A voice for carers in Torbay

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(Last Updated On: May 21, 2018)

‘What people forget is just how lonely life can be for a carer.’

Those words, spoken by a carer I spoke to recently, are echoed in Healthwatch Torbay’s recent Carers Report.

Caring for a loved one, young or old, parent or a partner, can be difficult in all sorts of ways, and so, based on some 800 responses to our questionnaire, our report gave a chance to carers across the Bay to talk about their concerns.

One thing it highlights is the problems that can arise from isolation and the resulting need for both professional and social contact.

It reminds us, too, of the sheer stress of caring, something reflected in people’s need for a respite. ‘A break from time to time to enable my husband and me to have some time on our own,’ is a typical plea. ‘Just knowing you haven’t got that responsibility for a short time so you can recharge your own batteries.’

More support, though, was also a priority for many, with one telling us, ‘More work needs to be done on supporting carers, rather than focusing on giving them a break from their role.’

On top of that, carers themselves grow older, of course, and sometimes frailer – so there ought to be timely re-assessments to address their changing needs. ‘To offer one-off assessments is not enough,’ was a typical comment. ‘We need more regular assessments with a broader range of support.’

A number of replies also touched on end of life support, something else that really needs to be addressed.

FOLLOWING UP

‘We’re always striving to improve our services, but part of the value of this report is that it shows us what works well, and therefore what is important to continue,’  Katy Heard, Carers’ and Volunteers’ Lead Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, tells us. ‘It also emphasises areas which need continued work or improvement such as GP practice identification of Carers, and the suggestion to have planned carer reviews.’

All of that said, the report tells us that, in the main, carers are appreciative of the support they receive and really do value the Torbay Carers Service as a whole, while another positive, Katy reminds us, is the number of carers who said they’d be interested in finding out more about volunteering or providing peer support to other carers, something she’ll definitely follow up!

To find out more about the report and how it will feed into the Torbay Carers Strategy for 2018-2021, you can call us – free – on 08000 520029, or email admin@healthwatchtorbay.org.uk? You could even call in to our offices for a chat in Paignton Library.

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(Author)

Apart from five years studying in Oxford I’ve lived most of my life in London where for many years I was Head of English in a prestigious girls’ school, but since taking early retirement and heading West to be nearer to my two daughters - settling in Torbay with my wife, Anna, in 2011 - I’ve worked in the voluntary sector. I took on the role of Service Provider, for example, promoting the Red Cross Torbay Navigators Project, while now I’m a Trustee and part of the Media Team for our local Healthwatch. I’m a governor at Torquay Academy, too, giving me the chance to stay up to date with what’s happening in the world of education. Other interests, aside from friends and family, include art and art history, reading - from contemporary fiction and poetry to Elizabethan/Jacobean literature - history, politics, cooking, walking, and music, in particular Bob Dylan, the blues, and early Elvis. I love writing, too, with one novel published so far – Elvis in Wonderland – and another, Who’s There?, that still needs plenty of work!