Claire is a carer for her mum and also works full-time at Stockport Council. Like many other carers we speak to, she didn’t initially recognise herself as a carer. Claire has kindly shared her story.
Caring for mum
My mum moved in with me seven years ago and has her own annexe attached to my house. She has previously had a stroke, partial removal of both lungs due to cancer, a false hip that keeps dislocating, episodes of severe breathing difficulties and many other health issues. I struggle to class myself as a carer as she can get out of bed herself and make herself a cup of tea, but as her health is deteriorating the gradual process of having to do more and more for her is becoming noticeable. She has recently had five admissions into hospital over the space of six weeks with pulmonary embolisms and multiple organ failure, thankfully she pulled through but it’s taken its toll and sadly we’re now seeing the start of significant memory loss.
We’re fortunate enough that we can employ a cleaner for mum and have bought her all the equipment needed to make her life easier and as comfortable as it can be, such as an electric bed and a chair. I do all mum’s shopping, manage her medication, take her to medical appointments, manage her finances and more recently am having to help her with little things like the TV remote and putting labels on things so she remembers which button to press on things like her induction hob.
I’ve also bought a personal alarm that mum wears so that if she needs me for anything she presses it and an alarm goes off in my part of the house. She also has Carecall with the fall feature. Loneliness is the biggest issue for mum, so I also try to get her friends to visit, which has been problematic over the last 18 months whilst she’s been shielding.
Other than that, caring involves looking out for little things daily that she starts to struggle with and coming up with ways to make that easier for her i.e. labelling everything and she has a little book to write things in as her memory is going.
I work full-time and have a teenage daughter at home and am trying to plan a wedding (6 weeks and counting!) so life is pretty full on. Fortunately the pandemic has meant I’m working from home which has been a blessing and a curse. Because I’m now in the house every day, mum thinks I don’t spend enough time with her, which upsets her. I know she’s lonely but I try to explain that whilst I may be physically here she needs to imagine I’m actually ‘out’ at work. The interruptions through the day can be challenging, but fortunately they’re usually just a quick fix.
I work at Stockport Council and they could not have been more supportive. The flexible work ethic they adopt is fantastic. They all know my situation and help me navigate pathways I didn’t even know existed like D2A (Discharge to Assess) after her stay(s) in hospital and helping me with home carers after her discharge(s) until she was back on her feet. As an employer the council are big on wellbeing, mindfulness and mental health and staff support.
The pandemic has made work-life balance much easier. Before Covid-19, working from home was not something that was actively encouraged but now it will be part of our culture.
I would really struggle if I wasn’t able to work at home as mum wouldn’t be able to manage if she was left alone. I’m glad that I’m right on hand if she needs me and that my employers are very understanding and flexible to allow me to juggle work and home in whatever way suits me best. They have formal and informal flexible working and I know in the future I would have the option to change my working pattern or reduce my hours if I needed.
I think the only pressure, which I put on myself, is a feeling that I need to put more hours in at work to almost prove (not that I need to) that my caring role doesn’t interfere with my work or productivity!
I don’t think that caring has impacted upon my career, but that’s possibly because of my age and role. It almost definitely would have done had I been younger and just starting out in my career.
Becoming a Carer creeps up on you, so recognising that you are one early on would open you up to the advice and support you need. It would help signpost you to things which can be called on as soon as you need them, rather than tackling the issue at the same time as navigating systems and fitting in home and work life.
I really want to be able to continue working for the foreseeable future, and financially I have no option. But I do worry that if mum’s health continues to deteriorate and she needs more support then I would not be able to cope. I worry about the financial burden of getting full-time care for mum if and when we reach that point. But for now, the advice and support from Signpost is enough.
While living with an elderly parent may have its challenges, I think I’m really lucky to be in this position. It’s not even about payback for all she did for me when I was growing up, it’s that I’m able to make mum’s life as comfortable and as happy as possible, surrounded by her family and to be able to do that for a person you love, I think, is an absolute blessing.
Stockport Council have recently set up a staff carers network. If you would like help or advice about setting up a carers network at your workplace email email@example.com
For support combining work and care, visit our working carers pages.