CARERS in Woking are to be given extra help as pressure has increased on them because of the coronavirus crisis.

Barbara Cormie, from Action for Carers Surrey, said the isolation of those looking after ill or disabled relatives had increased as external support from organisations as well as friends and neighbours has had to be cut back or stopped.

“They are having to do a lot more as clubs and activities for people being cared for has gone. Carers are also terrified in case the people they are caring for get COVID-19,” Barbara said.

She said that carers are putting in an average of 10 extra hours per week and young carers have additionally lost the support and normality of going to school.

It is thought Woking has close to 10,000 people who look after a family member or friend who needs help because of illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction. That figure is likely to have climbed higher since coronavirus hit as other services shut down.

One of the main supports for carers were partnership groups, which gave the cared-for something interesting and fun to do, while the carers got some respite.

With face to face events currently on hold, Barbara said Action for Carers’ support groups have kept going on the video conferencing app Zoom, offering a variety of video events from mindfulness sessions to virtual coffee mornings.

She said the suspension of live events meant there were more people available to answer the ACS helpline and give support by phone or email. Barbara added calls were taking longer than usual, because of the extra stress carers were under and the extra information they needed.

“People are more distressed and the helpline is good to call for a listening ear and a sympathetic voice.”

A nationwide lockdown study indicated that more than half of carers felt overwhelmed and worried about burning out. With many forced to isolate for longer due to their added responsibilities, activity levels and mental wellbeing are affected.

This led Action for Carers Surrey to request help through Active Surrey, which has set up a series of online sessions for yoga, pilates and tai-chi. The sessions are run by instructors who won’t be phased by a participant suddenly needing to break off a call or miss a session altogether due to a more pressing need at home.

“Providing exercise sessions on Zoom will help us meet a requested need from our carers,” said Rachel Brennan from ACS. “While they’ll be meeting others safely and sharing their experiences, they won’t feel pressured to be as good as long-standing participants in a more open class. No-one will need to explain themselves as everyone understands and is mutually supportive.

“Woking residents who have caring responsibilities but aren’t yet registered with us can talk to their GP about a carer’s prescription, or call us direct to see if we can help. Our team can even assist carers who haven’t used Zoom before to get started.”

The carers’ online exercise events start the week beginning 29 June with six weeks of yoga classes before moving onto pilates and tai-chi.

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