The voices of carers very often go unheard. Even by themselves. So great is their focus, often their sole focus, on the care of someone close to them. A husband with Parkinson’s, a wife with epilepsy and bipolar, a daughter with Downs Syndrome, a son with heroin addiction and psychosis, a dad with dementia, a mum with multiple challenges like chronic arthritis, kidney cancer and the after-effects of a stroke.
It can be a 24-7, hyper-responsible life on the edge of the crisis, and so a few carers have the time or the energy or the will to relax, recharge and look after themselves. Least of all, to tell their story to the outside world, which may be oblivious to the everyday, quiet, domestic heroics taking place in our midst.
In Carers’ Week 2019, STEPPING OUT is launching two ground-breaking projects to let carers and the people they care for open the door on their lives and tell their own stories in pictures and words.
CARERS LIVES IN 100 OBJECTS – THE STEPPING OUT VIRTUAL MUSEUM is taking exhibits from all round the country – featuring objects that symbolise their life as a carer and why it means so much to them. Step into the online pages and you’ll find why a uniquely-decorated cup and plate has a vital place in the heart of Ann who looks after her son Leon. Or why the picture of a pair of men’s boots in the Sahara desert is such a powerful consolation to Kim following the death of her son, Kai, by suicide.
The first six treasures will be added to our Museum, one everyday during Carers’ Week, and we’re inviting people who are carers and those they care for to nominate their own exhibits for the Museum until we reach 100. Then we hope to host events with the real objects on show and the carers on hand to tell their own stories either on film or in person. British Museum? Tate Modern? Turner Contemporary? We’re happy to talk to anyone.
THE STEPPING OUT HOT POTATO PODCAST invites carers to get together and talk about the issues, joys, challenges, fears, rages, laughs, love and pain that being a carer can entail. No subject is taboo. It is real carers talking about real life. You can find the recording of our first podcast on our website and future episodes will also include chats with people who are cared for – because their voices are just a significant in the caring community – and experts to shed light on particular issues.
We will be inviting listeners to send in their own subject for discussion and given that there are an estimated 7 million carers in the UK, according to figures from the Carers’ Trust, we can expect a powerfully-informative and varied set of themes.
“Everyone, regardless of their age, gender, ability and background, should have access to the benefits of an active lifestyle. Yet sadly we know people with a disability or long-term health condition are disproportionately less likely to be active. Sport England works to break down the barriers that people face in getting active and that’s why we are investing National Lottery funding into programmes like Stepping Out.
“The results from the Stepping out Pilot Programme speak for themselves. Participant’s confidence improved, they felt more resilient and able to cope, and less socially isolated and lonely. That is the power of sport and physical activity.
“We have been delighted to see it engage more people and exceed its targets. The rising demand for providing a service where carers and the people they care for can get active shows that there is much more potential here to support more people out of inactivity. And it is this group that has the most to gain from getting active. We hope to see Stepping Out go from strength to strength.”
I have been on a Stepping Out walk and can personally attest to the pure fun and healing properties of a group walk in the open-air, chatting, laughing sympathising, exercising, socialising. It never fails to make the world seem a little brighter. So happy Carers Week and look forward to seeing you all again soon.”
Learn more about the Stepping Out walks for people who are carers and those they are caring for. An opportunity for a social exchange of stories and conversation, providing valuable exercise, our walks give carers and their charges a couple of hours to get out and about in a sociable setting and enjoy lunch. Our walks would not be complete without Bernard our caring Cockapoo, featured in this short video.
Here is a video clip from a wonderful scenic walk we organised in September 2018 with many carers and those they care for in the beautiful surroundings of Penshurst Place, Kent. You can hear what they had to say about the glorious day here:
Sports Minister Tracey Crouch joins a Stepping Out walk at Aylesford Priory in Kent. “I think it’s a wonderful project. It’s getting people physically and mentally well but also from loneliness perspective getting people together in a friendship circle. So for me it’s an amazing initiative.”
Kent carer and Stepping Out walker, Lynne Smith, on the ongoing challenges of looking after her brother: “It’s like living two lives.”