Walk a Mile in... Jill's Shoes
Jill, 75, is a carer for her husband, Del who is 80. Ten years ago Del had a Subdural Haematoma, a bleed on the brain, which significantly affected his ability to care for himself. Recently he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He currently attends Blackwell Day Centre three days a week.
Listen to Jill's story to hear what it's like to walk a mile in her shoes. And listen out for her dog, Toby as he plays with his squaeky toy in the background
"I’d been out shopping, and when I came back home my husband said to me ‘I don’t feel very well, I’ve got a funny headache’, so I said ‘well go to bed and have a sleep’ but about 10 minutes later I heard him being violently sick in the bathroom so I went up to him and got him back into bed and I just didn’t like the look of him so I phoned for an ambulance. He was delirious and he didn’t recognise me. The ambulance came and also my doctor came and the next thing I knew, they were blue lighting him to Derby hospital and they said he’d had a subdural hematoma which is a bleed on the brain. That’s what was causing this awful headache. They cut him from the front of his head all around down the back of his right ear, I think he had about 100 stitches in that. I forget how long he was unconscious for.
"Anyway, he did come round but he wasn’t talking and then a little while later he started to talk so they then moved him to Kings Mill because we were down in Derby. He was only in there a week and they let him fall out of bed, with his brain damage and the operation, they hadn’t put the sides of the bed up for him. So he was moved down to Mansfield Community Hospital where they were taught to wash themselves and get dressed and then he came home, he has just been going back for check ups. Now he goes to day care and they have just increased it to an extra day because he has now been diagnosed with the onset of Alzheimer’s so the caring carries on."
How did your role change as his wife, what did you have to do for him?
"Nearly everything to start off with., I had to do everything until he was properly back on his feet. But now he does a lot of sleeping, when he comes back from day care in a bit, he will go straight to bed. He does nothing but sleep every day and so that makes it a bit lonely for me and I daren’t go out and leave him because they said that day he collapsed, if I hadn’t have come back here when I did I would have found him dead it was that close. That’s why now I get anxious about going out if he’s here, so I try to work my life around Del..
When he is at day care I’ll nip out and do all my bits and pieces. He goes three days now but that only started this week. I do crosswords while he is in bed because I daren’t leave him in case anything happened, then I would really blame myself."
What do you think the hardest part of being a carer is?
"Getting up and down to him, and since he has got this onset of Alzheimer’s he’s getting up about 3 o’clock in the morning and he is fully dressed saying ‘it’s time to go to day care’, so that disturbs my sleep which doesn’t help me with my problems, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s only us and the dog, we manage, my daughter comes, I have a couple that come and do the cleaning for me, and then she will do the ironing because I detest ironing, so she will do all my ironing. I have to pay them, it’s only right, so I do have a bit of a break from housework. I am quite happy to keep this place tidy and then they come and give it a real going over. We have become friends more than anything.
"When I was a bit fitter myself I used to go down to day care and help give them their dinners and to play games. They always used to land me with asking them the quiz questions so I have got to know them all and the carers that work down there. In fact her name is Jill as well, we have become friends. I go to carers group, I haven’t been for a while because I have been ill myself, but I love going."
What would you say to someone else that had just become a carer?
"With Alzheimer’s I am just learning to realise what it entails so if they join a carers group, ask questions because you are all there to help one another and I think it’s a good thing because you are meeting other people in the same situation as you and you can swap your tales about how you handle things. Oh yeah, I think it’s a good thing, carers (groups) I really do. As I say I haven’t been for a little while because things have just cropped up or Dels not been too good and I wouldn’t leave him because as I have said before, I have still got that in the back of my mind that if I hadn’t have come home that day, he wouldn’t be here now. So that worries me now about going out and he is here on his own. No but we cope, as I say. He’ll make cups of tea, he’ll wash up. So I let him do it? Well, it helps me and in a funny way I suppose it’s helping him as well.
"I don’t know what I would have done without carers group to be quite frank with you. It’s only once a month but I have made friends with one of them, her name is Jill, but she worked with them all at the day care centre. Her name’s Jill, so we are both Jill’s together, and they are ever so good because I know I can just ring them up and talk to them over the phone. We have days out, we had a coach trip out, we have been out for meals. We have either gone on our own or our partners have come with us, it’s nice.
"They are a nice crowd, the girls, and I have got to know them better because I used to go down quite regularly to help out. Going to carers group, I have met new people and I have made friends with Jill and it’s nice to sit and we have a good old laugh but we also have the serious side of talking about what is wrong with the person we are caring for. Some of them, if they have experienced it, we sit and talk with ideas so I really like it."
So it is something you would recommend other carers to do?
"Oh gosh yes, don’t do it on your own, oh no."
So it’s about looking for that support?
"That’s rights yes, definitely. And I don’t know what I would do. This is the first week and it seems strange that he is away for three days, but I am going top make the most of it, bless him."