Sharing is Caring . . . by Richard Gladstone
Definition of caring? The work or practice of looking after those unable to care for themselves, especially on account of age or illness.
Did I consider myself as a Carer? No. I simply considered that looking after my partner and his dad the right thing to do. It’s seemed natural to be paternal and as a male to just get on with it. My partner a few years ago suffered an out of hospital Cardiac Arrest which left him with a degree of hypoxic brain injury which affects him daily and can be at times quite debilitating. At the same time, his father suffered a major stroke. By December 2019 both were in my care at home and being a typical man, I viewed the offer of external help as a sign of weakness, and felt my judgement would being questioned! I can do this was my attitude and I would like to point out; it still is, but please read on to find out why “it still is!”
Three months later – the world was taken hostage by COVID, and it was a case of self-preservation. I needed to stay safe and protect those that needed my care. I went to every length to protect the family home. It paid off and everyone remained clear. During all this time I guess I went into autopilot.
Things were now returning to “normal” but by this time – three years on – I had become, Matron! Doctor! Neurologist! Psychiatrist! Psychologist! Cleaner, baker and candlestick maker! Most important role was Cinderella! During all of this – I DID EVERYTHING MYSELF with no external help, support, guidance BUT did I consider my life now as a Carer? No, I was doing what I thought was the natural thing to do.
Secret was after 24/7 looking after two people without any break whatsoever was actually affecting me – I just wouldn’t admit it! I longed for a holiday, I longed to go out, I longed for a SNOOZE in! I longed just to TALK! I felt in control and not in control. I felt like an actor as I wouldn’t admit to how I was feeling. People would bump into me whilst I was shopping and asked how everyone at home was doing. BUT No-one ever stopped and asked HOW I WAS DOING.
A neighbour had a presentation at work by Alison from Darlington Carers Support. That thoughtful neighbour popped Alison’s calling card through my letterbox. I had no idea at the time where it came from.
Out of curiosity, I phoned the number on the card and spoke to Alison, and we hit it off immediately and it was GREAT to talk to someone who said they could help without it sounding like they were going to interfere. The thought of someone coming into my life / my home to stick their nose in was NOT want I wanted. Although by now I knew I needed support – I had the home balance just where I needed it.
We arranged a meeting and off I went to Darlington Carers Support Group and met up with Alison. Meeting Alison was like having the world lifted off my shoulders! She listened “I TALKED!” (Believe me, I can talk (lol))
Alison explained about help / services / support that was open to me. I left the meeting and thought long and hard and accepted the offer of some counselling. Although I felt I didn’t need therapy in that sense, I figured it just might talk help to someone about what I’m doing and how it makes me feel and who was neutral. I was offered six sessions and only needed one!
Just listening to myself saying the things I was talking about – helped me to answer my own questions!! I started straight away to make some changes to how I went about my day and started to reap the rewards in how I got results. I then decided to participate in the monthly Carers’ Support Group get togethers and allowing myself the time to get out and socialise with others who care for their family but not talking about our roles – just talking and more so “Listening”.
Just having access at hand whether you use it or not is such a game changer and knowing you’re not alone! I always leave on a high after chatting with other Carers and staff and this has put the spark back into my life! My role as “Carer” is so much easier – just knowing that someone is there, if needed. At the start of this I wrote “I have a can do attitude and still do” This is ren-enforced even more knowing that I have the support if/when I need it!
Remember – caring doesn’t have a “gender”!
Sharing is caring – this sharing is caring for yourself!