As carers queued up to have their passport issued they spoke movingly of their experiences.
Elaine Hughes, 66, and her husband John, 61, from Baldock, look after their son Oliver, 25, who has schizophrenia.
She said: “Oliver became mentally ill during his GCSEs. Apart from one spell in hospital Oliver has always lived at home. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The passport is for me. I don’t get Carers Allowance and like most people money is tight so this will make a difference. I’ll be looking after Oliver for the rest of my life unlike, say, if you’re looking after an elderly relative.”
Joan Germany, 79, said Carers in Hertfordshire's course on caring had helped her after her husband Ron, 84, was diagnosed with dementia. The couple live in Royston.
Joan said: “Ron was diagnosed three and a half years ago. I saw the signs earlier but I didn’t want to recognise it. I think I’m coping really well despite the fact I get up four or five times a night to look after him. I always get back to sleep but I don’t want to get up in the morning! I realised early on you have a choice - either you look after your loved one at home or you put them in a home. I made that choice.”
Carole Aldridge, 71, from Letchworth, also looks after her husband, Macdonald, 77. Macdonald had a stroke just over a year ago, leaving him paralysed down his right side and in a wheelchair.
As Carole explained, this has had a devastating impact on their life: “We’ve been married 51 years. Just a week after celebrating our Golden Wedding Anniversary last year, Macdonald had a stroke. It came completely out of the blue. Macdonald was always so active. We used to go ballroom dancing and had a great social life. Now we have no social life and I only get out twice a week.”
Carole said the Make a Difference service had paid for a laptop, enabling her to have a break from caring.
She added: “I didn’t want to take up anything that meant being out of the house. I won’t leave him so the laptop gives me a break of sorts. It is so hard but he would do the same for me if it was the other way around.”