Ann and Jeffrey lived and worked overseas for many years, and both had successful careers. Ann’s recently deceased sister provided full-time care to their father for many years. In 2006 Ann & Jeffrey made the decision to retire to relieve Ann’s sister of her caring duties, recognising that she “deserved a well-earned break”.
Ann then began providing full-time care to her father and was supported by her sister, sharing some of the responsibilities. Ann stated that it was “very difficult to give up successful careers” and missed the work environment. Within two years of providing full-time care for her father Ann also became her husband, Jeffrey’s, full-time carer after he suffered from a stroke in 2008 and subsequently resulted in a long term illness.
Ann did not recognise that she was a carer for a long time, she was a daughter and a wife and did not feel that there was an alternative option to her providing this.
“When I made my wedding vows, I meant them, in sickness and in health, this was the commitment I made”.
Impact of caring
Becoming a full-time carer wasn't something that came completely easy to Ann and has impacted Ann's own health and well-being over the years. Ann identified an initial sense of loss of identity from working full-time to becoming a full-time carer for her father. This was then amplified when Jeffrey also required care as this also caused a shift in the roles they have played for many years in their marital relationship. Providing full-time care for Jeffrey, resulted in not having much to talk about with each other as they were with each other constantly with very little opportunity for external interactions. Ann noted that they both experienced a particularly challenging period in their relationship in the immediate months after Jeffrey had a stroke as they both struggled to adjust to their relationships' new dynamic.
Ann has experienced isolation over the years, having little time or opportunity to connect with others. Ann has found it difficult to maintain friendships as she felt that she did not want to “burden others with home life challenges as some people don’t want to know” and feeling like she had very little else to discuss as caring has been the central focus of her life for many years.
Ann suffers from osteoporosis and back problems which have deteriorated as a result of providing physical support previously, such as pushing Jeffrey in his wheelchair, lifting him when he has fallen.
It has always been important, to Ann, to keep ‘care’ within the family unit as much as possible and this particularly applies to personal care. Although caring for a loved one can be extremely challenging Ann finds comfort in being able to do this for the people she loves, first her father and then her husband. Ann strives to make others happy and sees caring as something she does without question or hesitation and from a place of love.
Age UK Teesside Time Out Service
Ann was referred to the Age UK Teesside Time Out Service by Redcar & Cleveland Council in June 2020. The befriending service provides a volunteer befriender for the cared-for person allowing the carer to have a break from their caring role. The Service quickly identified that both Ann and Jeffrey were experiencing isolation and loneliness and were able to also offer Ann a befriender.
Both Ann and Jeffrey have been matched with volunteer befrienders, Ann stated that there has been a marked improvement in Jeffreys communication ability (affected by previous strokes), and the service has given the couple their own identity back, they now have more to talk about within their relationship and are feeling much more positive as their friendship circles widen. The service has been “absolutely marvellous”.
“The pandemic has affected us in every way both Jeffrey and I have barely left our home since the start of the pandemic which has been very isolating and challenging for us both.”
Ann has been fearful of catching Covid-19 for a range of reasons, fearful of becoming unwell herself, fearful of who would care for Jeffrey if she became unwell and worried about catching the virus and passing it on to Jeffrey.
The couple has been shielding during national lockdowns and has only left the house for hospital appointments and on very rare occasions a car journey to the seaside and back when this has been permitted. Ann has been unable to get out for a walk as she cannot leave Jeffrey and her physical health has significantly declined over the years.
Ann had started to create friendships by attending a local ladies’ group but struggled to find the time due to her caring responsibilities to socialise. The ladies’ group was put on hold during the pandemic, exasperated Ann’s isolation and feelings of loneliness.
Both Ann and Jeffrey have had their Covid-19 vaccines without any side effects and are looking forward to being able to have picnics on the moors, see children and grandchild again and welcome help and support back into their home.
Ann's advice to other local carers:
“Take any help that you can get. I was a bit stubborn in the earlier days and tried to do everything myself, determined not to ask for help, which has led to permanent effects on my physical health”.
Thank you to Ann and Jeffrey for connecting with us and sharing their story. If you can relate to this story and recognise that you are in a caring role and would benefit from some further information, advice or support, then take a look at the range of services available to you.
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