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Care in the community

SELFLESS: Carers’ Day recipients with their certificates at The Hyatt Regency

NEARLY 50 local people who provide care for disabled, ill or disabled relatives and friends were treated to a rare day off with a free trip to Liverpool by a big-hearted Midlands activist.

Erma Lewis’ gesture coincided with Carers’ Week when the national spotlight is put on those who provide countless hours of support often for people who would not be able to source help elsewhere.

CHRONIC

There are some 6.5 million carers in the UK and as life expectancies increase and medical treatment advances, more people are living with chronic illnesses and disabilities and require personal care.

Recently retired carer Frank James, 70, from Quinton, Birmingham, was on the trip. He spent 18 years caring for dementia and people who had been discharged from hospital after treatment but were not ready for independent living.

“I didn’t see myself as a carer. I used to look after my mother and tried it as a career after a redundancy in 1999. But once I started it, I found I enjoyed it. It made your day when they show appreciation for the things you did for them. It was very rewarding.”

Originally from Westmoreland, Jamaica, Frank added: “Trips like this show real appreciation for carers. It’s nice that people think about us and it’s nice to spend time with other carers to share thoughts and ideas. Sometimes it’s good to be able to talk to others and often you find others are in the same situation as you.”

Just then, referencing a fellow carer whose father he used to provide care for, Frank continued: “What I like is the warm greetings I’d get from the families of people I used to look after. Some of them, I don’t remember but they remember me and my name!

“When you do a good job for them they will always remember. Being a carer was more than a job for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the time today and I would like to say thanks to Erma – she is a star, a very bright one and I hope she can continue all the great work she is doing in the community.”

Just two days later, Erma led the Carers’ Day Celebration at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the centre of Birmingham in an event that was sponsored by the luxury venue. Erma, on behalf of the Carers Support Group she is a part of, made an approach to the chain and was rewarded with a free course buffet meal and certificate presentation to 20 more carers.

A hotel spokesperson said: “Here in Birmingham we have thousands of people who volunteer their time and support and care for relatives, friends and neighbours throughout the year.

“The contribution made by you the carer, is immense. Firstly your support improves the quality of life for those cared for. We also know the contribution given has a large economic value.

“At times all the gains are at a personal cost to the carer.”

IMPORTANT

“And it is important for us to recognise by raising awareness and celebrating the work you do as a carer. We would like to applaud all carers for your hard work.”

Just prior to leaving, Erma learned she would be receiving the Governor Generals’ Award at the Diaspora Conference in Jamaica to honour her services to the community. Pleased to receive yet another accolade, she was however unable to collect the award in person but ar- ranged for someone to collect it on her behalf.

Erma has been providing support, material, aid and training to under-resourced areas all over the world for over 20 years. In 1998, she founded the Jamaica Hospital Appeal Fund (JHAF) after seeing the loss of life and destruction caused by the flood which hit her birth town of Portland, Jamaica.

The JHAF will be hosting its annual fundraising ball at The H Suite in Edgbaston, Birmingham on September 21.

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