Carers Week 2021: caring for my husband and mum – a personal story
Carers Week (Monday 7 June to Sunday 13 June 2021) is an annual awareness campaign that celebrates and recognises the vital contribution of the UK’s unpaid carers – supporting family members and friends who are older, have a disability, mental or physical illness or need extra help as they grow older.
This year’s theme is‘Making Carers Visible and Valued’, and throughout the week we’ll be showcasing some of the personal stories from local carers across the county.
The following story is from Polly, who cares for her husband with Parkinson’s and her mum, and talks about her experience in supporting those most dear to her, and offers advice to other carers out there.
“I’m Polly and I care for my husband with Parkinson’s and my Mum who is in her late 80s with COPD.
“For my husband I’m full time caring – his cognitive functioning is challenged so I deal with everything – bills, medical needs, planning and organising everything we do. I also help physically with things he finds hard – dressing, shaving etc.
“He has disturbed nights which is common with Parkinson’s so I’m often up at night with him.
“Mum is living independently but she’s 50 miles away. We visit as often as we can as we bubbled with her through lockdowns. I take hubby with me as he can’t stay home alone and manage his medication.
“I give Mum help with practical things around the house – cleaning, DIY etc. as well as taking her out for a walk or to get shopping. I help her attend medical appointments and manage paperwork. I’m looking after two people when I visit….it can be like herding cats!
“I used to work in carer support and my Mum cared for my Dad with MND so I knew early days I was a carer. When you find yourself putting their needs before your own and you’re doing things for them that you would do for yourself – making phone calls, sorting out medication, doing up zips then you soon realise you’re a carer!
“I don’t recall being given much advice when I started caring but after I got in touch with Shaz (at Shropshire Carers) for the first time, she got me a place on an art class on zoom which was a saviour during lockdown. It’s so hard to give yourself ‘permission’ to look after your own physical and mental health.
“My advice to new carers would be ‘you’re not being selfish looking after yourself’, as that way you both benefit from a more relaxed and ‘nicer’ you’!
“I knew a lot about carers rights having worked in carer services but not in Shropshire so, having spotted an ad on Facebook, I got in touch with local services. I relied heavily on Shaz, who was brilliant, to put me in touch with things locally. Every county is different, and you don’t know what you don’t know. You need someone to signpost and guide you through a difficult system so don’t be afraid to ask!
“I wish I didn’t have to be a carer – no one chooses it. You just want your loved one to be fit and well, but you also want to do your best for them.
“Caring unbalances a relationship. We are not always equal partners anymore and that’s sad. It’s hard to see the person you love diminish in what they can do. The tiredness and responsibility which weighs so heavy on me has to be the worst thing for me!
“I’ve found carer support groups on Facebook can be helpful, particularly one that is disease specific. Everyone on the group is really helpful, sympathetic and supportive and as the group is international there is always someone with a sympathetic ear even at 4am.
“Admitting you’re a carer is hard. ‘I’m just her husband’ or ‘I’m just his wife’ is so common. I suppose we all think we are infallible and are indestructible so it’s hard to admit we are a carer. It’s hard to admit we need help with our role- we feel we ‘should’ manage! It’s also hard for the loved one to admit they need help and that their partner is looking after them. It’s a difficult conversation to have and seeking carer support early depends on how accepting your cared for person is.
“If I was talking to a new carer I would advise them to find out all they can about their rights as a carer, claim everything they are entitled to and look after themselves as often the caring role doesn’t improve – it only becomes more demanding. (Sadly)”
If you recognise someone or yourself in this story please do make contact with Shropshire Carers on 01743 341995 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org so we can discuss what support may be available for you.
We’ll be hosting over 40 events throughout this week: our small way to say thank you to carers for all that you provide to support others. You can find out more and to sign up to these free events click here.