Lewisham Council held a day of information, advice and relaxation on Wednesday, for all carers as part of the ongoing Lewisham Carers’ week programme.The event, held at the Civic Suite in Catford, offered information stalls covering a wide range of services from carers groups to newsletters, therapy services, and care teams with free lunch and massages provided.
Carer Kelvin Wheelan currently cares for his mother who is diagnosed with dementia. He explained how, at the beginning of her diagnosis, the information available to him about the condition was limited and he had no way of learning about the illness other than through his mother’s GP and psychiatrists. Finding medical terminologies difficult to grasp he did not fully understand dementia and how it affected her.
As dementia is classified as a mental health issue, Kevin kept quiet to both family members and friends about his mother’s condition for fear of the authorities taking her into an asylum.
“Mental health is not like cancer or Aids, it isn’t something that’s talked about.” He explained that he probably would have found the diagnosis and coming to terms with the condition a lot easier if his GP had leaflets available giving information on who to call or get in contact with if you find yourself in this situation:
“I needed a list of people to call up, I needed someone to say: ‘Okay you have to contact Social Services, you should get in touch with Lewisham Carers’.”
The biggest break-through was when Kelvin was able to buy a laptop computer, through the council’s direct payments scheme, which enabled him to learn more about dementia and research his mother’s medications.
The laptop also enabled him to sign-up to other organizations online and he has since joined Carers UK, the Alzheimer’s Society and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLAM).
He praised the council and Lewisham Carers on the work that they do for carers: “I’ve got friends in the council and social services are great. Without all their help I’d hate to think where I would be today.”
Councillor Chris Best, who also spoke at the event, told ELL: “[events like these] are a core part of what we do. It’s especially important for new carers, it’s a lifeline, advising on a number of things that will benefit them in many ways.”