For many, becoming a carer can be a fast-moving journey and there’s no guide to tell you what you need to do.
It can be a daunting experience, especially if you don’t have a support network who understand the challenges you face. But your caring community is here for you.
Keith found support at his local cafés. Meeting up with fellow carers has been invaluable and he enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience with others in similar positions.
Keith's caring journey
Keith cares for his wife, Sheila. They have been married for 48 years and have five children and seventeen grandchildren.
"My wife was a very loving, child-oriented woman. She also loved animals. She used to work at the vets, helping out and brought up the children whilst I was working. Everything was always oriented around the house. She lived for the children basically."
Sheila was diagnosed with vascular dementia in her early 60s, which came on very rapidly. Up until a year and half ago, Keith was still working three days a week and caring for Sheila.
“My role became completely caring for Sheila, really, to do everything. Although she thought she could still do things, it wasn't in a good way. So, then I decided that I worked on a year past my retirement, but I decided at the end of it, it was too much.
She kept trying to escape all the time, it became a very big safeguarding issue. So, I had no choice but to contact social services. They stepped in and it was finally decided that a care home would be right for Sheila.”
In the beginning, Sheila didn’t want to be left alone at the care home. But Keith says she has now progressed into a safe space. He visits Sheila every other day, however, due to the nature of her dementia she’s not the same person as she was before.
“It’s not the same. She doesn’t know me. You just can't describe the feeling when you've been with somebody 50 years and they're just suddenly taken away from you.”
Finding his caring community
During an event for those who care for someone with dementia, Keith was put in touch with The Carers’ Centre. He called the Support Line and has been part of our community ever since. He is part of our carer café in Midsomer Norton as well as our Dementia group.
“It doesn’t matter whether you look after someone who is disabled or has dementia, it is a friendly, chatty place. It’s good to just sit and talk sometimes, and you make good friends.
I’ve gone through a very fast journey with my wife. I’m probably going through, or been through, a lot of the experiences that other people haven’t got to yet. I like being to give advice and help people with what they can claim and where they can go for certain things. People listen to you.”
Keith also explained how cafés and support groups have helped him with his caring journey.
“You learn empathy, it’s a very frustrating job being carer. You meet other people, and you think you’re not on your own. There are other people out there doing it.
Unless you go along and interact, you’ll never know how it’s going to support you. There are like-minded people to talk to and you can get things off your chest. If you’ve got any worries, you can ask the volunteers and they can probably point you in the right direction.”
Advice from Keith
Keith has also offered some advice for those who may be early on in their caring journey…
“Get the right support. That’s what it’s all about - advice and support. Because you don’t know what’s out there. You don’t get told what’s out there. Nobody is freely going to come up and tell you everything.
A lot of people who care for their husbands, wives, mothers etc., don’t openly talk about their experience with other people, because other people don’t understand it. You don’t tend to open up to people about your situation unless they’re very close and you tend to bottle it up. Don’t keep it all inside.”
If you'd like to find your caring community just like Keith, explore our carer cafés and peer support groups below!
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