For Carer’s Week we spoke to one of our male carers to get his perspective on his role as a carer and his experiences.
Steve became a 24/7 carer for his Dad a few years ago, after his step mother passed away. This completely changed Steve's life. He is no longer just a son, but a full time carer, with a new dynamic, new worries and some sadness. The occasions when his Dad doesn't even recognise who he is makes this even harder.
Steve is a very skilled man, and worked in Nuclear Power stations all his life. Returning to living with his Dad as a full time carer was a real shock to his system, and something that has been very difficult to adjust to.
With very few friends or family in Manchester, Steve has been doing this mostly alone. The role of 'Carer' has been very isolating for him. He explains that when he goes to the pub, other will be speaking about doing something with the 'Mrs' or will sate to Steve that he's not really all on his own. Their lack of understanding about his situation just serves to make him feel even more alone, and like nobody really knows what life is like for him.
He sees people in parks in what appears to be a paid carers role, and while they may understand conditions like Dementia, all he can think about is the fact that when they have finished their hours, they get to clock off, and they get to go to home on their own. When they are sick, they don't need to work. When they are sleeping, they don't need to answer the phone. When they need a break, they can book leave, and they can go on holiday.
Steve's Dad's Dementia has caused him to be very wary, if not paranoid, of strangers, whether they were coming into the home or meeting new people out and about. These experiences link him back to his time in the military, and he feels that medical professionals are there to say he cannot go on military leave and he can become distressed. As a result, Steve cannot join any social groups or make any plans to be away from home as he never really knows how his Dad will react. Each day can be very different and things can change at the drop of a hat. This can be very draining.
When asked what could make a difference to them in the future, Steve said, "Other than a miracle? More access to respite would be wonderful." However, it would have to be someone that his father has built a relationship with and can trust. He believes there could also be a difference in housing opportunities. He would love for his Dad to live in Blackley, in the neighbourhood that is most familar to him, but housing restraints means they currently can't.
There are some things which have made a real positive impact for Steven as a carer. He says that people like Claire at Together Dementia Support and his Admiral Nurse have made a world of difference for him, he doesn’t know how he could have done it without them. In having people to talk to and to give practical and emotional support has made him feel understood and less alone.
To make sure that Together Dementia Support can continue providing these vital services, including free training for carers, 1:1 support, group support, social opportunities and small amounts of respite, please consider donating to us today. There are many carers, just like Steven, who need your help to access support.