Support for the city’s most caring folk

A Sunderland carer has found support, guidance and friendship since walking into the Sunderland Carers Centre over a year ago.

Malcolm Shirkey, 68, cares for his wife Elaine, who was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a form of bone marrow cancer, in 2005.

“On a good day, Elaine has about 10% of the energy she used to have, and on a bad day she has zero,” said Malcolm. “It means that I have to do everything to look after my wife and the household.

“I’d had a leaflet from the carers centre since August 2016, but it was only last February that I became so overwhelmed that I made the decision to walk through the centre’s doors. I found that I was struggling to pick my wife up when she was feeling down, and it was starting to have an impact on my own wellbeing.

“My only regret is that I didn’t go there sooner.”

Since his first visit to the carers centre, Malcolm has benefitted from a host of services offered. He is a member of both the Male Carers Group and the Mental Health Carers Group, and has also attended the Partners Group with Elaine.

Malcolm said: “My first outing with the Male Carers was to the National Glass Centre. There was about 14 of us, and it was then that I realised I wasn’t on my own. There were guys around me with the same responsibilities and pressures. We all enjoy the group and take a lot from it – for me, it opened my eyes up to the fact that there are people in the same boat.

“The Partners Group is also great; I go with Elaine and she really loves it. We went to Christmas lunch at the end of 2017 which was wonderful – the only thing better than the food, was the company.”

Sunderland’s Male Carers Group meets on the first Thursday of each month and welcomes guest speakers and arranges social activities and trips for male carers. Sunderland Mental Health Carers meets on the second Tuesday of each month, offering support for carers of people with mental health illnesses.

Both services aim to ease the pressures faced by carers in the community. They offer practical advice and support, but they also give carers the opportunity to form friendships and enjoy themselves.

Malcolm added: “I think one of the great things about the Carers Centre is knowing that they also offer more facilities that I can access in the future, if I need to. Even in the foyer, there’s every leaflet you can imagine on the different support networks and services for carers.

“They liaise with a host of people and services in the community, so they can put you in touch with anyone you might need. It’s reassuring to know that there are people and services here to help us, now and in the future.”

Graham Burt, chief executive of Sunderland Carers Centre, said: “The Male Carers Group and Mental Health Group are two of the fantastic services that we offer. They provide carers with the opportunity to meet fellow carers, learn more about being carer and to have a good time.

“It’s wonderful to know that people, like Malcolm and Elaine, are benefiting from the services and are having such a positive experience.”

“It’s amazing how many carers put off contacting us only to wish they had done so sooner,” added Graham. “We really do encourage any carers in the community simply to pop in or give us a call without hesitation.”

Sunderland Carers Centre provides a listening ear and a range of advice and support services to carers from across the city.

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