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Richard Cross: “Volunteering with Carers UK and meeting people who are on the caring journey that I’m so familiar with makes me feel at home”

Richard Cross head and shoulders

Carers UK volunteer Richard has always been motivated to share his own caring experiences to help other carers know they're not on their own.

Now his caring role has come to an end, Richard reflects on how volunteering at a Cancer Survivors' Day at Guy's Hospital has given him a renewed sense of purpose as he adapts to his new situation.

Sunday 5 June was a brilliantly sunny day at Guy’s hospital. It was also the first time I’ve been to a major event since losing my lovely wife Sheila in April, after caring for her for 28 years – 25 of them full time.

Without Sheila, my house no longer feels like home. There is no atmosphere and no life in it. Time will hopefully help to change that – this was our home for 24 years and where my memories are, so that’s where I want to remain.

I’ve spent years dedicated to Sheila’s health and welfare, with almost no time for myself. Now I have all the time imaginable, but feel completely lost. Until last week I didn’t know what to do, apart from feel sorry for myself.

Michael from the Volunteering Team at Carers UK came to my rescue when he invited me and several other carers to a focus group meeting to provide feedback on the volunteering programme. After that I decided to volunteer at the Guy’s Hospital’s Cancer Survivors’ Day and suddenly came alive again.

Richard Cross and Michael Shann

Michael and Richard at the Cancer Survivors' Day at Guy's Hospital, London.

The day helped me realise that volunteering with Carers UK and meeting people who are on the caring journey that I’m so familiar with makes me feel at home.

On the day I ran a Carers UK information stand with Michael, handing out information and talking to people who are caring for family or friends about our shared experiences and some of the support that may be available. I also spoke to people about the challenges and the frustrations they were facing. A gay couple told me how recently one had started caring for another, and that not being officially married was proving to be an obstacle – despite being partners for 30 years. And I spoke to a carer who told me their GP was particularly unfriendly and offered little support. How well I recognise that one!

I know there are still far too many carers out there without the support they need. And now I have travelled the end of life path with Sheila, I want to use my experiences to help other carers who are also facing this part of their caring journey.

If I can help them, or influence those who have the power to make changes in any way, then that will be my tribute to my lovely Sheila’s memory and gratitude to all those I know at Carers UK who have helped and supported me throughout these last few weeks. 

  • If you'd like to find out more about volunteering with Carers UK, click here.
  • To join Carers UK and be part of our supportive community and movement for change, click here.

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