A privilege and a struggle: David’s story

A man in his 40s with an elderly lady, in their home. Text reads: A struggle and a privilege. David's story.

This week is Carers’ Week, a week dedicated to raising awareness of 5.7 million unpaid carers across the UK. It’s also Loneliness Awareness Week. It feels appropriate that the two dates coincide this year.

At Action Mental Health, we want to amplify the stories of Carers within our network, shining a light on the isolation many experience and sharing what brings them hope. This is David’s story.

I’m David. I’m retired, and I have been a Carer for 10 years. I cared for my father until he sadly passed away two years ago, and I still care for my mother.  

My mother is visited four times a day by callers who help get her dressed, fed and occasionally showered. Their visits are short, but I’m thankful for them. The rest of my mother’s care is down to me. I get very little support, have never received any monetary assistance, although I was able to claim one extra year towards my pension because I was caring for both parents.

For me, being a Carer means putting your own life on hold. It’s absolutely a privilege, but it’s also a struggle, and it does mean depriving yourself and your own family of time and memories. Often caring can cause a strain on your relationships – that’s certainly been the case for me, and at times it can be really draining. At times, I feel totally burned out. And it feels like there’s no one who can take my place.

It’s hard, but there are things that bring me hope or encouragement; like knowing my loved one is being cared for by someone who loves her, and that she doesn’t feel abandoned.

Being a Carer has been quite an isolating experience. For a long time, I hadn’t even met any other Carers – I only started meeting others during Carers’ Week last year, and before then I didn’t know that any help at all was available to me. Since meeting others, and sharing our experiences together, I would say I’ve been in a better place, like I’ve had a pat on the back and some recognition for what I’m doing.

If I were to think of some of the things I wish more people knew about being a Carer, I’d say I wish they knew it’s not something you can prepare yourself for. The health of the person you’re caring for changes over time, and therefore so do their needs. You’re caring for their physical, social and mental wellbeing. And of course, every caring situation is unique.

There are over 220,000 people in Northern Ireland who are providing unpaid care for a family member or friend with a physical or mental illness or disability. Our Mindful Carers project empowers carers across Northern Ireland to maintain positive physical and emotional wellbeing.

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