‘Carers group made me realise I’m not alone’ - says Sunderland man

Carer Malcolm Shirkey.
Carer Malcolm Shirkey.

An elderly Sunderland man who looks after his poorly wife says he has found much-needed support, guidance and friendship since walking into the city’s Carers Centre over a year ago.

Malcolm Shirkey, 68, cares for Elaine who was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a form of bone marrow cancer, in 2005.

“On a good day, Elaine has about 10% of the energy she used to have, and on a bad day she has zero,” said Malcolm, who was speaking to the Echo as part of Carers Week.

“It means that I have to do everything to look after my wife and the household.

“I’d had a leaflet from the carers centre since August 2016, but it was only last February that I became so overwhelmed that I made the decision to walk through the centre’s doors.

“I found that I was struggling to pick my wife up when she was feeling down, and it was starting to have an impact on my own wellbeing.

“My only regret is that I didn’t go there sooner.”

Since first visiting the centre, Malcolm has benefitted from a host of services.

He’s now a member of the Male Carers Group and the Mental Health Carers Group and has attended Partners Group with Elaine.

Malcolm said: “My first outing with the Male Carers was to the National Glass Centre.

“There was about 14 of us, and it was then that I realised I wasn’t on my own.

“There were guys around me with the same responsibilities and pressures.

“We all enjoy the group and take a lot from it – for me, it opened my eyes up to the fact that there are people in the same boat.

“The Partners Group is also great; I go with Elaine and she really loves it.

“We went to Christmas lunch at the end of 2017 which was wonderful – the only thing better than the food, was the company.”

Sunderland’s Male Carers Group meets monthly, welcoming speakers and arranges social activities and trips.

Sunderland Mental Health Carers also meets each month, offering support for carers of people with mental health illnesses.

Both services aim to ease the pressures faced by carers in the community.

They offer practical advice and support, but they also give carers the opportunity to form friendships and enjoy themselves.

Malcolm added: “One of the great things about the Carers Centre is knowing that it offers more facilities that I can access in the future, if needed.

“Even in the foyer, there’s every leaflet you can imagine on the different support networks and services for carers.

“Staff liaise with a host of services in the community, so they can put you in touch with anyone you need.”

Sunderland Carers Centre provides a range of advice and support services to carers from across the city.

To find out more about Sunderland Carers Centre, and the Male Carers Group, visit www.sunderlandcarers.co.uk, call 0191 549 3768 or pop in to the centre in Thompson Road.