Hundreds of unpaid carers are finding emotional support through the lockdown period by joining a new virtual community.
More than eight million unpaid carers in the UK have been helping alleviate pressure on hospitals by looking after sick, elderly and disabled relatives, according to Mobilise, an emerging online community of carers.
Launched last month in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mobilise is an online forum where carers can meet for a chat over a “virtual cuppa” and access vital information about the outbreak from their homes.
There are currently more than 500 carers registered on the website.
Darren Smith, 50, has been caring for his sister Sharon Smith, 43, who has severe learning difficulties, since their mother died in September, and does everything from washing her, making her meals and keeping her entertained.
Mr Smith, from south Wales, said social isolation as a sole full-time carer can be emotionally draining, but he has been keeping spirits up by crocheting, sewing and watching TV series Little House On The Prairie with his sister.
He described their life in lockdown as “very isolating, and quite lonely”, but said Mobilise has given him “the chance to have a conversation with people in similar situations”.
Mr Smith said: “One of my biggest worries is that something happens to me, because I’m a lone carer.
“I’m really quite terrified about how we would cope if I caught the virus. And if I went to hospital, about what would happen, because our relatives live too far away.”
He added: “For me it’s very helpful to talk to other people in the Zoom Cuppa (on Mobilise).
“Some people have elderly relatives they care for, and there are regular people who attend the Cuppa.
“It’s fun and it’s something I look forward to. And if you’re not there, somebody will email to check you’re OK.”
Mr Smith said there should be more recognition of unpaid carers, adding: “Carers are doing a great deal that would normally fall to the local authority or the state, and they are not recognised for it.”
Suzanne Bourne, head of carer support at Mobilise, who is also an unpaid carer for her husband Matt, agreed carers “deserve recognition and support”.
Ms Bourne, who uses Mobilise herself, said: “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s been amazing to be able to connect with other carers around the country, all of whom are facing unique challenges due to the current restrictions.
“Seeing the incredible ways these people are overcoming these obstacles is truly inspiring.”
Chief executive and co-founder of Mobilise James Townsend said he wants carers to know there is an online community available for them.
He said: “At a time when we’re all worried about health, caring for someone you love is extremely stressful.
“We aim to provide a space where it’s OK to cry, but where you can also find something to laugh about with other people who understand.”
To find out more about Mobilise and the services it offers for unpaid carers, visit: www.mobiliseonline.co.uk/