IT’S a situation that that can be sprung upon any one of us at any time – an elderly relative takes ill and requires care.

Sometimes it can be a short-term recovery process, and with the combined efforts of a loving family, a much-loved parent or grandparent can be nurtured back to good health.

But other cases can be life-changing for all involved. Caring can be long term, and in many cases, it can fall upon one person.

The national charity Carers UK has claimed that half a million people have quit their jobs to look after relatives in the past two years, due to the demands of caring whilst holding down full time employment.

When my fiercely independent father suffered a stroke at the age of 78 in February 2014, it came completely out of the blue.

After the initial shock, he made a remarkable recovery over the next few months, and came within a whisker of being able to drive a car again.

But further strokes followed, affecting my dad’s speech, and gradually, his mobility.

Although we were fortunate to have a supportive family, friends and neighbours, the ultimate responsibility for caring fell to me, as his only child.

Having held down a demanding job in the media for over a decade, I was used to working long hours and under pressure.

Increased domestic responsibilities added to my daily schedule, but I found a routine that was just about manageable.

What I didn’t have time for, however, was the bureaucratic side of being a carer.

From organising and attending medical appointments, to facilitating speech therapy, physio, and home care assessments, there was a lot to juggle.

I successfully applied for Power of Attorney, but struggled to find time to search for the help we were entitled to. Social services and other dedicated organisations were out there, but I was too focused on day-to day duties to explore what they could offer.

We now have a very effective care plan in place, but there were times during that period when I considered leaving my job to concentrate on caring.

Fortunately, I had a very understanding employer, who afforded me the flexibility required, and such drastic action was not necessary.

Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, is campaigning for better workplace support to keep carers in employment.

She said: “With 15 per cent of the population now working and caring, there is a real social and economic imperative for businesses to adopt carer friendly workplaces.”

Carers UK is also calling on the Government to introduce a new right of five to 10 days of paid care leave for people juggling work and care.

The charity provides help and advice to carers, from practical support, to assistance with applying for benefits and carers’ allowance.

Last month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS), said there was a “sandwich” generation of carers, often aged in their 40s and 50s, who were caring for their elderly parents as well as their own children.

Closer to home, Carers Northumberland is a charity dedicated to improving the lives of carers by providing a wide range of services.

These include informing carers of their rights and entitlements, supporting carers to access help for the person they care for, and ensuring carers don’t feel socially isolated.

For more information visit carersnorthumberland.org.uk and carersuk.org