It helped to realise we were not alone

THE strains of being a carer fall to many people as an elderly parent reaches infirmity, just at the time they’re supposed to be taking things a little easier themselves.

Friday, June 22, 2012

For Yvonne and Geoff Daniell, it came as the Whitchurch couple were preparing to take retirement in April 2010.

They found themselves faced with the responsibility for caring for Yvonne’s mother Ellen, 91, as she was gradually overcome with dementia.

Visits became necessary three or four times a day, with Yvonne’s chores including bathing her mother, shopping, cooking and dressing her.

By the time 68-year-old Yvonne was referred to the Carers’ Support Centre for Bristol, she says she was close to suffering a nervous breakdown herself.

“It was actually my mother’s GP who advised me to get help myself from the Carers’ Support Centre charity,” she says. “I’d reached the end of my tether, and I needed help.

“Actually what they were able to offer me more than anything, was to realise that I wasn’t alone – through their events and group therapy sessions, I got to meet other carers going through the same thing, and that helped me to realise that it wasn’t just me going through this. It had been such a terribly stressful few years.

“Looking back, the first inkling we had of my mother’s mental decline was at our daughter’s wedding in September 2008. It had been a marvellous day with perfect weather but, for some strange reason, mum was plainly ill at ease.

“We thought nothing more of it then, but in the months that were to follow, it was clear that something was wrong. We did not know how to respond to her increasingly out-of-character behaviour, having no previous experience of dementia, nor how to handle it.

“My husband and I retired in April 2010, with the intention of spending more time with her, and that was just as well for we were soon very much needed. She needed our close attention and our evening visits to her home were necessary to ensure that she had a good evening meal and was safely put to bed.

“Gradually, our responsibilities grew, culminating in the need to visit mum three or four times each day. Eventually I had to assume responsibility for all her shopping, laundry, food preparation and presentation of meals.

“With my husband’s help, we looked after her garden and housework. Together, we took her by car to wherever she needed to go – hairdresser, doctor, church – and it was one Sunday morning that I eventually found her lying on the floor of her bedroom.

“She had fallen and was unable to get up, having fractured her wrist. She spent the next four weeks in hospital and, while there, celebrated her 91st birthday. It was also established, while there, that she was in no state to return to her own home.

“Apart from her physical frailty, her dementia had advanced to such a state that she needed around-the-clock care. It was then that we, too, began to need help and we are grateful for the help we received. Thankfully, we have now been able to place her in a lovely home in Weston-super-Mare where we are confident she will receive the close and loving attention she needs and deserves.

“The experience of the last three years also affected us adversely. The physical demands upon us, the time invested and the mental stress and anxiety all took its toll.

“We had been unable to take a holiday for three years. However, we didn’t resent any of this. It was a privilege to be able to return the love and care mum had lavished on us.

“During her life, she has been a wonderful mother, grandmother and now great-grandmother. She has been devoted to her family, and selfless in all that she did.

“But the worry and workload have been difficult for us to handle, and I began to develop a succession of minor, but irritating ailments, and it was not until quite late in the day that I realised I was headed for a nervous breakdown myself without some help.”

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