Carers being forced into 'life of isolation'

Sarah HallThousands of carers are being forced into a lifetime of isolation and loneliness as an increasing number of people 'give up everything' to look after a loved one.Sarah Hall

Thousands of carers are being forced into a lifetime of isolation and loneliness as an increasing number of people 'give up everything' to look after a loved one.

A shocking new report released to mark Carers Week revealed that three quarters of the people looking after ill, frail or disabled people do not have a life outside their caring role.

Out of the 81,000 carers in Norfolk at least 80pc of them have had to give up leisure and social activities to become a full time carer and miss out on opportunities the rest of the population takes for granted.

Calls have been made for the government to provide more support to carers who say they feel 'marginalised and invisible' on a daily basis.

At an event to mark the launch of Carers Week at the Forum in Norwich popular television actress Lynda Bellingham called on the government to do more to recognise the role of carers.

She said: 'The role of carers is so significant but the government does not seem to realise their significance. We have a great health system but the emphasis is not always in the right place and this needs to change.'

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Many carers are unpaid and exact figures are unknown but it is estimated one in seven of the Norfolk population dedicate their lives to a sick relative or friend and there is between an estimated 250 to 600 child carers in the county, their role being carried out before and after school.

The care can range from doing washing and cleaning to dressing, bathing and feeding some one and being on call day and night.

The survey, carried out by Carers Week - a partnership of a large numbers of charities and organisations including Carers UK, Crossroads Care, Help the Hospices, Parkinson's UK and Macmillan Cancer Support.

The majority of those surveyed can no longer rely on relatives for support either, as these relationships have suffered as a result of caring - 75pc say they have lost touch with family and friends since caring for some one else and many are unable to socialise, to have romantic relationships or to even consider having children.

The EDP We Care Appeal works to relieve the elderly, infirm, sick or disabled in Norfolk through the provision of financial and practical support to their carers either individually or through carers groups.

Paddy Seligman, chairwoman of the We Care Appeal, said: 'There are so many unpaid carers out there who literally give up everything to care for some one they love.

'What is particularly sad is that there are a number of elderly people who look after some one else but they are in desperate need of help themselves.

'The situation is not as gloomy as it was a few years ago as there are more helplines and organisations which can help but a lot of people don't know what help is out there.

'There is a big difference in the type of care and financial support people are offered and this is confusing for carers.'

Paul Matz, Carers Week manager, said: 'Carers need and deserve change. We need to see better access to advice and information, improved funding for breaks, and support and flexibility for carers at the workplace. Only then will carers get a real chance at a life of their own, and the opportunity to do some of the things that the rest of us take for granted.'