Most of my working life I have been a carer. First, caring for children in residential children’s homes, and then later for my Dad when he was diagnosed with dementia aged 93. I left work to care for my Dad full time as well as for my brother who had mental health issues, and has since sadly passed away.
When I first became a carer I found it very difficult to cope. I had to make all the decisions and take care of everything. It was hard seeing Dad, who had been such an active, independent man, completely in need of my support. I found becoming a carer very tiring, and to begin with I was trying to manage a lot on my own.
My brother helped me by with Dad once a week whilst I did the shopping, but after my brother’s death I suddenly felt very isolated and was unable to leave the house. At that point I decided I needed some help, so I arranged for extra care support. Carers visited each week to help me with Dad, and it was through chatting with them that I found out about Manchester Carers Forum’s support groups, and I began to attend the South Group, as well as an Alzheimer’s group which helped me to find out a little more about dementia. The groups helped me to get to know other carers, and I enjoyed listening to guest speakers who were always a source of useful information – and most importantly I found it gave me a break from my caring role.
Through attending the groups I discovered that my Dad’s dementia was not the same as that experienced by other people. My Dad’s personality did not in fact change very much at all, and I was extremely lucky in that I had a very good relationship with my Dad throughout the period of time I spent caring for him.
Sadly my Dad passed away last year, something I found extremely difficult to come to terms with. I felt as though I had not only lost my Dad, but I had completely lost my daily routine that I had got used to. It felt as though everything just stopped. I missed the friendships I had made with Dad’s carers and although I had no need to be in the house all the time, I’d completely lost my confidence and didn’t know what to do.
As I have no other family, all the friendships I’d made as a carer were through my Dad’s care. To make things worse, I also knew I had to call Manchester Carers Forum and explain that I was no longer a carer, which I was dreading. When I finally made the call, much to my surprise I was told I could keep coming to the group. There was an implicit understanding that I needed the support now, more than ever. I was so grateful to be welcomed to stay at the group and it helped me to feel that I had not lost everything. It really encouraged me and helped me to get things sorted and gradually overcome the huge loss that I felt. As I had always been a carer, I realised I missed the role of supporting someone else. I realised that I would be able to help other carers who had been in my situation and I could signpost to services that I had used or that I knew about. I am really enjoying my role as a volunteer. I enjoy supporting the carers and attending the meetings with the other volunteers. The role is rewarding and I feel my confidence has grown. I look forward to supporting more carers on the project in the future.