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The challenges facing carers of older veterans

Published on 11 March 2019 03:53 PM

Conwy carer talks about the extra challenges she faces caring for veteran husband with vascular dementia

Conwy carer Barbara has, for the first time, spoken about the extra challenges she faces as a full time carer for her veteran partner Ged who has been diagnosed with vascular dementia.  

Ged, who is 82 and has been with Barbara for 21 years, served in the Army and to the outside world looks incredibly fit and able. However, his condition has been progressing steadily since it was diagnosed three years ago. 

Caring for Ged is a seven day a week job for Barbara, as she has to organise everything Ged might need.  He is totally reliant on Barbara for help with day to day activities and would not be able to live independently.  

When Ged visits social groups for veterans such as Woody’s Lodge in Colwyn Bay he feels comfortable enough to chat with fellow visitors about their time in service, although he won’t ever start a conversation.  

Barbara and the other veterans understand the situation and thereby encourage Ged to become involved.  Crucially the other veterans don’t make an issue out of the fact that he can’t remember their names or that they have the same conversations as the previous week. If Ged is left to his own devices he will not engage with other people and gets quite anxious.  

Equally as important, while Ged is chatting to the other veterans, Barbara is a able to switch off from her caring responsibilities for a short while. 

While Barbara is a fit, active and independent person, she has had a serious back injury that required surgery and suffers from arthritis in her lower back and upper limbs.   

Barbara says “We have attended non veteran support groups but we both felt they didn't meet our needs.  Ged enjoyed the exercise classes but didn't want to chat to anyone there as he felt they had nothing in common and I didn't feel it offered help or support for either of us.   

“I do have concerns, I worry that if my health fails it will also have a huge impact on Ged's quality of life.  I also struggle to get the information I need, particularly about Ged's health and support options for both of us. 

“I still have grounds for optimism, especially when I see a positive change in Ged on the days we meet with other veterans. I would love to see more veteran based activities as they offer such person focussed support – they care!” 

Researching the needs of carers of older veterans

Project 360° formed from a partnership of Age Cymru, Woody’s Lodge, and Age Alliance Wales, suspects there may be thousands of people like Barabara and Ged in Wales;  full time carers striving to meet the needs of their loved ones with chronic conditions but with the added complication of being a veteran who struggles to interact with ‘civvy street’.

Project 360, funded by the Aged Veterans Fund through LIBOR money was set up to improve the provision of health, social, and voluntary services for older veterans throughout Wales and now it wants to better understand the impact that being an unpaid carer has on the lives older veterans and their partners. 

It also wants to know what would improve the quality of life for such carers and the people they care for, and how care providers can improve their services to meet the many unmet needs of unpaid carers.

If anyone would like to engage with the project’s research call 029 2043 1555 or visit agecymru.org.uk/project360.

Ends.

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