Carers week is marked annually between the 6th and 12th June. This year we spoke to Julia one of our amazing colleagues here at King’s College London, who is also a carer and member of our staff network NEST. Julia has kindly agreed to share her week with us and her experience of caring for others.
Hello I’m Julia. I have worked at King’s for nearly 14 years and for most of that time I’ve supported my partner (let’s call him A) who has a degenerative spine condition that now badly affects his balance and mobility. Also for the last 4 years I have supported my parents, now both over 90, who live in a village about 4 hours away from me by Tube, train, and taxi. In January this year I realised that I’m a Carer. Since then I’ve joined the NEST Committee and often share snippets of my caring activities with the NEST team, which I agreed to put into blog form for Carers Week. This is a very much abbreviated version of what Carers Week 2022 brought for me and why this blog, which was meant to be posted at the start of this week, nearly didn’t happen.
Sunday: I’ve stayed with Dad for an extra day to see Mum who returned to her care home last night from hospital where she had been since Wednesday. After 30 mins Mum suddenly becomes unwell again and, as her medical condition falls in a grey area for her end-of-life arrangements, the Duty Nurse and I decide to call an ambulance. Mum and I wait in in the ambulance and A&E all day and evening; I finally make the decision to get the last train home as I can’t leave A alone any longer with a Tube strike tomorrow. Mum remains in A&E all night diligently looked after by the wonderful nurses.
Monday: As I arrived home after mid-night I arranged with my kind and understanding manager that I could take a day of A/L. At 7am A and I were woken by call from Dad telling me he was heading to A&E concerned about his own health. All day I’m either on the phone checking on Mum and Dad or catching-up with the many household jobs that A is unable to do due to his disability. Both Mum and Dad arrive back at their respective homes by early evening. I ‘help’ A to cook dinner as lack of balance makes cooking difficult and unsafe for him, although he still enjoys it.
Tuesday: My ‘Spidey-sense’ tells me to take a second day of A/L (thanks again to my manager). Mid-morning Dad rings to say that he has fallen and has called for an ambulance. Dad is ok but the Paramedic speaks with the hospital and asks me to stay with Dad in case this stops him calling the emergency services unnecessarily, just until a social support package can be put in place. I grab my bag and work laptop and run to the station in the hope of catching an off-peak train. I make the train and spend the journey speaking with Dad’s GP, his weekly Support Worker (N), Social Services, and Dad’s Solicitor (to find out if I have Power of Attorney for Dad as well as Mum).
Wednesday: I agree with my manager that I can take 2 days Dependent’s Leave to get Dad’s social care set-up (phew – just looking after Dad can leave little time to work when I’m there). Dad, N and I meet with his GP, who confirms that his health problems are caused by poor medication compliance; Dad agrees grudgingly to a trial of daily care visits in addition to N’s weekly visits. As soon as the GP leaves, I join the NEST Carers Week panel where Ginestra, Lorraine and I aim to raise awareness of the range of family members carers support and different types of caring; I am just pleased that I can join and not let down the other members of the NEST Committee and panel.
Thursday: This is beginning to feel like a TV ‘challenge programme’. I manage to visit Mum, set-up the arrangements for Dad’s social care (co-ordinating with his GP and N) and get Dad’s shopping and a range of outstanding household tasks done for him. I must get back to London tonight as A has a hospital appointment tomorrow morning. Due to a concert and train delays, I leave for London later than planned but finally can write this blog post in the station and on the train. It is only Thursday and who knows what the rest of Carers Week 2022 will bring. I love my work at King’s and can’t wait to finally have the chance to catch-up with some urgent tasks before Monday. Thankfully not every week is like this but, as many colleagues at King’s know, life as a carer can be very unpredictable.
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