Walk a Mile in... Jack's Shoes
Jack is in his 60s and has cared for his wife, Lesley, for 14 years. Lesley has health problems and Jack himself has bipolar. Listen to Jack's story about how his love for his wife has only been strengthened since he became her carer.
Listen to Jack's story to hear what it's like to walk a mile in his shoes.
You can also watch the short video where Jack explains why he prefers to care for Lesley himself. Or you can read his story below.
"Watching people in pain that I care for and look after. I never think about myself. I think more about them as they are the ones I see as having more problems than I have.
"I suffer from Bipolar myself. I had depression since I was a child. Sometimes that depression turned into real anger and that’s when my real problems started. I learned how to contain myself with the help of a couple of psychiatrists when I was a young child. Since that time I have only ever seen one and that was when I was about 16. He taught me about meditation and how to approach my problems so I could deal with them better. Meditation was a great thing. I could centre my mind on other things, like walking in woods, drawing and photographs. That was the essential part that aided me in controlling the problems that I had.
"Well, through that, I can concentrate my mind. So when I am looking after my wife, it is my wife I centre on and I try to help her. If she needs ointment on her back or anywhere else on her body, I can do that and I can make sure that she is cared for.
"Knowing that you have looked after them and knowing that you have given them joy and health and life as best as they can get it. There is nothing that I have done for my wife that didn’t actually please me because I can do that; I can make her laugh and have jokes with her. We can go places together as long as we have got the funding and make her enjoy her life, whereas before she didn’t. She has been suffering for quite some time now but I think, through my administrations to her, that she enjoys life more now."
Have you had any funny experiences of caring that you would like to share?
"Yes, picking her up of the floor after she fell over a crack. She has got a floppy foot. We were walking along and the next minute you’re looking behind you and she’s on the floor. The hard part of that was picking her up. She was arguing with the floor because she was blaming the floor for her fall instead of her foot which was the problem."
How has caring sort of affected the relationship with your wife?
"It has made it stronger. It has pulled us together. We’ve always been a loving couple. We’ve had our arguments, had our debates and we have always ended up laughing about it because most of the things we argue about are nothing. We enjoy each other, we watch programmes together, we have talks together, we have laughs. Sometimes we don’t get to sleep until about 1 o’clock in the morning because, by the time we get to bed, we are still talking and discussing things which is part of my religion anyway. We always work out our problems. We never have an argument that cannot be overcome by affection."
What does it mean to you to care for your wife yourself?
"I trust myself more than I trust anybody else. I am quite capable of dealing with my wife’s problems and making sure she knows she is loved and cared for. And that is not at any cost because my love for her and my attention to her don’t cost a penny.
"You have to pay attention to the person. She isn’t just an object; she isn’t just someone you come in to see for a couple of hours or a couple of minutes or even a couple of seconds. It’s a person and that person needs a specific care and every person that is ill needs that care. You can’t just come in and say ‘right, take this and you’re done’. The people actually need to talk and need to express themselves. They need to explain what they are going through to you, even if you have heard it 1,000 times, you have to let them talk because a lot of it is just the company they need. Even if they have got a husband or a wife, they still need to talk about it to you because you are you and you’re not the person that lives with them. You have to understand that fully before you even enter the home because they need to be able to trust you."
At times when it has been difficult as a carer, can you tell me what would have helped to make that role easier?
"Being able to get there faster when she is in trouble. I carry two phones with me; one she can phone me on when I’m in a normal street and one for when I am at the Eagle centre because it’s all steel erected and I have to have a phone that can penetrate it. So I have to carry two on me at all times. If I had a better phone, it would probably be ok. If there was someone I could talk to once in a while, tell them about my problems and for them to encourage me in some fashion, that would be good.
"If support was to come from another agency, so whether that was the city council or a voluntary agency that would support carers, what support would you want from them?
"I’d want them to be able to talk to me and my wife. For me to trust them is the most important thing. I don’t want someone to walk in off the street that doesn’t know about our problems and is not suitable for what I am asking of them. You get people that come to the job and people are suffering from mental illnesses. They are not taught about certain memory problems and all that sort of thing. You need to know about the person; you have to spend time with them so they would have to be willing to spend a good deal of time just talking to my wife and me about our history and careers."