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Unpaid carers across Wiltshire have been sharing why they are ‘more than a carer’ as part of a Carers Week campaign.

Carers Week takes place 5-11 June and is a national campaign that raises awareness of those who are caring for a family member or friend. The theme this year is ‘making caring visible, valued and supported’.

Leanne Hubbard, Chief Executive of Carer Support Wiltshire, explains: “When someone takes on a caring role – and that can be something that happens overnight or a responsibility that gradually increases over a period of time – we refer to them as a carer. Carers tell us they can begin to feel unseen and lose their sense of identity. People may ask after the person who is unwell that they look after but forget to ask how the carer is doing.

“Then there are some people who don’t identify at all as a carer. They are simply looking after someone, perhaps a parent or a child, because that person needs them. Our ‘More Than a Carer’ campaign, which we’ve been running in the lead-up to Carers Week, aims to show carers as the people they are, with hobbies, ambitions, hopes and dreams just like everyone else. These may have had to put some things on hold and plans for the future may have had to change, but carers should be helped to live their lives as fully as possible while they are supporting someone. Carer Support Wiltshire can help carers achieve what they want to by making sure they are accessing all of the support available to them.”

For the campaign, Carer Support Wiltshire photographed carers and layered those photos with words the carers used to identify themselves, in addition to ‘a carer’. A survey is asking others the same question and respondents so far have replied in a range of ways.

One respondent, Michelle, wrote: ‘I am a carer but I’m also me! I juggle full time work, have a grown-up family, a partner and friends I don’t get to spend time with like I used to.’ She said she enjoys doing ‘everything’ with the person she cares for ‘for the short time we have’, and that her family describe her as ‘a legend’ as well as loving, caring and fun.

Another responded that ‘I don’t know anymore what I am apart from a carer’ and said she would love to have more time to walk the dog, swim, exercise, dance and visit the beach.

You can complete the More Than a Carer survey here.

Tom McGowran from Marlborough cares for his wife and is one of the carers featured in the More Than a Carer campaign (picture below). He said:

“Years ago I did not think of myself as a carer. The label never occurred to me. I always thought carers were nurses or similar who considered it their job to care for people professionally. Somehow over the years I have become that carer looking after my wife who has Muscular Dystrophy – a debilitating disease of the muscles. It is extremely frustrating for her as she was a very active sporty person and now finds it difficult to get about under her own steam.

“Mind you, nothing stops her. We have been up mountains in the French Alps, been up to the Arctic Circle and visited the Ice Hotel. Recently we have toured the Outer Hebrides in our motorhome. We make things a little easier – and exciting – by automating many things such as the house lighting, electric kettle and blanket as well as a robotic lawnmower among other things.

“Life as a carer can be challenging and there are times when you really get knocked down, but then I look around and see the problems that others may face and think ‘how lucky am I?’”

Carer Support Wiltshire are running some special activities for carers during the week, including a cream tea in Cricklade and cake and croquet at Hartham Park near Corsham. On Friday 9 June the charity is hosting a special event for parent carers and young carers at Melksham Community Campus as part of Melksham Carers Festival, organised for Carers Week by Wiltshire Council’s Melksham Area Board, Celebrating Age and Carer Support Wiltshire.

If you are caring for someone and would like to talk to someone about support that may be available to help you, Carer Support Wiltshire can be reached on 0800 181 4118.