Your carer stories
We define a carer as: "A person who provides unpaid practical or emotional support to someone with a disability, addiction or illness. The person may be a relative, partner, friend or neighbour. A carer may be of any age and may be a young person providing assistance to a parent or another person. A carer may live with the person they care for or provide support from a distance."
Here, some carers tell us their stories. If you would like to contribute your story, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Eileen's Carer Story
Eileen from Trafford has been caring for her 27-year-old son who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia for the last eight years.
She said: “As a little boy my son was wonderful - always well-mannered and good nurtured. He loved football and nature programmes.”
Eileen has cared for her son since his late teens when he started smoking cannabis and developed problems with drugs and alcohol. He became more and more oddly behaved and withdrawn and was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Eileen found it difficult at first to distinguish between her son’s illness and his behaviour: “At one point I didn’t know what was his illness and what was his behaviour. I accepted his bad behaviour for a long time because I was overcompensating for his illness. On reflection, I realise he was badly behaved due to drugs and alcohol. I also realised that he was self-medicating to mask the symptoms of his illness, but he was actually making things worse.”
Juggling her carer role with her commitments to work has been difficult: “I felt guilty for working long hours to provide for my family and juggling my responsibilities as a carer. I even changed my career to be able to cope as my previous position was too stressful. This has had its financial setbacks but at least I can give more attention to my son and just about balance my own books.
“Caring doesn’t leave much time for anything else. You can’t plan or organise because you don’t know what is going to happen from day to day. My son and his wellbeing are put first and above everything else.”
“Sometimes you have to be tough to enable the person you are caring for to be responsible for their own life and take charge.”
At first, Eileen didn’t receive any support as she didn’t see herself as a carer. She said: “You don’t normally associate yourself as a carer because you would be caring for your family anyway. But if you haven’t had any experience of mental illness before it can be quite scary. Things were a fight at first but by working with professionals in my capacity as a carer they have been able to learn from me and provide the help and support I need.”
Eileen has noticed a change in services attitudes to carers over the years and thinks that attitudes to carers have changed for the better: “Carers are important for progressing things further. The more people work closely with professionals and use the services available to carers, the better help they will receive. I promote that carers work closely with services to enable healthcare professionals to better understand the cared for person and the carer, so that they can include them in any processes and the care plan where they can.”
Eileen now attends local mothers groups and Carer Support groups to help her fulfil her caring role and look after her own wellbeing: “I’ve attended a stress management course at my local carers centre. This enabled me to lower my own stress levels. Meeting other carers through events and forums and sharing our experiences has been a great source of support.
"I’ve also been to various pampering sessions and counselling, which have helped me to concentrate on my own health. I realised that I need to look after me to be able to look after my son. If I don’t take care of myself there will be no one to take care of him.”
Although Eileen has faced challenges in her role as a carer, she says she has learnt a lot too and would encourage other carers to get as much help as possible as early as they can: “I have a better understanding of mental illness and the effects this has on the cared for person and the carer. The main advice I would give to other carers is to get help early; often the person that shouts the loudest gets heard.
“Work with professionals and remember that they are human too – let the doctors and support workers deal with the medication issues and you can deal with the rest. Let the cared for person build up relationships with the professionals working with him/her to gain trust, develop understanding and build social interaction.
“Join a local Carers Group as you are more likely to meet and befriend someone who is going through the same experiences you are. Take advantage of the training courses made available to you and seek counselling if you need it. Keep a sense of humour and have hope and understanding as there is light at the end of the tunnel.
My son has matured and is not taking drugs or abusing alcohol anymore. By standing back I’ve noticed that his independence has improved immensely. Having the opportunity to share my experience as a carer has often helped others and it is very nice to give something back.”
Sasha's Carer Story
Young carers and dependent children/grandchildren of service users will be identified as soon as possible when service users come into contact with Mental Health Services. This is so that young carers can enjoy their entitlement to a childhood and so that they are safeguarded adequately from taking on inappropriate caring roles for an adult in their family.
Here, young carer Sasha takes us through her experience of caring for a loved one.