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The Story of an Unpaid Carer

This week we’re celebrating Carers Week – An annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, to highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and to recognise the contribution they make. As well as caring for their clients, many of our carers have also provided care to a loved one and have their own story to tell.

This is Kate Ball’s Story:

I am a Community Carer, but I also have first hand experience of being the family member responsible for a loved one during her final years. Unless you have undertaken this task yourself, you cannot imagine the responsibility that ultimately becomes your burden.

That sounds harsh, because my mum was my absolute world and I don’t have one nano second of regret, but every single decision I made for myself had to factor in her needs. There were very few moments of my day when I wasn’t thinking about her. How is she, what does she need, what shopping do I need to get, check the medications and creams, keep an eye on all the sanitary and personal care supplies, is she being stimulated, is she happy, what do I have to do for myself so I can fit in time for her, do I need to call the Doctor? 

I saw her every day, each end of the day. On days off I would factor in time. I would phone her several times a day otherwise she would phone me at work. The Carer would phone with concerns. Your brain is constantly thinking, constantly on alert….

I had to separate my life into boxes. It’s the only way I managed. Mum, work, dog, me. I had such support at work though, I was very lucky.

Mum had Live-in care which was a full time job for me in itself. Always making sure she was OK. Checking Checking Checking.

My colleagues, Mum’s team! Oh my how she loved them. We did get some good matches with Live-in, but the Domiciliary Home Carers…..not only were they my eyes and ears, they made Mum so happy! They were her constant, they rarely changed. Same faces, that’s what she liked. I envied their relationship with her. They had the best of her. I had the graft. Yes, I felt some jealousy, I admit it. When I sat with mum, no matter what we were watching or reading or talking about everything led back to the same place. We didn’t laugh very much, we always used to. She laughed a lot with her Carers. She loved talking with them, hearing about their news, and their families. They learned things about her that I never knew.

I have brothers. I love them dearly. They would visit, and everything was lovely. They would bring flowers that she couldn’t smell and there wasn’t really room for. Then they would go. Like all families, there is one person who gets the job, and all eyes are then on you. Everyone is happy for you to do it but when something goes wrong oh my….why did that happen, how did that happen, why did you let that happen?? It’s not easy, believe me.

Your love for your family member is unconditional and everlasting with no resentment. There is nothing you won’t do for them, but it takes its toll on a person.

As a Carer, when you are working in a family unit like this, like mine was, just remember the family carer is juggling balls in the air every single day. If one of those balls should fall on your shift, cut them some slack. It could be catastrophic for them at that moment. You are not privy to the other parts of their life, you can’t understand. You don’t need to understand that part, but you could feel some compassion for them. Sometimes as the son, as the daughter, for those few moments, you are fragile! Then you regroup, take a breath and you carry on. It’s hard.

Try not to judge them, they are only human. They have a huge responsibility to shoulder every single day.

As the Carer, for your part, you do the best you can for their loved one, and for that day, or that visit, they don’t have to worry.

You are invaluable! You can’t possibly know how important you are. Just accept from me that you are both of those things, and thank-you for all that you do x