Hundreds of carers in the Ribble Valley will be helped over the next three years in a British Red Cross scheme.
More than one in 10 people in the area currently act as unpaid carers to a spouse, relative or friend – higher than the national average.
Department of Health research shows being an unpaid carer can make people more vulnerable to social isolation, money worries and their own mental or physical health problems.
The support at home service run by the British Red Cross, and funded by Land Rover, will see staff and volunteers offer respite so carers have time to socialise, go out or just rest.
The free service aims to offer support over six weeks to people who are just taking on a caring role, struggling with illness or facing a change in circumstance.
Help can include accompanying people to doctors’ appointments, shopping and cooking and carrying out risk assessments in people’s homes to avoid falls.
One couple who have already benefited from the scheme are Margaret and John Bradley, who live locally.
Margaret (84), is visually impaired but is the sole carer for John (87), who has dementia.
The Red Cross were able to help John get out and about again playing snooker – his favourite hobby – but something he had been unable to do for years.
Staff also arranged for Margaret to receive a talking newspaper so she can keep up with the local news.
Margaret said: “Instead of John sitting in front of the television all day watching snooker, and being fed up, he can now go out and actually play it. He will be so happy.”
“I am also very happy that the Red Cross managed to track down a talking newspaper and sort it out for me. I will be able to find out what is happening again in the local community and feel in touch.”
A social group already takes place the first and third Monday of each month from 10am to midday at The Pendle Club in Lowergate, Clitheroe, for carers and the person they look after.
People can meet in an informal atmosphere with stress-relieving hand, arm and shoulder massage provided free of charge along with refreshments.
With capacity to help hundreds of people between now and 2019, the project is looking for new beneficiaries – and also needs 12 new volunteers to sign up.
Service co-ordinator Jane Williamson said: “The Ribble Valley has higher than average numbers of people acting as unpaid carers and we know that this can be both an emotionally and physically draining role.
“It’s so important that people caring for others get time to look after themselves and this is why we’re offering practical and emotional support. It can be anything from collecting shopping or prescriptions to cooking a meal or just visiting to allow a carer to go out.
“Quite often the most important part is just taking the time to talk to someone about their caring role to make sure they feel emotionally supported.
“We’d love to hear from anyone in the Ribble Valley area who thinks they, a relative or friend would benefit from this service.
“We’re also looking for volunteers to join us so we can help as many people as possible. Volunteers can give as much or little time as they have available, with full training provided and travel expenses.”
To refer yourself or someone else to the scheme or to volunteer, call 01282 694557 or 07894 802808, email firstname.lastname@example.org or just pop in to one of the carers’ drop-in sessions.