Last week was Carers Week – an annual week of activity to raise awareness and celebrate the contribution of 6.4 million unpaid carers in the UK. Age UK is a national partner charity and more than 120 local Age UK partners, training centres and affiliated organisations took part. Across the country, local Age UK partners were busy making sure older carers felt special. Many organised special events, like Age UK Derby and Derbyshire who organised pampering sessions, so that carers could have a break.
This year, the theme of Carers Week was ‘In sickness and in health’. Caring often goes further than the wedding vows, it recognises that many carers devote so much of their time caring for a family member or friend; they can often end up ill themselves.
Carers Week highlighted the need for sustainable funding for social care services and the need for better support for unpaid carers both practically and financially. This year’s campaign called on GPs to take an active role in registering carers attending their practices so that they’re sign-posted to support services, offered respite and get the advice and information they need to look after themselves and the people they care for.
Ann Mir, 77, a Trustee of Age UK Camden, attended a Carers Week Speed Networking event with MPs on Monday. She spoke to MPs about her caring responsibilities and the challenges facing many older carers. ‘I care for an 84 year old friend who I have known for 47 years. Mobility is her biggest problem. The last two times she’s been out on her own she’s fallen, so I go with her. Her memory is also a problem. She can’t use the cash machine or remember to take pills, so I liaise with the pharmacist. I also keep her company. My friend has had three bereavements in the last year so it’s been a very difficult time for her. I’m worried that she might be developing dementia. I got the GP to come round to do a home visit, which was quite an achievement, as home visits are rare as hen’s teeth! Hopefully this will help her get the support she needs.’
Ann hopes that by talking to MPs at the event, she was able to convey some of the difficulties that carers face and the need for better financial, practical and emotional support.
Age UK are calling on the Government to urgently reform the care system. More than 130,000 people have signed the Care in Crisis petition calling for reform of England’s care system. Find out more about our campaign and how you can get involved.