LATEST figures estimate that there are around 49,000 unpaid carers in Fife.
They include parents who care for a child with a disability, husbands who look after wives who have had a stroke, a friend with cancer or someone looking after an elderly relative with dementia - and they all make a vital contribution to our economy and society.
And with more than 600,000 carers in Scotland alone, that number is set to increase with a growing ageing population.
Next week marks Carers Week 2011, and Fife Carers Centre is hoping the event will raise the profile of the Kingdom’s thousands of unsung carers and the vital contribution they make.
Mary Stewart, manager of the Kirkcaldy centre, said: “There are around 40,000 carers in Fife, and we currently have a mailing list of around 4000. We see 70 new carers in the centre a month - that’s good for a team of seven.
‘‘But it means there are an awful lot of people out there who don’t recognise themselves as carers and could probably do with some support.
‘’I would hope that during Carers Week people will recognise themselves or their friends as carers, and see if there’s anything they can do to support them.”
The first Fife carers support project began in 1995, and, four years later, the centre opened its doors in Commercial Street.
Since then, they have helped carers with everything from filling in forms to getting financial support and having some time to themselves.
With many carers having to hold down that responsibility 24 hours a day, and others juggling daily work with caring, the duty often takes its toll.
“Things have improved for carers in terms of people knowing a bit more about what they go through,” Mary continued.
“But what’s most important for carers is for people to take them into account.
‘’Carers have to deal with financial, physical, mental and emotional difficulties, and it helps if people recognise this. Our aim is to make things as easy as possible for them, but at the end of the day they are still carers carrying the weight of being a carer.
‘‘If your life is tied up with looking after somebody you can’t leave unattended, you can imagine that very quickly you’d become isolated, and as well as all the practical issues this is one of the things we hope carers week will address.”