Advice to new carers: Get support from wherever you can

This morning, I spoke about my experience as a carer, on Downtown Radio programme Daytime with Siobhan McGarry:

Allan LEONARD, Gerry MAGUIRE (HSC Board), and Helen FERGUSON (Carers NI) interviewed by Siobhan McGARRY.

Allan Leonard, in his mid-forties, suddenly found himself in a caring role for his spouse, Beverley, who suffered a severe stroke two years ago. Assured that her personal care plan provision would enable him to resume his full-time work relatively promptly, he was unprepared for the reality of the demands beyond the brief visits by care staff; he had to assume the role of primary carer in their household.

Allan became a novice expert in the intricacies of the system of care provision in Northern Ireland, and how much lack of support there is for those providing family care. For example, being employed made him ineligible for carer’s allowance and many other related benefits; he felt the pressure of leaving work, but resisted as this would not be the better longer term outcome.

Less surprising was discovering that much of the health system is geared towards older people, who make up the largest segment of demand. Allan and Beverley rejected the off-the-shelf offerings, and ensured that required home adaptations disrupted their normal state of affairs as minimal as possible. But they now argue that every house stairwell should have double rails — it just makes sense!

Beverley has recovered from her injury remarkably well, and both Allan and Beverley are arriving at their new livelihoods with optimism. But they are both speaking up for the many who are not in a position to do so, by participating in forums for the health care policy, Transforming Your Care, and lobbying for more psychological services and emotional support for both care providers and users.

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