Christmas Thoughts from a Parent Carer

I’m not a parent, but watching friends and family who are, I can see what a special time Christmas is – despite the mayhem! Watching kids ripping paper off gifts. The look of delight when they get a toy they were really hoping for. Or a surprise they really didn’t expect. Then watching them find the paper or box far more fun than the gift 😉

It saddens me that for many parent carers, Christmas can be very bittersweet. The Carers’ Trust, our national umbrella organisation, has many heartbreaking stories, but Peter’s story really hit home about the struggles they face:

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Six years ago, when our son James was born we were on top of the world. When Rosie was expecting our second child, our dreams of a family really were coming together. Amy was a less active baby than James, but she smiled and laughed a lot. I am thankful for those happy memories but it is difficult to think of at times, especially around Christmas.

I haven’t really talked to anyone about the years that followed – it has all been too much. Amy was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when she was only two. That was difficult enough, we were so worried. It’s hard to accept that only two years later Rosie was killed as she was cycling home. She was such a great mum. I miss her so much but now I am trying to be a dedicated dad and also take on the role as mum to the children, as well as keeping a roof over their heads”

peterandamy“There is no cure for muscular dystrophy. Amy will need around the clock care as she will never be able to walk again. I’m taking on as much work as I can when Amy is at a specialist nursery. She really loves it and I know she’s well looked after. But once I pick Amy up in the afternoon, I’m then a full time carer so I hardly have any time to spend with James when he comes home from school.

It’s been tough; at times I thought the kids would be taken into care because I wasn’t coping. I’m so exhausted when I go to bed but I don’t get much sleep as I need to check on Amy in case she is in any pain. I know I could be a better dad. James helps out as much as he can but what kind of childhood is he getting? All I want to do is kick a ball with my son and give him my time, especially around Christmas”

There are around 2000 people in Bath & North East Somerset who are parent carers like Peter – and over 20,000 unpaid carers in total looking after family or friends. Without support, they can find themselves isolated, anxious and their physical and emotional health can suffer. At the Carers’ Centre we meet so many carers at the end of their tether, struggling to cope and, like Peter, worried they ‘should be doing better’ – when they are already doing so much.

Working here has opened my eyes to their needs – the practical and emotional support they need to cope with the challenges of their role – especially at this time of year. And I’m proud to work for an organisation that does all it can to give this help to carers.

Your support for #whocares, the Carers’ Centre Christmas Appeal, can make a real difference to the lives of carers who put the needs of their families ahead of themselves.

If you can, please give a gift of £10 so that we can provide the 20,000 carers in our area the dedicated support they so desperately need. 

Donate online, or text BATH10 £10 to 70070. Thank you 

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What Grace would like for Christmas

When you ask a teenager what they want for Christmas, what do you expect the answer to be? The latest tech gadget? The newest fashion item? Or as I have found, money, plain and simple?!

graceWell I want to introduce you to Grace. She really doesn’t want anything for herself. She is always putting her family first and this is especially true at Christmas. If you met Grace, you would think she is a typical 13 year olds – loving to talk about music and fashion. Yet she has faced challenges and hardships you wouldn’t expect for someone so young. For Grace, Christmas is not a time for excitement but instead one of anxiety – worrying about how she will cope and how she can make her family happy. Grace is a young carer.

Grace took on caring responsibilities when she was just seven after her father left, no longer able to cope with the pressure of his family life. Grace was heartbroken and still finds it hard to talk about. Yet she had little time to come to terms with this – she needed to help her mother, her younger brother and sister – they all have cerebral palsy.

“I miss my dad but I know my mum, Ben and Ellie really need me. I want to do my best for them but sometimes I get down because I don’t have the same freedom as all the other kids at my school.”

On an average day, Grace spends over 4 hours helping her family with jobs like cleaning, cooking and helping them get dressed. This leaves little time for homework let alone friends and a social life.

Grace’s story is poignant but it’s sadly all too common. There are around 700,000 young carers in the UK. 3000 of these live in Bath & North East Somerset. So many of these young carers tell us that they want life just to be ‘normal’, especially at Christmas-time.

With help from organisations like the Carers’ Centre, and our national umbrella organisation Carers’ Trust, young carers like Grace can get a little bit of the normality they crave.

“I feel so alone at times. I don’t have many friends at school and I can’t go to parties. Anyway, most people my age don’t understand my life and find me odd. At the Young Carers Centre I don’t need to explain myself. It’s brilliant there – I can have a laugh and get the opportunity to do things like ice skating.”

Just being with other young carers can make such a difference to not feeling ‘odd’. Just a small thing. But a big difference to a young carers life.

Your support for #whocares, the Carers’ Centre Christmas Appeal, can make a real difference to the lives of young carers who put the needs of their families ahead of themselves.

