About 50,000 people in Sheffield – 10 per cent of the city’s population – are caring for a loved one who is older, ill or disabled.
And charities involved with Carers Week, a national initiative, have called for ‘hidden carers’ – families often caring round the clock without help or advice – to be made a priority for NHS and social care services.
Evelyn and John Burton, of Retford Road, Woodhouse Mill, Sheffield, have been married for 48 years and have two children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild, with another on the way.
Their lives changed about five years ago, when John was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
And 72-year-old Evelyn, says, with the rest of her family living away from Sheffield and working full-time, the majority of the responsibility for caring for John falls on her shoulders.
She typically gets up between 5am and 6am to carry out jobs around the house, with the pair often going out for the day.
Support is also provided by charity Making Space, which sends a carer for three hours per week to look after John and give Evelyn a break.
Evelyn says Making Space has been providing the pair with support since last year and they have both benefited from the help.
She says: “I have got a bit more confidence about things now and I know there are there to back me up if I need them. They always ask if we need any more help.”
John spent his working life in the steel industry as a machinist and a fitter, while Evelyn had a variety of jobs including in the Sheffield College crèche.
Evelyn says there is a good support network available for carers in Sheffield – if they know how to access services, with various organisations on hand to help.
She says: “People are more aware of it now – carers’ work and Alzheimer’s disease is getting more publicity. People are getting a lot of help and talking with people in the same situation.
“You have good days and bad. It does help to talk to other carers.”
Heléna Herklots, Carers UK chief executive, says: “Without the right support, caring can quickly lead to crisis and we hear from too many carers struggling under the emotional, physical and financial strain of caring. The reality is all of us, at some point in our lives, will either be carers or need the help of carers.
“This survey is a wake-up call, clearly and alarmingly showing that, as a society, we need a wider understanding of the realities of caring.”
With the UK’s population ageing, it is expected that in the next 20 years, the numbers of people caring for family and friends will reach about nine million from the current level of 6.5 million.
Coun Mary Lea, Sheffield Council cabinet Member for health, care and independent living, says: “Being a carer is an extremely difficult job that people don’t always realise they’re doing.
“It’s important carers recognise they are carers and then they can get help information and support should they need it.”