IT is Carers Week and this is the second part of an Echo investigation focusing on the tens of thousands of unpaid carers in Dorset.

Three in five of us will become a carer at some point in our lives, providing unpaid care to someone we know who is ill, frail or disabled.

“I JUST felt so desperate” – those were the words of Dorchester resident Roger Tapply whose wife was diagnosed with dementia at just 65.

The father-of-four spoke to the Echo about his experience as a full-time carer.

He is determined to raise awareness for those who put their own lives on hold for a loved one.

The very nature of caring means too often people don’t at first, or sometimes ever, identify themselves as carers and, therefore, miss out on support.

“Being a carer for someone with dementia can be very lonely and Deirdre is not the same person anymore because of her illness,” Roger said. His wife Deirdre was diagnosed with dementia in 2010, and it has devastated their lives.

His job as an engineer often took him away from home for long periods of time, so he decided the best option would be to retire to become Deirdre’s full-time carer. “Having a conversation is difficult and she has to be supervised at all times.

“This makes being a carer hard work, but at times, a rewarding experience.”

He added: “Deirdre and I have a good circle of friends, who have been very supportive, and at times like this you get to know who is there for you. “And since Deirdre’s diagnosis we have made further friends within the caring environment.

“I often remark that I’m my wife’s personal assistant, managing her daily routines, appointments and all our household activities.”

As her condition gradually deteriorated, he found he desperately needed breaks from 24/7 caring duties.

Roger said: “We are still quite young – I didn’t think we would be spending our retirement living this way, and I am saddened that we have been cheated out of our plans.”

Deirdre attends the Dorchester day centre three days a week, giving Roger a welcome break. He is full of praise for the staff at the day centre for their compassionate and caring support for service users.

He has respite breaks and is about to use a ‘sitting service’ so he can go out some evenings, and is hoping to join a brass band.

The caring husband also spoke about how difficult it is for their children to see the deterioration of their mother’s mental health.

“From my experience Dorset carers are very well supported and catered for.”

6,000 new carers every day

EVERY DAY, 6,000 people take on a new caring role in the UK.

Up and down the country there are 6.5million people caring unpaid for an ill, frail or disabled family member or friend.

These people are called carers but they would probably say: “I’m just being a husband, a wife, a mum, a dad, a son, a daughter, a friend or a good neighbour.”

When people need help with their day-to-day living they often turn to their family and friends.

Looking after each other is something that we do. We should all be prepared to care.

Carers help with personal things getting someone washed and dressed, turning them in their sleep, helping them move about or administering their medication.

Carers also help out with things like shopping, laundry, cleaning, cooking, filling in forms or managing money.

'Shared lives' scheme

‘SHARED LIVES’ is an innovative way of providing care for vulnerable adults in need of support.

The scheme is open to all vulnerable adults with care needs, including people with learning disabilities, mental health needs and older people with dementia.

The service has been running in Dorset since 2004 and the county council is now looking for people who may be able to share their homes.

Placements can be short term, lasting anything from one night to several weeks, or they can be more long term, providing the opportunity for the person receiving support to live as part of the family.

More details available on the Dorset For You website.