We are currently in the middle of Carers Week (12-18th June).
Speaking from personal experience, having looked after my husband for three years, I know that being a carer can have a tremendous impact on your life. It can affect you financially, emotionally, physically, and mentally.
One of the biggest impacts on me was the guilt. For example, I felt guilty whenever I left my husband alone. So I curtailed my social life because, when I went out, I was never really able to relax; I’d always be worrying about my husband. The result of this was that I was left feeling isolated and, in all honesty, at times I resented it. So I felt guilty about that as well. Caring for my husband was meant to be part of the deal (“in sickness and in health”). So why did I resent it so?
Having had no training in caring for a terminally ill person, I wasn’t equipped to look after my husband either. I would often accidentally hurt him whilst trying to wash him, and I wasn’t strong enough to support him, which made changing his clothes and getting him in and out of his wheelchair a struggle and, again, I would often accidentally hurt him. This made me feel like I was a dead loss and was failing him. So I felt guilty about that as well.
Being under stress, we also had plenty of arguments – far more than when he was well. Here was this terminally ill man, the love of my life, who soon wouldn’t be in my life and here I was arguing with him! So that was another thing to feel guilty about.
Looking back at that time of my life, I can see how much of a nightmare it was. So why did I leave it so long to ask for help?
Well, the reason why is because I never identified as a carer – my husband already had one of those provided by the NHS. I was his wife. So I never looked into what help was available for me until the very last months of his life.
Talking to others and looking at the Carers Week website, I can see this is a common problem. So how and when do you define yourself as a carer?
Essentially, if you look after anyone who would not manage as well on their own, you are a carer.
As a carer, your health is just as important as that of the person you’re caring for. So it’s important to look after yourself. Happily, I’m able to say that services are available to help you do that. Some of them are detailed on the Carers Week website but I’d be a fool not to say that WHISC are also available to help you.
Do take a look through the rest of this website as WHISC offers counselling, complementary therapies, support groups, keep-fit classes, a listening ear drop-in, many opportunities to socialise, and so much more to help you cope.