I have wanted to write a blog about Gateshead Carers Association for I don’t know how long. Well here it is!

It is almost 18 years since I first came across Gateshead Carers. At the time I didn’t recognise myself as being a carer in fact I just classed myself as an attentive and supportive wife, daughter and sister ha ha!

My husband had just been medically retired (aged 41) and he was not handling it very well at all.  As for the rest of the family, well I had been supporting some of them since the age of 7 so I just thought it natural to help family members who needed help and support in their everyday life.

I had never heard of Gateshead Carers and it was just by chance that I came across one of their information stands in my local shopping centre when visiting my dentist.

At the time my husband had just been prescribed anti-depressants but I felt that he needed more support so went up to the Information Stand to see if they could point me in the right direction. 

I got on chatting to a lovely lady who was manning the stand and who was really helpful. After a while she asked me if I realised that I was a carer which of course seemed to me to be a ridiculous question!  I think because I had been a carer from a very young age I just thought that was what families did and that you shouldn’t get any recognition for it. Anyway after a long conversation, I was given an appointment to meet with a member of staff at G.C.A.’s offices on Regent Terrace.  

The emotional support which I received was excellent but as I worked full time office hours I was unable to attend any of the events/workshops which were arranged by Gateshead Carers Association.   

Unfortunately after a while I lost touch with them although I was still on their mailing list so regularly received their Newsletters in the post so they were always at the back of my mind.

It was not until 2018 that I got back in touch with Gateshead Carers. Unfortunately one of my siblings has had an alcohol addiction for the past 30 years but it was not until 2018 when things got really out of hand and I needed someone to talk to.  I started off by having regular appointments with one of the Carer Wellbeing Facilitators who was absolutely brilliant, some of the things which she told me were common sense but when you are supporting someone with an addiction it is sometimes so easy to think you can’t leave them on their own and that you can somehow get them well again. 

After a number of sessions she suggested that I go along to one of the Care to Share sessions which have now been replaced with C.A.L.M. (Caring and Living Matters).

The Care to Share sessions were held on a weekly basis at John Haswell House and were facilitated by different Carer Wellbeing Facilitators.  The groups were attended by small groups of carers who all had their own stories to tell. 

We found that even though we all had different kinds of caring roles (e.g. supporting parents with dementia, siblings or adult children with addictions and children with complex physical and mental health disabilities) one thing which we all had in common was how we felt and reacted to some of the situations that we came across on a daily basis. 

The Care to Share sessions focused on four different subjects, Guilt, Confidence, Protected Time and Stress.  Attending these sessions was a total game changer for me. I do have blips every so often but don’t all unpaid carers, we are human after all but I now feel I can deal with these blips so much more positively since attending these sessions.

The main reason I wanted to write this blog was to thank all of the staff at Gateshead Carers Association for all of the hard work, time and commitment which they put in on a daily basis but even more so during this awful Pandemic. The emotional support they give is so gratefully received plus they can put you in touch with other organisations if that is what is needed.

The Carer Wellbeing Facilitators may not be able to see clients in person but they are always on the other end of the telephone if you are desperate to speak to someone.

So on behalf of all of those unpaid carers living in Gateshead who have received support from Gateshead Carers, can I just say a massive THANK YOU to everyone!  By Susan, Carer