Hidden carers across the Harrogate district, often saddled with huge debts and unable to work, are now finding safe environments where their loved ones are cared for and where they can relax. JAMES METCALF finds out more about one of these projects in Darley.
For the past 12 months, the charity championing carers, The Carers’ Resource, has been cooking two course meals for people with dementia and their carers.
Once a month the Dales Diners - currently reaching more than 30 members - meet for a variety of food, music, and an environment where safety, non-judgement, and relaxation are key parts of an atmosphere where everyone is at ease.
A mixture of volunteers and staff members are in the kitchen, roasting potatoes and making custard for the rhubarb sponge, and their service users are able to sit back and be waited on themselves for a change.
Project officer Carol Lancaster said: “Carers are able to get together and talk to each other. It is somewhere where they can get together and we find that they can’t normally really do that.
“The big thing about this is that carers say they can go home and put their feet up because they don’t have to worry about dinner because everybody has been well fed.”
The Carers’ Resource are motivated to ensure their services reach the more rural areas in the Harrogate district, providing for carers who struggle due to lack of public transport and other socially isolating problems.
Project officer Alyson Hill said: “The centre of Harrogate is not too bad, but outside there is barely any transport at all. We try to cover all the surrounding areas with services but it is very difficult.
“The whole purpose of us is the carer. They live in that world of not really existing and no-one asks how they are. It is also an opportunity for carers to talk to us about a problem.
“Financially for example. We are not financial experts but we can point them in the direction of the support they need. Are they getting their full benefits? How is it going to affect their pension? Can they afford to put their parents in a care home? These are problems that come up.”
The Carers’ Resource also runs a variety of other services, including Calling Carers, when volunteers phone carers to speak specifically to them, and computer help, which can often provide a vital means of contact.
Volunteer co-ordinator Jean Eames said: “We have volunteers that go out to support older people with internet shopping and emails. If you are not mobile or even for a carer, when do they find the time to do their shopping?
“The internet is a good system for solving that.”
And it proves as rewarding for the volunteers themselves. Judy Sage has been helping out at Dales Diners for less than a year, but has already felt the personal benefit of helping people.
She said: “After two or three times you do get to know the person and build up a rapore with them.
“It is great to be able to give an elderly group the chance to do something positive.
“It is the building up of the trust and getting people to understand that there is hope out there and that they are not alone.”
l Dales Diners meets on the first Thursday of every month at Darley Church Hall, and entry is £4. For more information, contact Carol on 01423 500555