Trigger warning: Bereavement

I was carer for my wife, Mary, for three decades, having been together for nearly 46 years. Mary was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when we were engaged.

My role changed over the years from husband to full-time carer and in 2000, in my early 40s, I gave up work due to illness related to working and caring.

Sadly, Mary passed away in September 2020 due to complications from her illnesses.

Throughout the time I was caring, Mary went through 29 major surgeries, had four strokes and three episodes of sepsis. Before she passed, Mary was paralysed from the chest down and required high levels of care.

At several points along my caring journey, I had massive frustrations from the stresses and strains of doing too much and not asking for help when I needed it. My contact with Dorset Council’s adult services team was vital in helping me receive the support I needed over the years. This included organising a sitting service allowing me a bit of respite from my caring role. They also encouraged me with my voluntary work at a local charity, something which I am still involved with to this day.

I paid for extra care to come in and help out – these carers would help get Mary up, dressed, fed and assist with her personal care. I also had the help from assistance dog, Oscar.

I’m a strong believer that a service such as Carer Support Dorset can only be of benefit to unpaid carers like me and I wish something like this was in place when I first began caring all those years ago.

Life after caring

Today, I try and take each day as it comes. I miss Mary greatly; she was a very positive lady and had a great sense of humour.

I have been through the various stages of grief, including anger, but I’m beginning to feel more hopeful.

Oscar still helps me out as my own physical health is still suffering the effects of being a long term carer – he’ll do things such as pick something up that I’ve dropped or helps me unload the washing machine, he also remains a fantastic companion. Plus, one of Mary’s ex-carers helps me out around the home too.

I try to keep busy by continuing to volunteer as a Treasurer at a local charity and with some help, I have someone trying to bring our garden back to its former glory, something Mary was very proud of doing.

Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, we were only able to have 15 people at Mary’s cremation, so I am hoping to have a memorial for her in the future, where family and friends can share their fond memories.

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