Tanya’s fight for the hidden army of carers

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Tanya, of Slippers Hill, Hemel Hempstead, said: “It sounds odd but it was all we knew growing up and shouldered the burden because we loved her.

“My mother wasn’t diagnosed as bi­polar until she was 40 and even then it was an acupuncturist who alerted us to the possibility, not a GP.”

Tanya grew up in an era when her wider family ignored the situation, while support from health and social services was all but non-existent.

As teenagers Tanya and her sister were completely isolated and had to endure their mum Sylvia’s cyclic mood swings with no support.

Tanya added: “I remember walking the streets in tears not wanting to go home because I was such a nervous wreck. 

“My mother is a real fighter and an awesome woman, but it’s been tough over the years. She was always looking at ways of improving her condition through things like diet and alternative therapies and fought to hold onto us, despite her problems.”

Amazingly, it wasn’t until eight years ago that Tanya was finally recognised as a carer, when her mother suffered a stroke and her care needs increased.

Today Tanya is still her mother’s carer, and she talks with admiration about how her mum has coped with and successfully managed her condition.

Nowadays Tanya also puts her experience to good use, helping other carers by offering advice and support in her roles as chairman of the Carer Council and as well as bring a part­-time role as carer peer supporter with Hertfordshire Mental Health Trust.

She says the new Care Act is a step in the right direction by recognising the important role carers have to play to both supporting and aiding the recovery of loved ones.

This includes mental health services identifying carers of existing service users and ensuring they are aware of their rights.

Tanya told the Gazette: “It’s a very rewarding job, but also very hard wor and mentally very tiring.

“What’s most rewarding is helping other carers. We see a lot of the same issues that I went through, which I suppose makes me one of the best people for this kind of job because they know I’ve been there too and I understand.”

She added: “We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg but it is a step in the right direction.

“There are a small army of carers out their risking their own long-term physical and mental health with little or no support. Carers save the NHS millions a year but no-­one is thinking of what happens if the carer falls ill.

“I know what people are going through and can use that experience to make things a little easier.”

If you are a carer and need advice and support go to carersinherts.org.uk, ring 01992 586969 or email contact@carersinherts.org.uk