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Unpaid Family and Friends Who Care for Our Disabled and Older People Should Get the Support They Need

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Whether you want to admit it or not, there's a good chance you're going to need someone to help you out a bit in life, especially as you knock on a bit. If you're lucky that might just be with a bit of shopping when you're in your 80s or 90s , or helping you do your garden. But it can mean things you most likely don't want to think about - very personal things like getting you on and off the toilet, getting you washed or shaved, reminding you to take your pills or changing your dressings, being there for you emotionally if you're really down.

And if you think the state is going to come charging up on white steed to help you out, then I'm afraid you're probably wrong. Unless you've got to the point where you're really at risk, then it's fairly likely you'll be left to get on with it.

So. How come we don't have millions more older and disabled people left unable to cope? Because friend and family step in, of course, maybe for a short time whilst someone is ill, or maybe for a decades with a disabled child or an elderly parent. One in 10 of us is a carer right now - unpaid, helping out someone who needs us.

You would think, given how much we rely on this kind of help, that the carers giving up their time and often their jobs, as well as taking a hit on their own financial, physical and mental health would be lavished with all manner of support. They're saving all us taxpayers a fortune after all. But again, I'm afraid you'd be wrong. There is support out there but nothing like enough.

Part of the problem is that friends and family often don't see themselves as 'carers' - they just think they're someone's mum, someone's husband, someone's neighbour, and don't ask for help perhaps because they think there isn't any. They go on caring until they're completely knackered and they can't go on, often meaning the person they care for ends up in a residential home.

That's why today we're launching our new charity for carers. Carers Trust has been set up to make sure people know that if you're a carer, you should get the support you need, and also (gasp!) YOU are also entitled to a life and a break. Caring for someone can be really rewarding and many carers wouldn't have it any other way, but it shouldn't mean you get ill yourself and it shouldn't mean you give up the other things that matter to you.

You want to go to college? Want to stay working but fit it round your mum's care needs?. Just want some time off once in a while? Hardly unreasonable, don't you think? So why are these kinds of things completely off limits for many carers? Across the country, we have local centres which can help make sure you can get a break, and also give a chance to meet others in the same boat - either face to face or online- really helpful if you can't get out of the house.

Carers, of all ages from five (yes, that young) to 95 (yes, that old), deserve a decent chance to have their own life as well as care and have all the choices the rest of us take for granted. If you're not a carer already then there's a good chance you will be. If you don't have a carer already, there's a good chance you're going to need one. Carers Trust is here to make sure that for all our sakes, carers aren't left to carry all this on their own.

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Carer Support

Carers Direct - information and advice for carers - NHS Choices