Episode 2: Maud is more than a carer for her mother-in-law
I work full time doing work I love (luckily) and I'm an enthusiastic wife, mum, step mum, step grandma, daughter, aunt, sister and friend.
For 10 years I've also been the family carer of my 89 year old mother-in-law (MIL).
Most days I'm on top of everything, but I don't mind sharing that sometimes I feel alone and unsupported.
How did you become a carer?
About 12 years ago, it was clear my MIL was needing support, so she sold her modest house in the Potteries and joined my family in Bucks. First in the spare room and later in a little annex.
A mixed vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s diagnosis has led to my MIL needing more and more hands-on help from the local authority, care workers and us through the day and night. Nowadays she's totally dependent on others, for example we don't like to leave her alone overnight.
The pandemic has been tough on my MIL. Even though we have swerved infection, I'd swear the wearing of masks means she is drifting away from us a little faster, given the importance of lip reading and reading emotions through facial expression to her.
Having to work from home has been helpful for me in some respects, in that I've been close by. But it has also meant I've had no opportunity for a break.
While I wouldn't have it any other way, being 24x7 responsible for another adult and their financial and health needs is a sometimes overwhelming extra layer of responsibility on top of a household with it's own challenges (some of them overwhelming in their own right too, from time to time).
Things that keep me sane are my family, friends, work, and latterly my morning weights and cardio sessions outside.
Has being a carer changed what you decided to do for a career?
No, I'm lucky in that my husband and I have been determined for caring not to curtail my career, and have both worked hard to support this aim.
It has made working overseas for long periods challenging though.
My career is just too important to me and my sense of self / purpose so I'll preserve it with all the ingenuity I have.
Fortunately my husband is very supportive.
Is your employer aware of your caring role and responsibilities?
I'm effectively self employed and all the CEOs I work with are aware of my caring role and responsibilities.
They are kind and roll with it if I have equipment delivery or a district nurse turn up while I'm on a call. In fact to many it's an advantage as I'm working more and more closely with businesses in care and healthcare and have empathy with their clients.
A couple of CEOs in the care related businesses have seen me cry, since some of the challenges we're jointly seeking to fix sometimes feel very close to home.
Do you feel supported at work by your employer?
I've been self employed for 4 years. In my previous employed role, there was little awareness of carers and they weren't supported pro-actively.
Might they have supported me if I'd asked, I'd like to think so.
Have you thought about leaving work in the last 6 months? Why?
My work is too important to me to leave work, it's my purpose.
I cannot imagine being a full time carer (though longer term that is likely statistically for me when I am an older woman).
I have deep respect for full time carers and help campaign for more support.
What have you personally struggled with being a carer?
The 'un-joined-up-ness' and un-uniformity of care (and healthcare) across UK geographies and its administration by Local Authorities. It often makes the job of caring 10 times worse.
The low carers allowance, low pay for care workers and overall lack of understanding/esteem by general society is bewildering to me now I'm in the caring world. Though of course I was guilty of being ignorant too before I was a carer myself.
How have you found answers to questions you have had?
I have searched for answers from the local council, charities, social services, my GP, family members, friends, Twitter and Facebook groups.
What advice would you have given yourself before becoming a carer?
Always be prepared for the next step (e.g. have a shower seat on hand just before one is needed etc), engage with social services much earlier as there is more free help to be had than you might think AND always keep the name and phone number of anyone offering help, the date and how they helped you in case you need them again in the future - set up a care filing system to draw on.
Also, ask for a little bit of help from everywhere, it can add up to a lot.
Thank you for reading the second edition.
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