A carer's life for me

In one of my earlier blogs called 'Nil by Mouth', I described how my mother speaks limited English so I've always accompanied her to appointments with doctors and dentists in my capacity as translator. As she lives with me in our house, it hasn't felt like such a big leap from translator to carer but a gradual transition and one that I do willingly.  I don't see it as a responsibility.  I do it because otherwise, I would feel anxious if I didn't because she is my Mother and I love her.  Prior to my mother's diagnosis, she did much of the housework, cooking and gardening.  The neighbours regularly saw her mowing the lawn.  But ascites, which is a symptom of ovarian cancer where fluid accumulates in the abdomen has given her a big belly, almost like she is 9 months pregnant and has severely impacted her mobility.  In fact, it was when she was vacuuming that she first said to me her big belly did not feel right and triggered her visit to the local GP and finally diagnosis.  Hoovering saved my Mother's life!  As such, aswell as working full time, I have now undertaken all the chores at home and assist my mother in her daily activities.  

There's a general misconception that a carer is a trained medical professional that wears a plastic apron and gloves, wipes a patients bottom, feeds food and cleans vomit.  In actual fact, a carer can be anyone who assists a person with an illness from the simple things like buying groceries, to 24/7 care. They can be a friend or a family member.  The carer not only assists with the practical side of day to day life but provides emotional support and encouragement.  I have no medical expertise and no training in counselling but the nurses on the ward where my mum stayed during her hospital admission insist that her recuperation was exceptionally quick and aided by the 121 care that my sisters and I provided to my mother.  The carer ensures that though a person has a terminal illness, they retain a well rounded good quality of life.  

Across the UK today, 6.5 million people are carers, supporting a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill.  That’s 1 in 8 adults who care, unpaid, for family and friends whether round-the-clock or for a few hours a week.  Either at home, like my Mother and I, or like my sister who lives 135 miles but accommodates her work schedule to help me care for my Mother at least once a week.

As the carer, your lifestyle is impacted just as much as the patients.  I think that sometimes, the diagnosis of a terminal illness can be just as distressing for those around the patient as it is for the person with the illness.  The loved ones can but watch helplessly and must deal with the pain and heartache after the patient has left.  This new lifestyle is foisted on the carer just as much as it is for the patient.   Carers make an enormous contribution to society and save the economy billions of pounds.  It's therefore important for the carer to know where to get help as it can be frightening to all of a sudden be responsible for the health and well being of someone you love.  

Carers UK - provides expert advice and support for all carers throughout the UK via their support line and website. Call 0808 808 7777 or see carersuk.org

Carers Trust - provides a network of local support for carers, including carers centres and Crossroads respite services.

Some trusts may offer support for cancer carers, such as financial help with travel and parking costs. The Trust’s PALS team will be able to advise on what’s available. In Wales contact the local Community Health Council, and in Scotland the Patient Advice and Support Service. 

Carers are entitled to a Carers Assessment from their local council. This is carried out by their local social services/social work department to identify the carer’s needs, and what support they may be entitled to. Your hospital should have a referral procedure or ask a social worker how to do this. 

The NHS provides online advice and information for carers at: nhs.uk/carersdirect wales.nhs.uk/carers

Older carers may be able to access support from their local branch of Age UK. For more information, visit ageuk.org.uk or call 0800 678 1174 

St John Ambulance and the Red Cross - can provide training on moving and handling, first aid and other practicalities relevant to carers.

I'd be interested to know of any other resources you may be aware of that I've not listed above.  The carers look after the patients and we should take care of the carers.



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