Caring for carers - new scheme to be rolled out across Cambs

CARERS have been described as the ‘hidden heroes’ of local communities, and in Cambridgeshire there is a fresh push to help carers access services. A Huntingdonshire mother who was a full-time carer for her severely-disabled son talks to The Hunts Post about her experiences.

Sue Bellamy knows what it is like to care for someone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Sue’s youngest son Luke was diagnosed with a severe form of cerebral palsy aged just 11 months. The condition left him blind and dependent on a tube for feeding.

For 17 years, Sue was his principal carer. Luke relied on her for all the day-to-day care, which she juggled along with the responsibility of looking after her older able-bodied son Richard.

It took staff at St Ives doctor’s practice The Spinney to remind Sue, a former pub landlady, that she also had a duty to care for herself.

She said: “Many carers do not put themselves first, particularly if you are in a situation where you are caring for someone with advanced dementia – you do not have time to think about yourself.”

Through The Spinney, Sue, now 53, was able to access regular respite care for Luke at former residential home The Laurels and additional support through Crossroads Care. The charity was able to provide a carer for an evening if Sue needed to be out.

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Through the surgery’s carers support group, Sue, who lives in Ramsey Road, St Ives met parents in similar positions.

Aged 17, Luke left home and moved into supported living accommodation at Willingham. Though Luke died two years ago aged 22 from pneumonia, Sue is still full of praise for the help she and her family received.

“The surgery and Dr Lane, in particular, were fantastic. She always had time for me.

“They understood the extra pressures having a disabled child brings with it. I knew they were there, if I needed them.

“There are some very good people out there that are willing to help and support you. If people do not know you are a carer, then how can they help you.”

The Spinney is one of 16 practices in Cambridgeshire that have taken part in a pilot of the carers prescription service. The service, which is due to rolled out county-wide this month, enables carers to access services through a prescription provided by their GP.

Practice manager Debbie Wheatley hopes the latest scheme will encourage more practices to follow their lead.

“Often carers do not like to be identified, they see it as admitting defeat. It is a psychological thing. They fear their loved one might be taken away from them.

“Our role is to act on their prompt. We signpost to other services that might help.”