A gift of just £5 can help us change lives this Christmas. Click to donate online, or text BATH05 £5 to 70070. Thank you 

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How a cold saved Rosie’s sanity

Rosie & DenIn my first #whocares post, I mentioned Rosie’s story, who is now a trustee of the Carers’ Centre. I want to share with you her full story, because it is so true that carers never feel they can take time for themselves – even time to be ill:

“I found the Carers’ Centre about six years ago – I think I was referred by my GP. I was caring 24/7 for my husband Den, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and had a very difficult full-time job. I had come down with a cold – just a cold – and it was just the end of the tether for me. I was absolutely exhausted.  I didn’t know what to do with Den or how to manage being unwell for a few days.

The first thing the Carers’ Centre did was to send me to Ammerdown for a 24 hour respite. It was just incredible. I had a bath. I went for a walk. It sounds silly but when you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, telling them you’re going up to have a bath doesn’t mean anything. It’s just not possible.

So it was a very positive initial experience for me being able to have that respite and it’s gone on from there. I went to carers’ forums, had first aid training – all these things would not have been possible without the support of the Centre.

The peer support was a big thing for me as well – just to see other carers in different situations to remind you that you’re not alone or isolated. People can tell you that they know about Alzheimer’s but until you’ve lived with it 24/7 you don’t know. Speaking to someone who really does understand makes all the difference.

Now I’ve become very involved with the Centre and its work as a trustee.

Without the Carers’ Centre I would really have struggled. Their help meant I could keep working – and stay sane – for a much longer period of time. It kept me working and it allowed me to have my own life.

Unfortunately the usual progression of Alzheimer’s occurred with Den and he’s now in full time care. So it’s come full circle really where now I am working with the Centre to help other carers and just say – you’re not alone.

The Centre really gave me the tools to cope – to make things better, and to make things easier. It enhanced my life and is an absolute lifeline for carers.”

You can help support other carers like Rosie this Christmas by donating just £10 to the Carers’ Centre #whocares? appeal. Click here or text BATH10 £10 to 70070. Thank You 

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Who Cares? 20,000 unpaid carers in B&NES do.

Mum&DadAs you read this article, think about someone you love. It could be your brother or sister, parent, partner or child. Right now, I’m thinking about my lovely Mum and Dad, pictured right. Now I want you to think about what might happen if suddenly – or gradually – something happened where they needed round-the-clock care.

Would that responsibility fall to you?

It’s a frightening thing to think about, but that is the reality for at least 20,000 people here in Bath & North East Somerset. They are unpaid carers – that’s anyone who looks after someone who couldn’t manage without them. Carers give their time and energy to look after the person they love. But this can be a stressful, exhausting and difficult task – particularly at Christmas.

When you care for someone else, you can’t simply take an evening off for a Christmas Party. Or take a few hours out to finish the Christmas shopping. Or enjoy a few days off over a long bank holiday break. What would happen to the person you care for if you did?

Caring responsibilities add a huge pressure to someones life – pressure which other people often don’t see or understand. It can be desperately lonely and often carers don’t know who they can turn to for help.

Carers CentreThat’s why I’m so passionate about the work we do at the Carers’ Centre. I’ve only worked here for 8 months, but already I see the difference we make, giving carers the support they need to cope with their role and space to take time out for themselves. Carers’ like Rosie, who looks after her husband Den.

Rosie & Den“I was struggling to care for Den, who has Alzheimer’s disease. I felt completely isolated and lonely. The Carers’ Centre gave me the opportunity to relax and have time just for me. It was just what I needed. Without it, I don’t know if I would have coped.”

Over and over again, I hear that the Carers’ Centre is a lifeline, making all the difference to carers in need. Our centres are places where carers can make friends and feel less isolated. Where they can learn new skills, look after their health, gain confidence. Or simply where they can have a cup of tea, do some gardening, have someone to talk to. Things you and I might take for granted. But for carers, it’s the difference between coping and struggling.

And now I’m going to ask for your help. Can you to donate just £10 to #WeCare, our Christmas Appeal, to help us continue to support carers this Christmas?

Imagine being responsible for a loved one needing care and not knowing who to call with your questions and worries. Help us make sure that all carers in B&NES have someone to turn to and a place to feel safe. Please make a donation, share this page and show you care too this Christmas.

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And that’s a wrap

So, 5 months on, that’s pretty much the end of the wedding posts. As I reflect back over the whole process, there are several things which stand out to me:

Being ethical is complicated! There are so many different ‘bits’ to creating a wedding, it does take quite an effort to ensure you think through each decision fully. This did make it a little stressful. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I was happy that we had done our best to ensure maximum social impact and minimum environmental impact from they day. And that was the most important thing for me.

Despite being a little complicated, I had immense fun. It was great to feel I was designing and creating the day as we wanted it. I enjoyed knitting and crafting with my friends. I really felt it brought us all a bit closer together.

And that leads on to my most important reflection: there is absolutely no way that we could have done it without the support and help of our family and friends. Joining in with the crafting, baking cakes, organising on the day and generally just ‘being there’ – I’ll never forget the work they put in to make our day special. So this final post is dedicated to you all. Thank you.

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