Walk a Mile in... Zara's Shoes
Zara is in her fifties and looks after her sister, Rosie, who has a learning disability. A proud member of the local Asian community, Zara has been supporting her sister since they were both children and has been her main carer for the last 5 years. Listen to her story of how support from Creative Carers has helped Zara deal with feelings of guilt and enjoy taking time out from her caring role.
Listen to Zara's story to hear what it's like to walk a mile in her shoes. You can also watch the short video to hear how Zara advises others carers to take time out for themselves and not feel guilty about it.
Please note Zara and Rosie are not their real names and Zara's voice has been distorted to protect her identity.
"Since I can remember, so the person that I care for, she’s older than me, she’s a year older, two years older than me. So ever since I can remember, since three, four, five I’ve been looking out for her in every way, so that’s about 30 years. No, that’s about 50 – 55 years!
"I think the good aspects of the caring is that I that I know that my sister’s protected, I know that she’s taken care of and that she’s safe. And I think that’s the good thing, the good feeling that I have about my caring role. Knowing that she’s being looked after.
"I think good aspects, for me, is that I can get on with things and I don’t have to rely on someone else. So in a way, rather than trying to get someone else to do the things, I can do them the way that I know that she’s comfortable, and the way that she wants them as well. So I think for someone, for me to get someone else to take care of her, would be quite difficult. And also she’s happy, like this, she wouldn’t have anybody else. So I’m actually, I don’t want to turn this into a negative thing, but I’m actually stuck with her – so that’s a good word or bad word! In a good way I think.
"I think sad sides are, because she’s my sister and some of the things that you would do with siblings, if she didn’t have the learning difficulties, if she had the same level of understanding I had, and I think we might have been able to do things together that we enjoy. But it’s more kind of, it’s more out of I have to look out for her and make sure wherever we go or do, it meets her needs rather than our needs as siblings – as sisters if you know what I mean. I think the sad thing is that with her learning difficulty, I’m never ever sure that she actually deeply appreciates the level of support that she gets. Not that I want her to grateful or anything, but I think sometimes you need that appreciation but because she doesn’t have that level of emotional intelligence, I don’t know whether she actually knows that.
"I mean we still have a laugh and a joke about certain things, sometimes even things that could be quite distressing for her, we just kind of laugh about it, for example if she doesn’t make it to the toilet on time and we just have a laugh and joke about it, not laugh and joke about her but you know, just ‘come on it’s okay, just another time’ you know? So even though it is quite distressful for her, because she gets really upset and emotional, but for me it’s like ‘come on, it’s okay and just get freshened up again so you know, get nice warm water on you’. So we do try to make difficult times into fun times but it is quite, it’s quite hard, it takes a lot of energy out of you. Even the funny side of things takes so much out of you as you have to put some much effort into it. And you know when you’re looking after a child for example, you know you get a smile back and its quite rewarding, although looking after or looking out for my sister is rewarding it’s not, I wouldn’t say it’s not rewarding, but you don’t get the same back so it’s kind of, sometimes feel that there isn’t a reward. Even though inside I feel rewarded if you know what I mean.
"Sometimes it’s never enough and sometimes that’s, going back to your previous question, sometimes that’s sad. Because, no matter how much you do, sometimes you’re made to feel that it’s not enough.
"I think before I haven’t done much for myself because I was working, full time working, and then also being a carer as well and that was almost full time. Well it’s not just full time, it’s for life you know, it’s like having a child, a dependent child that, you know, obviously you’ve signed up for that so you can’t be away from that role, even if you are working, even if you are out. But for myself, yes I’ve done work and I’ve studied and I’ve been successful in my career and things, but when it’s for myself, as in doing something that relaxes me or something is just for myself, then I suppose only recently I’ve coming here to Creative Carers. I’ve been coming here and doing things that are just myself so it’s not my job, it’s not my caring role, it’s just something that I’m doing for myself. So it’s more recent, coming here to relax, doing some exercises, doing some creative activities that relax you and gives you something that you enjoy yourself without the pressure of anything else.
"I’m just starting, I think I’ve been coming here a year now and I’ve only just started to relax and forget that I have a caring role away from this, but before it made me feel guilty that I was taking time out for myself, but now I feel good and I want to take out time for myself. Before it was like, almost like ‘should I take time out for myself?’ but now it’s like ‘yes I should’. So it does make me feel better, better in many ways, better in my caring role, better in myself. I feel a bit more valued as a carer. Before, obviously when you’re working and doing other things as well, you did in other ways, but not as a carer. But now more recently where I’ve been taking, doing, joining in things that carers join in, it just makes you realise that somebody is looking out for you and you’re not on your own.
"I think having information does help, because obviously having information about things is the key isn’t it, to get out enjoy time for yourself as well. But I think the key thing is don’t be afraid of asking for help, and don’t be shy and don’t feel lonely. There are thousands of carers out there and join a support group and don’t feel guilty taking time out for yourself. Because I think that’s the key, because, as a carer, you don’t feel you can take time out for yourself, because you think ‘no, no’ should you be taking time off for yourself? But yes, you should be. And you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
"I think for me, initially, obviously it was my personal feelings and getting, kind of, making that first step out and convincing my sister that I want to do something for myself as well. And then I think the real shift happened when I started sharing things with her and said ‘look this is what I’ve been doing at Creative Carers’ and shared my painting, shared my arts and stuff with her, and I think, you know, she wasn’t so negative about it and didn’t give me a hard time afterwards. She’s happy that I’m actually taking time out now and doing things that I really enjoy and so, now that she happy, I feel less guilty. It’s that sharing that I do with her that’s made the change so thank you, Creative Carers."