Just talking to someone on the phone really helped
Gill is 70 and lives in Broadstairs. She combined caring for her husband who had multiple strokes with working as a teacher, until he passed away in 2019.
My husband had retired at 53 on health grounds and then had a stroke at 62 which is when life really changed. He went on to have more mini-strokes (TIAs) over the next 17 years with his health deteriorating each time. He was often frustrated, angry and his short-term memory was affected; each time he had a fall it got worse. The stroke robbed him of lots of things he loved doing and he didn’t want to go anywhere.
I did leave him to go to see our grandchildren and for the odd few nights away but couldn’t leave the country latterly (My sister lives in SA). I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if anything had happened to him and he wouldn’t allow anyone to come in and look after him. He never stopped me from doing anything, but I felt an expectation to be there for and with him. When I went to things I always felt on my own with little energy to engage with people and then found myself clock watching to get home.
I was lucky that I didn’t need to do personal care, but didn’t have any help for all of that time apart from a care support worker when I broke my ankle and a cleaner. I was teaching full time for most of those years and I just got on with it. It was not the life I had known, as the balance shifted and our relationship changed. He couldn’t cope with confrontation or with me being ill so I tried not to be ill or didn’t say if I was. My own health suffered as a result.
I never described myself as a Carer and had never thought of myself in that role and so I didn’t come across Carers’ Support East Kent until almost two years before he died when the hospital mentioned it. Just talking to someone on the phone really helped, they listened and I offloaded. I just wish I had known about them earlier.
There has definitely been a long-lasting effect on me of being a Carer. It’s made worse by being bereaved 6 months before COVID started – it’s been very lonely and isolating, but I have lots of friends and support.