Carers Week: Carers in Portsmouth and Hampshire share reality of caring for someone they love 24/7

LOCKDOWN for unpaid carers is like everyday life. They can’t just pop out when they want and they are restricted in what they can do when they manage to leave the house.

Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 4:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 6:06 pm
Aimee White, Emily White and Dan White outside 10 Downing Street on Wednesday, January 23. Picture: Byron Melton

This week is national Carers’ Week and the theme is ‘Making Carers Visible’.

For carers Lorraine Pratt from Southsea and Dan White from Fareham, both hope the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown will highlight what the estimated 6.5m people in the UK, who care for a family or friend with a disability, mental or physical illness, face every day.

Lorraine has looked after her husband Kevin since 2002 due to an inflammatory brain condition called encephalitis. The 60-year-old grandfather is now a full-time wheelchair user, struggles with speech, is diabetic and last year was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.

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Lorraine Pratt with her husband Kevin who has been left severely disabled after contracting viral encephalitis. Picture Ian Hargreaves (171235-1)

Lorraine, 55, said: ‘Lockdown is like our everyday life on steroids. We can’t just pop out and when we do go out, Kevin can get very tired and the wheelchair can restrict where we go as well.

‘With the lockdown it has also made things harder with not being able to have any help from family and usually we have two carers come in the morning to help Kev get up and dressed.

‘Life can be sheer hell but we get through it because I am determined that we will. I think I hope after this that carers in the profession and also unpaid carers get a bit of respect and there is more awareness of what we go through.’

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Dan has spent the last 14 years caring for his daughter Emily, who has spina bifida – a condition where the spine does not develop properly leaving a gap – and recently has had to start caring for his wife Aimee, who is in a wheelchair awaiting an operation for a slipped disc.

The 47-year-old said: ‘The last 14 years have been a mix of bliss and hell. I love my daughter and she is amazing but caring for her 24/7 can be difficult at times.

‘It is a full-time job and the government give us £67 a week to do it. Coronavirus has really put a spotlight on how much the system needs to be changed and how it needs to be better funded.

‘It has such an effect on my mental health as well because it is 24/7 care. I love my family but there needs to be more support for carers everywhere.’

Portsmouth Carers Centre supports carers in the city and shows families where to turn for help.

Larry Jones, who has worked at the centre for more than six years, said: ‘I had a carer say to me that “the reality is lockdown is like my life normally, I can't just leave my house when I want”.

‘Carers give up their lives to care for their loved ones and hopefully the lockdown highlights to others what they go through every day.

‘The centre is a one-stop shop for carers and we offer such a range of support and help signpost to services that can help them.’

Where to go for help

For support in Portsmouth contact Portsmouth Carers Centre by emailing [email protected] or call 02392 851864.

The support available to carers in Hampshire includes The Hampshire Carers’ Support and Dementia Advisor Service provided by Andover Mind, which supports any carer aged 18 or over. Visit andovermind.org.uk/accessingourservices/ or call 01264 332297 to leave a message requesting a call-back.

Younger carers aged under 18 can access support from the Hampshire Young Carers Alliance at https://hyca.org.uk/, or by calling 02380 902465.

For information and support for all carers in Hampshire visit connecttosupporthampshire.org.uk

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