A RECENT study carried out for Carers Week showed the number of people caring for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives or friends increased dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic.

In Wiltshire, an estimated 33,400 people have started to provide care for someone who couldn’t manage without their help. These new carers are in addition to the estimated 47,000 people in Wiltshire already caring for someone.

Typically, these new carers will be supporting someone that they don’t live with; helping with tasks such as food shopping and collecting medicine, and providing a listening ear and emotional support.

Some have taken on more intensive roles; helping to administer medicine, prepare meals and provide personal care. They are likely to be doing this while also juggling work and other family commitments.

Distance carers face many unique challenges, such as managing the difficulty of accessing the wellbeing of their loved one from afar, feelings of guilt when leaving them alone and an impact on free time, as well as the cost of regularly travelling.

Tessa (not her real name) lives in Somerset, but travels regularly 20 minutes by car to visit her mother in Wiltshire.

She said: “I have been caring for my mum since I moved back to the area about 10 years ago after the death of my father. At the end of March, my mum and I both developed Covid-19 symptoms.

"I had to move in with her for three months - she was very ill and we almost lost her, but she has recovered now.

“My caring obligations have transformed over the last four months. I had to do everything for her during this period of time and no one else was able to visit.

"I do most things as required - helping her up in the mornings, food shopping, cleaning the house and working in the garden, on top of trying to work from home, as I work part time as well as taking care of our own house.

“The hardest part of living 20 minutes away is the worry of anything happening and having to drive back in the middle of the night, which I’ve had to do twice after recent falls.

"I also dread the phone being left off the hook, as all carers do, and have had to drive back a number of times to replace the handset.”

Tessa does find some positives to living away from her mother. “The thing I like about living a short distance away is that once I get into the car I am beginning to switch off.

"I am more relaxed when I am at home and, up until we got ill with possible Covid, I had a good social life. Neighbours were especially wonderful when we were ill.”

Carer Support Wiltshire have supported Tessa and she now has a paid carer who regularly sits with her mum and a volunteer who checks in with her; and will be accessing a free professional counselling service available to Wiltshire carers.

If you are a distance carer in need of support, please call Carer Support Wiltshire on 0800 181 4118 or visit www.carersupportwiltshire.co.uk