Carer concern

SIR - In the Sidmouth Herald dated August 19, 2011, there was a report on the effect on carers of the withdrawal of respite care facilities at Stowford Lodge - amongst other things, there was a reference to some carers having nervous breakdowns, and not knowing which way to turn.

This report was a matter of great concern to me, and no doubt to many others in Sidmouth. It is well known that, for a person struggling to care for a loved one, the lack of availability of respite care can make life unbearable.

What we really need to know is whether this serious situation still exists in the Sidmouth area, or have carers eventually been able to find the respite care that they need for their loved ones? (Perhaps, in some cases, by temporarily travelling to nearby towns to make use of the facilities there, pending the provision of more facilities in Sidmouth - as mentioned in the above news item.) I wonder whether anyone is able to answer this question, please.

With the withdrawal of respite care facilities at Stowford Lodge, a working group was set up to look at the future provision of services in the Sidmouth area for dementia sufferers and their carers - with the expectation that the group would publish a provisional report later in 2011. In the Sidmouth Herald dated December 23, 2011, there is an item which includes an update on the progress made by the working group. Unfortunately, with regard to respite care facilities, it seems that the group are not yet in a position to publish the results of their review, eg they are undertaking a survey of local care homes. Thus, if there are any carers desperate to find respite care facilities, it does not seem that the working group has been able to provide positive, immediate help for them as yet - or have they? Sometimes it is difficult to gather all of the relevant information from news reports.

My intention is not to be critical of the working group in any way - they have a difficult task, and I am sure that the members have put in a lot of hard work - no doubt difficulties have arisen with proposals that they had in mind, as is often the way in these things. From the report in the Sidmouth Herald dated December 23, 2011, it seems that the working group may envisage a four point structure for respite care facilities in the future: (1) facilities provided by local care homes; (2) facilities provided by Devon County Council; (3) host families possibly available to provide respite care; and (4) respite care provided by individuals who go into the homes of dementia sufferers. As regards the last of these, my understanding is that the Devon Carers’ Centre (Westbank) can already provide such services in the Sidmouth area for short periods of a few hours, a small charge being made for this. From the news report, it seems that the main new items that may arise from the working group’s review may be a register showing those local care homes that are able to offer respite care facilities, possibly also showing the relevant charges for each one (?), and possibly the availability of host families to provide respite care. But, as I noted earlier, it is difficult to get the full picture from a news report, coupled to which I am just a layman as regards this area.

I have contacted the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, but understand that they do not have a branch in the Sidmouth area. I wonder whether it would be worthwhile contacting that organisation (if not already done) to ascertain whether it would be possible to set up a branch in Sidmouth, and to explore whether that would give carers worthwhile additional options in trying to find respite care for loved ones.

I wish the working group well with their review, and there are, no doubt, many people looking forward to seeing the results of their work. If the situation described in the first paragraph of this letter still exists, with carers unable to find the respite care that they need, then there is clearly much urgency in finding a solution to that situation.

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Whatever the outcome, I hope that any charges will not be too expensive for carers. It is well known that carers looking after loved ones save this country an enormous amount of money. But the main question in this letter is to ask whether there are still carers in Sidmouth who are currently unable to find satisfactory respite care for loved ones.

John Labrum

12 Ballard Grove, Sidford