Dr David Crichton blog: Doncaster’s 33,000 unsung heroes

Brian & Joan Leese with Eileen Harrington (back)Published every Monday in the Doncaster Star:

Doncaster has around 33,000 unsung heroes.

Who are they? The carers who selflessly look after loved ones, often with little or no support, because it’s something they either want to do or feel it’s their duty.

Brian Leese, 84, from Clifton, near Conisbrough, is one of those heroes. He cares for his wife Joan, 77, who was diagnosed with dementia five years ago. Joan, whose short term memory loss means she cannot remember what happened as recently as yesterday, has found ways of managing her dementia with Brian’s help.

She has enjoyed baking bread since she was nine years old, but now instead of relying on her memory to add the ingredients in the right quantities, she simply has everything written down and follows a recipe. She also keeps a little diary to record where she has been and what she has done and puts notes on a calendar to remind her of future events, like the birthdays of the couple’s three children and five grandchildren.

A classically trained pianist, who at an early age passed exams at the acclaimed Victoria College of Music, Joan still enjoys playing the piano and the couple have a busy life, proving you can live independently with dementia by taking a positive approach.

They regularly attend events organised by DonMentia, a Doncaster charity founded by Eileen Harrington, from Scawthorpe –pictured here with them – which supports people with dementia and their carers. Eileen started DonMentia after caring for her late husband Don, who had dementia, and experiencing at first hand the pressures the disease can place on carers and families.

Doncaster Council reckons that over 14,000 local carers – including many young people – provide at least 20 hours unpaid care each week. As a Doncaster GP I know the vital role that carers play in supporting the well-being and independence of those they look after, which is why it’s important that they too are cared for.

Carers provide a crucial role, if they become ill it has a direct impact on the person they are looking after as well. Without carers the NHS would struggle to cope, they are that important.

At my GP practice we have a register of all our patients who are carers and arrange an annual health check for them to try and make sure they stay in good health. We also give them an information pack from Doncaster Partnership for Carers (DPC), which gives useful advice and also lists local services that can help. (Contact DPC at 01302 637566).

This week is Carers’ Week 2016, which is being celebrated locally with a number of events. Find out more at www.doncaster.gov.uk/carersoffer. It’s a great opportunity to spare a thought for those who are caring.

Why not take a few minutes to ask a carer if they need anything from the shops or just ask them how they are doing? It can make a real difference.

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