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Birmingham carer speaks out about ‘lockdown loneliness’ during Loneliness Awareness Week

Although restrictions are being lifted suggesting the COVID-19 fight could be a step closer to being won, some are still struggling with the “loneliness battle” which arose during the pandemic. According to Carers UK, 8 in 10 Carers have felt lonely or socially isolated as a result of their caring responsibilities.

Anne Barnes, from Kings Heath in Birmingham, is a full-time carer to her 21-year-old son Andrew and says many of her friends who have caring responsibilities have been struggling.

Anne said: “Lockdown has meant many of my friends are missing accessing the services they had become accustomed to receiving.”

“For some, being a lone carer has been a very isolating experience and particularly parents of children with high support needs, that are not currently at school, have struggled. The loneliness battle has been extremely challenging for some people and it’s possibly an even greater fight than COVID-19 itself for those who are doing this alone.”

“Having a reliable support network is incredibly important. Both myself and my husband have been ok as we’re quite resilient. But for others who have been struggling I would say it’s ok to feel overwhelmed at the moment, but you’re not alone. Reach out for help when needed because there are still services available and people out there who are willing to listen.”

Anne’s son has Pontocerebellar hypoplasia Type 2 (PCH2), a condition that affects the brain and means Andrew has profound multiple learning difficulties and physical disabilities, requiring  24 hours a day care.

Over the course of lockdown Anne has maintained contact with her carer friends via Zoom where they have shared their experiences.

She said: “Lockdown certainly had its challenges. Andrew’s condition doesn’t mean he’s more likely to get COVID-19, but should he become infected he would be extremely ill. He had pneumonia and a collapsed lung two years ago, so if he was to catch this virus, I really don’t think he would survive. To keep him safe, all three of us have barely left the house. If it wasn’t for my husband and regular Zoom catch ups with friends and family, it would have been very lonely.”

Anne is a volunteer for Forward Carers, an organisation launched to make a real difference to the lives of people caring for older frail people, sick or disabled friends and family members.

Its aim is to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of carers, young and old, including parent carers, so that families stay healthier and happier together, for longer.

As part of Anne’s role, she had started to host meetings for parents who care for a teenager or young adult. They have since been postponed, but Forward Carers is now looking at ways to bring back the sessions while adhering to social distancing rules.

The organisation has also launched a COVID-19 and carer dedicated page, addressing frequently asked questions and listing a variety of carer support groups as well as a What IF plan which might help families plan and record useful information for emergency situations during the pandemic.

Simon Fenton, CEO of Forward Carers, said: “The expectation that comes with parenting can be overwhelming even at the best of times, but that has only been intensified for those who have been carrying out their caring responsibilities during lockdown.

“For some, being forced to shield at home has been a very lonely experience which can have a serious impact on both physical and mental health. That’s why we’ve put together our dedicated COVID-19 carer page which provides a list of services that are still supporting carers.  

“We want to send a very clear message to carers in Birmingham, who are still shielding and self-isolating, that you are not alone.”

To view the list of services, click here.