Finding work after 4 & 1/2 years caring for Mum

For anyone who is bereaved or no longer providing care.
It is criminal that someone as highly qualified as you cannot be usefully employed in a proper capacity. Do you have any references at all from your former employers? Even if you can't trace the people that you worked with, because they have moved on or retired, surely the employer has an employment record for you?
What about applying for work in charity shops or British heart foundation furniture places etc or Mind charity shops? they wont want 2 references from previous employers etc. You could do that for a month or 2 then use that reference for other work.