mental and physical wellbeing and find time for themselves – so North Yorkshire County Council has worked with North Yorkshire Sport to produce a Carers Calendar which offers ideas and activities for each day of the week.

The calendar links to the five ways to wellbeing and provides some help to carers to look after their own health and wellbeing and take some time for themselves.  Examples include mindful walking, gym-free workouts or simple at-home activities for all the family to enjoy together.

During the week, county council social care staff will hear a compelling webinar from Tommy Whitelaw, the Project Lead for the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland’s Carer Voices project.

Tommy shares his personal journey as a full-time carer for his mum Joan who had vascular dementia and the webinar shows how social care professionals can make a difference through their practice; by listening and focussing on what matters to each carer.

North Yorkshire’s carers resource organisations, which the county council supports with over £500,000 in funding every year, have offered critical support during the last 12 months by helping to combat loneliness and isolation and reduce anxiety for carers. They have continued to support carers in creative ways – via calls, online group sessions and digital support as well as Covid-safe doorstep drops of shopping, resources and self-help packs.

County Councillor Michael Harrison, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Health Integration said: “Let’s use Carers Week this year to thank carers, to acknowledge what carers do every day and that they have an identity and are part of the community in their own right, in addition to their caring responsibilities.

“As a council we are committed to improving how we support carers and we already have over a hundred people who have agreed to work with us to get things right for the future. Our aim is for people with a caring role to live and work in the way they wish to, and to provide support where it is needed.

“We are asking everyone to support raising the profile of unpaid carers by checking in on those who care for others to see if they can help and/or give them a break. Sometimes, having a chat and listening can be a vital lifeline.”

Christine Holgate cares for her mum Sheila, who has dementia but still lives at home in Thirsk.

At present she has care workers from North Yorkshire visiting three times a day because Sheila has recently been in hospital after a fall, but prior to that Christine was her mum’s sole carer, preparing meals and making visits to ensure her mum was well.

The pandemic has been a challenge, however, with Christine’s own health problems a year ago adding to the strain of caring and though she persevered, she believes lockdown had a negative effect.

“I feel mum has deteriorated during lockdown, not having so much interaction. She stopped going to the day centre and I could not take her to the theatre or cinema. Not doing things, she has got worse because there is no social interaction,” she said.

Mary Mercer cares for her 21 year old daughter, Clare, who has multiple disabilities. The multiple challenges around this have been lifelong for both Mary and her family who tirelessly give emotionally, as well as physically to fully support Clare.

A blood disorder meant that Clare had to shield during the pandemic and that created an extra burden because she was unable to attend her daily college. The usual morning professional carers had to stop visiting to allow for shielding, but it is hoped as society emerges from the pandemic, that this care will be reinstated.

Despite everything, Mary said: “Clare is an absolute princess, so very adored by all our family. But the last 14 months have been a massive struggle for us, as I know it has been for others carers.”

Through the pandemic, support has been available through 23 community support organisations, which partnered with the County Council to help with a range of tasks to help carers, such as prescription collections, shopping, pet care and providing someone to talk to. North Yorkshire also provided advice packs with links to partner organisations and free personal protective equipment. Find more information about help available during Covid.

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