Here Kathy Smedley, a long-term carer from Alvaston, talks about looking after her son Graeme and encourages others to look for support.

Kathy, whose son has Down’s syndrome, has looked after Graeme for more than 30 years.

She looks upon her role as a ‘go between’ for organisations like Alvaston Carers Support Group which she helped establish in 2013. She is also a supporter of Creative Carers on Charnwood Street.

‘We offer a coffee and a chat,’ she says. ‘On top of that we meet with carers who need a bit of advice or moral support, or a shoulder to cry on.

‘Members of the group know what the journey is like because we are carers ourselves. We know how stressful it can be to fight for the rights of the people we are looking after.

‘Some carers do not know how to access services and are not aware of what is on offer. We try to signpost them to the relevant sources of help for their situation.’

Kathy hopes her story in how she has been able to give Graeme a good quality of life will inspire others.

She explains: ‘I hope I empower other carers to go and get what they need for their loved ones.

‘I hope they will feel encouraged when they see where Graeme goes and what activities he does.’

Kathy and her late husband, John, knew when Graeme was born they would have to make sacrifices.

‘You can’t go out and about whenever you want. You always having to organise your life around the person you are caring for.

‘Because he is on the autistic spectrum and has OCD, he gets frustrated if I’m doing something when he wants me. and life at home has to revolve around Graeme and his needs.

‘He needs round-the-clock supervision and care. We can’t leave him alone in the house, nor can he travel independently.  But he loves all the activities he attends and I feel very, very proud of what he has achieved.’

You can find more information about Carers Week on the newsroom.