A Carer? Really?
During the last few years I was on and off a carer to my wife and when I said this to people I would sometimes receive a strange response. A kind of surprised look. I think it was more because it was given a label rather than anything else.
There are 2 reasons why I mention this.
First reason is that there are many people out there who don’t even realise that they are a carer. Again maybe they don’t realise the label it’s given rather than not knowing that they are helping someone.
So what is a Carer? (Text taken from http://www.carers.org/what-carer)
A carer is someone of any age who provides unpaid support to family or friends who could not manage without this help. This could be caring for a relative, partner or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or substance misuse problems.
Anyone can become a carer; carers come from all walks of life, all cultures and can be of any age. Many feel they are doing what anyone else would in the same situation; looking after their mother, son, or best friend and just getting on with it.
Carers don’t choose to become carers: it just happens and they have to get on with it; if they did not do it, who would and what would happen to the person they care for?
The second reason is that during my time as a carer I did use the services of http://www.carers.org/ and had counselling which taught me many things I would like to share.
The counselling sessions for me was the one place I could go where someone actually understood fully the pressures I was under. I mean I had a full time job, 2 young kids, a house to run and a wife to look after; not to mention my own emotional turmoil of watching my wife go through this awful journey. Granted I had some priceless help from relatives but most of the time when I was not at work I had all this to contend with on my own. It was very hard, very tiring, very stressful and put extra strain on life.
Also what made the caring more complicated was that I was caring for the one person that was closest to me; My wife and best friend. But through the sessions I learnt some valuable lessons.
1. How to separate the roles
I learnt to make sure I made time for us as a couple and not always about looking after Helen.. Helen loved Eastenders so we would always watch that together. I think over the course of my time with Helen she somehow drugged me to like that utter rubbish so I was hooked too. Thankfully I weaned myself off of it these days but at the time it was something nice we both enjoyed with a nice Cuppa. I actually miss those times.
Sometimes though I would, make some nice food for us or I would switch off the TV and we would just talk. Talk about anything and everything. Or maybe play a game together on the iPad. Just anything that makes you both interact with each other and enjoy each others company. Those times were so important because we could both feel a bit normal again without all the other pressures of life. We just enjoyed each other and that was key in getting us through. During those times Helen was no longer ill, I was no longer stressed out caring for everyone and we were just being Mike and Helen. I would pay big dollars to have that time back.
We laughed a lot….
I was sure to savour those moment and are now priceless memories that will live on with me until I myself have to kick a big red bucket (don’t know why it’s a red one), grow some wings and fly up to the Haven holiday camp in the sky. Hopefully Helen has secured a nice luxury Caravan for us over looking the clouds.
2. Make time for yourself
Now this is a very difficult one because that bloody awful emotion called guilt raises it’s dirty orrible little grubby face. It’s also difficult because I was always so blooming tired by the time the kids were in bed so just sitting down was fine with me.
But…. It’s very important to make that time because you need to be on form with your patients in tact and can’t just keep carrying on without it. I found that going to work was my outlet. Sometimes getting in the car in the morning for work leaving my wife and kids behind with someone else to look after them was amazing. Sounds bad saying that but it was true. I big jug of coffee nicely nestled in the cars coffee holder, radio 1 on and a 45 min drive to the office in peace. Then at work I was just a normal chap doing his day job. Often Helen would pop into my head especially if she wasn’t too well or we were waiting for results but mainly I would just get on with my work.
I also had went out for a few beers now and then with mates which is never a bad thing.
These two pieces of advice helped me get through and more importantly made the time Helen and I had together a much better place.