UNPAID carers in Bo’ness and Blackness can have their say on a strategy which aims to give them a better deal.
They want feedback from people helping others to live independently, plus the staff and organisations supporting unpaid carers.
Issues facing Forth Valley’s 43,000 carers can include the need for short breaks, back and shoulder pain, feelings of isolation and having to quit work to care for a loved one.
Comments received will help shape the new Forth Valley Integrated Carers Strategy, due out in October.
*Over half of carers have a long-term illness or disability
*86 per cent suffer stress, anxiety and depression
*More than a third are exhausted
*45 per cent said caring had pushed them into debt
NHS Forth Valley’s public health director, Dr Anne Maree Wallace, said: “The impact on carers’ health is very worrying.
“The number of carers in Scotland is expected to rise to a million over the next 25 years and it is vital that we do everything possible to help relieve the strain of looking after those who are ill, frail or have a disability.”
The burden on young carers, who can experience bullying, poor educational attainment, low self esteem and job worries, will also be addressed.
Agnes McMillan, manager at the Princess Royal Trust Carers Centre (Falkirk and Clackmannanshire), said: “I welcome this opportunity to bring together the various strands of support that are available across Forth Valley to achieve better outcomes for our carers.”
Alan Henderson (50) of Bo’ness cares full-time for wife Ann (48), who has very little movement and is confined to a wheelchair with MS.
His challenges range from practicalities like getting the most suitable wheelchair, juggling medical visits and running a household, and disruption if social workers move on, and financial restraints.
Alan said: “Carers may be looking after the person they love but if that person was in hospital the bill would run up to thousands and thousands of pounds.”
View the draft strategy and respond under the ‘Get Involved’ (Public Consultations) section at www.nhsforthvalley.com or call 0800 456033.
*The centre runs a free carers support group in Bo’ness Salvation Army Hall (last Wednesday of each month, 10.30am-noon; restarting August) covering topics like reminiscing, first aid and coping with challenging behaviour. Call 01324 611510 if you need help in order to attend. Organiser Pat Gallagher, carers’ community healthworker, said carers were three times more likely to become ill themselves.
She said: “Carers often don’t know where to start because it’s such a stressful situation. They don’t see themselves as carers but as husbands, wives, sons and daughters.”