40 per cent of carers are on medication for stress

Jenny Osborne, a support manager at Northamptonshire Carers, speaking at the launch of an awareness week, said if carers fail to get support they can end up making themselves ill as well as the patient.

She said: “Becoming a carer can creep up on you. You start off just calling in on your parents, then you are taking them shopping and doing more and more.

“Without support they can get very stressed. Over 40 per cent of carers are known to be on anti-depressants or another type of medication.”

Samantha Sefton, from Abington, carer for her two children, who have Asperger’s syndrome, said that realising she was a carer and not just a mum gave her access to lots of help and advice.

“The support services point you in the direction of lots of little things such as Reiki to relax you, and the network of gyms offering free membership just for carers.

“It really improves your standard of life.”

Although they get a small carers’ allowance, carers are unpaid people who average more than 50 hours a week of work looking after someone, normally a family member.

In Northamptonshire more than one in 10 people are carers or young carers. And census data from 2011 shows the number of adult carers in Northamptonshire has increased by 18 per cent, one of the biggest rises in the country, to 69,498 since 2001.

Increasingly the care of one elderly and frail person will be carried out by another elderly and frail person. The NHS said this could result in an increased risks of crisis or poor health, as well as greater risks to the carer’s own health.

Carers themselves are already twice as likely to be become ill, or suffer ill-health than compared to the general population.

The NHS this week launched a week of activities at Sainsbury’s in the Grosvenor Centre.

In addition, Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT) has signed up to the Triangle of Care, a national model of working aimed at involving carers more in decisions over patient care, and is developing a Carers Handbook for carers of people with mental health conditions. Both projects will be launched in the autumn.