EVERYONE has been forced to face change, challenges and worry during the coronavirus outbreak, but Wiltshire’s unpaid carers endure more than most. When someone else is reliant on you for their care, the prospect of becoming too ill to carry out the role can be very worrying.

Many carers may also be classed as vulnerable to contracting coronavirus themselves, so are caring for someone while also trying to protect themselves. Fortunately many members of our local communities have stepped up to help isolating and vulnerable people with tasks such as shopping.

Tom McGowran lives in a village just outside Marlborough and has cared for his wife Joele who has Muscular Dystrophy for 15 years. His daughter, local artist Kareen Jackson, who lives nearby has - with a number of other volunteers - been helping them and other vulnerable people in the village. “It’s been extremely difficult for them.

"We live around 10 miles from any supermarket and each time they have tried to shop in them they have found the shelves bare. If they did manage to get anything they were only allowed two of any item, which is difficult when you are shopping for others,” he said.

Tom adds that his biggest concern however is for mental health. “Social interaction plays such a great part in being a carer.” Carer Support Wiltshire has had to cancel all of its regular meet ups for carers, such as carer cafes, which many rely on for a break and a chance to meet socially with other carers. However, extra staff are answering the helpline and the charity is keen that carers call in should they need someone to speak to or any advice. Volunteers will also be available for phone or online chats over the coming weeks.

With care homes now closed to visitors in order to protect residents from the virus, carers with loved ones who live in these settings are now unsure of when they’ll see them again.

Su Sealy from Bradford on Avon works for Carer Support Wiltshire as emergency care co-ordinator and helps care for her mother-in-law, who is now in a home.

“Her mental health is at a stage that she doesn’t know we are not seeing her,” says Su. “This is maybe a comfort – I never thought I would say that – as a while ago she would have been very distressed by the world around her.

“The home is providing FaceTime and phone calls for relatives and friends to keep in touch with their loved ones, though for my mum-in-law that would make her more confused. We haven’t seen her now for two-and-a-half weeks and, like many carers, we are unable to say when we will see her again.”

If you are an unpaid carer who needs support at this time, Carer Support Wiltshire is available during office hours on 0800 181 4118.