Three carers talk about their lives

An older couple.

We chatted to 3 carers to find out about their lives, their experiences of caring, and the support they get: 

- Sheila, who's provided care for her husband since his stroke
- Richard, who cares for his disabled son, Robert
- And Alma, who cares for her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's

Sheila's story

Who do you care for?

I care for my husband, who will be 76 in a couple of weeks time. It’s a 24-hour caring role.

He suffered a severe stroke in May 2008, and went into hospital for 6 months. The hospital staff were absolutely wonderful. They didn’t think he’d ever walk or talk again, but he can. But he’s got bad balance, he’s actually fallen today - luckily he hasn’t hurt himself. He doesn’t seem to break bones - how he doesn’t, I don’t know.

It’s quite frightening when he does fall over. I’m 75 as well, so I’m not strong enough to lift him by myself, and need help to lift him when that happens. If the Community police are on duty, they’re very good at helping, but when they’re not around I have to ask a neighbour for help.

How long have you been caring for this person?

I’ve cared for my husband since his stroke, so it’ll be three years this last bank holiday weekend.

What do your caring duties involve?

I do everything. I have to run the home now, both paper-wise and physically as far as I can. Silly things: he can no longer put the dustbin out or do the recycling - I have to do all that kind of thing. He can dress himself, but I do help him with shoes and socks.

We’ve had a wet room put in, with a walk-in shower, because my husband isn’t able to have a bath. It took 2 years for the council to come and do it, despite the hospital asking for it before he came home. Someone came to see us to make the assessment in July 2009, and after that things moved quite quickly. I did complain to department but never had any apologies. I was told it was nothing for people to wait two years to be assessed.

Until we got the wet room, he just had to have a stand up wash. Now, he can now shower on his own, and doesn’t have to rely on me.

What do you most enjoy about the caring you perform?

We’ve been married for 55 years, and I just care for him out of love and wanting to do things for him. He would hate having to have carers come in. I’ve paid for help in the house for once 2 hours a week, but otherwise I manage everything myself.

Because I’m 75 I get a pension of my own, and my pension is £55 a week, but I cannot get a Carers Allowance because I get a pension, which I think is all wrong. That’s one of things the Government really ought to sought out.

What do you least enjoy about your caring duties?

The stress and the worry that he might fall and I’m not around to help him. I think that’s the main thing.

What support do you get?

I’m a member of a local carers centre, and their support has been absolutely wonderful. I don’t have any carers, I’m coping looking after him on my own. But the carers centre has been with me from day one, and I can always talk to them at any time. Yesterday I went there for a two hour relaxation session to help with my stress levels.

What support would be useful to you?

I just feel that somehow if I had a Carers Allowance that would help. I have to pay out for extra things for him, but being on a pension and with the state of the country at the moment, all the prices are going up, but my husband's pension doesn’t go up. I do get help with Council Tax, but if they were to take that away, I’d worry how we would buy things.

If we go out for a day, I have to pay for the petrol. We can’t get a bus as I can’t push him as I’m too old. I have to drive to places. Petrol’s gone up. Everything going up is my biggest worry and how we’re going to cope with it on the pension.

How has Age UK supported you?

We do receive Age UK bulletins through the post, and we’ve used Age UK’s local HandyVan service who’ve come and put things up for us. They came and put up a curtain rail for me that we can no longer do.

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