'Having someone to talk to has really helped'

Our Carers Together project has been running for over a year now, and during that time we’ve matched some 70 carers across England to online mentors and 20 carers in Birmingham to face-to-face mentors.

The numbers seem great, but are we actually making a difference to the people we support and to those who volunteer their time? We thought one way to find out was to ask!

We interviewed a carer and a mentor from the online part of the project, to see how being involved with Carers Together has affected them. These are their stories:

Marie cares 24/7 for her daughter and explains how regular online contact with a mentor is helping her in her caring role

“I don't have anyone to talk to about caring. I find it very difficult to confide in family and friends as I feel as if I'm failing in my role or making a fuss. Having someone to talk to has really helped me have an outlet for my thoughts and feelings. Caring does make me feel lonely and isolated. My daughter and I are together 24/7, she is even taught at home by the local authority so there is no respite. We tend to stay at home as she finds going out difficult and it's just easier to stay in. My mentor suggested I make a note each day when I accomplish an important action such as a phone call or sending an email. This has been very useful to me in seeing the positives that I achieve each day. They have been able to signpost me to other organisations and I feel more confident about doing so. As a result of 'talking' to my mentor I have requested a carer's assessment which I think will really help me. I definitely feel less alone as there is someone who will listen to me and I won't be judged.”

Mike is a former carer who volunteers his time to work as an online mentor with Carers Together

“For the last 10 years I worked in a hospice where I organised carer support groups so I got to know a lot about the problems faced by carers. I also cared for my wife for some years when she had cancer. I felt that I understood, from these experiences, quite a lot about caring so when I retired I decided to continue to do something in the field. Caring can be very isolating emotionally because it can be difficult to talk about what is happening. Someone at the end of an e-mail can be very useful. I’m surprised how people are able to say very personal and intimate things in an e-mail that they might find difficult to say ‘face to face’. I get a sense that for some of them it’s a huge relief to be able to say things that are a real burden. I find it very rewarding that carers are able to trust me with difficult and personal details about the stresses they are facing. There are thousands of carers out there, many of whom feel lonely and uncertain about where to go for help. Often they think that they’re the only one with the problem but if you have been a carer you will know this isn’t true. You don’t need to be an expert, just willing to try to see things from their point of view and to share some of your experience.”

If you live in England and would like to be put in touch with an online mentor or volunteer your time to help other carers, contact the project on 0121 2362531, email carers@timebank.org.uk , or click here for more information.

We also offer face-to-face mentoring if you live in the Birmingham area.