Trigger warning: mentions mental ill health
I have been a carer to my husband Peter for 14 years.
Peter has vascular dementia with cognitive impairment and has been gradually declining over the years. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, Peter has declined further, which is to be expected with his condition. Although I no longer live with Peter, I live very close by to him and remain his main carer.
Before lockdown was brought in, I would go out with Peter five days a week. We would often go out for lunch or take day trips to local National Trust properties. We’d also go food shopping together and I’d help Peter with paying at the tills.
I was also very heavily involved in a local charity, which I set up, which helps people go on day trips together and reduced isolation. This used to take us across Dorset and further afield, with Peter often accompanying me on the trips. Unfortunately, due to ill health of various people in the organisation and lockdowns, this charity was disbanded in 2020.
The effects of lockdown
Lockdown was a difficult time for both Peter and I. Peter really struggled to understand the severity of the situation and was going out when he should have been shielding. It was a big worry for me at the time as I had my own health concerns and was also supposed to be shielding.
Lockdown also meant that Peter’s paid carers stopped coming to the house as they were self-isolating.
Thankfully, now that restrictions have eased, Peter’s paid care has resumed. His carers continue to help him with his foot care, keeping on top of the vacuuming his house and make him sandwiches.
How caring makes me feel
I have been a carer for a long time now. At the start of my caring role, I found going on courses run by the NHS on dementia helped me to gain a greater understanding of Peter’s condition and how it affects people. These courses were really beneficial and I’d definitely recommend doing something similar if you can.
Rather than focussing on what Peter can’t do, I have a mantra of accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. I try to focus on what Peter can still do and help him focus on his hobbies of gardening and classic cars. It was only very recently that Peter was able to ride in a vintage car, a 1937 Fraser Nash after I’d spoken to the owner on a trip to Pamphill. He thoroughly enjoyed his experience travelling through the country lanes.
Caring hasn’t been an easy role for sure though, my mental health has been impacted and I have suffered with depression and anxiety as a result. My relationship with Peter has changed too. The person you married and loved is not that person anymore but it’s not their fault.
How I cope with caring
Recently, my GP referred me to a gym to help me with my legs. The gym team have been incredibly supportive of both me and Peter and I’ve found attending has not only benefited my physical health but my mental health too.
We still try and get out and about as much as we can, something which has been made a lot easier now that Covid restrictions have eased. Peter is still able to drive at the moment although his driving test assessor thinks that this time next year that will have to stop.
We also have recently returned to swimming. This has been a good experience but challenging too as Peter can no longer remember how to swim but with the help of floatation ‘noodles’ he’s able to have an enjoyable time.
We both attend seated chair exercises classes with Age UK and regular coffee mornings to get a change of scene and the opportunity to talk to other people. We have also more recently ventured to the theatre to see Buddy Holly and have even attended family events in Southsea and booked a trip over to the Isle of Wight. It’s not always easy going to these things however I feel it’s really important for Peter and me.
A top tip
One thing I’d really recommend people in a similar situation to me is to sort out Lasting Power of Attorney status early on. This has helped me massively with my caring role as has enabled me to be able to speak to Peter’s GP about his condition and be fully consulted along the way.
We also drew up our wills and found that doing this online was straightforward for us.
If you, like Rose, are caring for someone. Please get in touch. We can offer information, advice and guidance that can support you in your caring role.