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Revealed: hidden ranks of carers

PUBLISHED: 10:12 05 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:13 06 July 2010

MORE than two-thirds of people in Waveney who look after a loved one do not access any help or support from health and care organisations, according to the newly-launched NHS service, Carers Direct.

MORE than two-thirds of people in Waveney who look after a loved one do not access any help or support from health and care organisations, according to the newly-launched NHS service, Carers Direct.

There are nearly 12,040 people in the local authority district who take care of someone, such as an elderly parent or disabled family member - representing about 1 in 10 people in the area.

But, more than 8,100 people do not see themselves as carers and do not register on the radars of health or care organisations.

This army of “hidden” carers often persevere alone, spending 20 hours or more a week looking after loved ones, without seeking any assistance or support from organisations who can help them.

The Carers Direct helpline (0808 802 02 02) is aiming to reach these hidden carers and to encourage them to call the helpline so they can find out what practical and financial support may be available to them.

Dame Philippa Russell, chairman of the Standing Commission of Carers, said: “So many of us take on the role of carer without even knowing it. Often it starts with offering to help an elderly relative with shopping, or checking if they've taken their medication; but before you know it you're with them several hours or more a week, and as their ability to look after themselves deteriorates they rely on you even more.

“Without help and support, before long you can find yourself struggling with what can be very physical and mental demands, trying to balance work and home life and potentially risking your own health and wellbeing as a result. It is important that carers are aware that there is help out there, whether it's just having someone to talk to, guidance on financial assistance or simply understanding the support available to them.”

Dr Hilary Jones is lending support to the campaign, encouraging anyone who looks after someone else to be aware of the help and support available to them.

He said: “Carers can often neglect their own health and wellbeing, as the person they care for is their main priority. I'm supporting the Who Cares? campaign in order to ensure that the millions of carers across the UK are taking advantage of the support available to them. Many of the Carers Direct advisers have been carers at some point and can provide help and support not only for your family member but also for the carer.”

Celebrities supporting the campaign include Sir David Jason, Paul O'Grady, Tony Robinson and Arlene Phillips.

Rob Finch, from Carers Direct, said: “Whether you look after someone for a few hours or several days a week, the helpline is there for you.

“Staffed by trained advisers, many of whom are carers themselves, the helpline can provide information, advice and support, whether that's how to take a break, getting special equipment, help in the home, financial support or even just a friendly voice to talk to for reassurance.

“We're here to help in whatever way we can.”

For free information, support and advice contact Carers Direct free on 0808 802 02 02 or visit the website www.nhs.uk/carersdirect

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