I have been a carer for many years, first caring for my late husband Busty who suffered a stroke and had both his legs amputated below the knee. Through that time, I had to do absolutely everything for him and was at the end of my tether. When I first became an unpaid carer there was not much support or after care and I had to find a lot of things out for myself. Even something as simple as the Carers Allowance I didn’t know about for a long time despite feeling the financial burden of caring. I want other unpaid carers, to know that the Carer’s Allowance can make all the difference.
When opportunities to help with my caring role did come along, they came by chance, like a course I did with St. John Ambulance, which helped me understand what equipment I could use to help my caring role. It’s the simple things that makes all the difference.
Taking time out of caring
Vital to me being able to still work and have respite from my caring role was being able to drop Busty off at the Portland Fairfield Day Centre. This was somewhere that I trusted all the staff and knew Busty would be well looked after.
When it came under threat of closure, I campaigned tirelessly to fight to save Fairfield, something essential to my own wellbeing. Now it is Portland Connect, and I still champion them today as a truly friendly, caring and safe place for a cared for person. (You can find your local connect service online.)
Services such as this can make all the difference, because as an unpaid carer, although respite can be desperately needed, it can feel risky to put someone into a care home or day centre.
Meeting other carers
When I went to that initial eye opening St. John Ambulance course, I met other people who were carers and who were also struggling and realised that more peer-to-peer support was needed. It was then that myself and a friend decided to start up the Portland Carers Support Group.
The group is still going, and it is a place for carers to be with others with similar experiences who can support each other. It is also a place for them to have access to people they might otherwise not, like Carers Leads from GP surgeries and Carer Caseworkers from Dorset Council’s Adult Services team who occasionally attend.
Returning to caring
More recently myself and my “new husband” cared for a neighbour, Pam, aged 100. I would help bath her, sort out meals and with my husband we did all they could to make her home safe.I was there when Pam had a fall, and when Pam had a bad reaction to antibiotics. Sadly, Pam died last year.
I want others know about all the organisations that have helped me and my community in Portland. For example, Portland charity’s Island Community Action which is mostly run by amazing volunteers. There is also events at my local Dorset Library in Portland and this is great for my own wellbeing. They are also good when taking someone you care for, particularly the Reminisce groups for people suffering with dementia. (You can look at all the events Dorset libraries run on their website.)
I think Carer Support Dorset makes and will continue to make a huge difference for unpaid carers. Often as an unpaid carer, support offered never comes to a head or doesn’t really materialise, so it is refreshing that Carer Support Dorset does what they say they will do!
If like Jo, you could do with information, advice or guidance about your caring role, please contact us on 0800 368 8349 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.