Wendy Groombridge and her sister Carol Noyce have become familiar faces at the Living Well Centre, taking part in the arts and craft sessions. On Carers’ Right Day, which includes in its key aims raising awareness of the needs of carers, Wendy shares her experiences as a primary carer, talking about how the Rowans has supported her and highlighting a need that will resonate with all carers – the time to be herself.
When my mum passed away I became the primary carer for my dad. Before long the exhaustion of being on call 24 hours a day seven days week took its toll.
People did offer to help, but I soon found that although people had best intentions of helping out, when you actually called upon them they would usually have other commitments in place.
Obviously there were exceptions to this. I had a wonderful neighbour who helped out whenever she or her husband could, like when I needed to get to my own medical appointments.
However, what I learnt through being a primary carer is that when people offer help, make sure they state a specific day and time, so then you know that you will have set hours which you can plan for yourself.
That is what Day Care gave me, a specific day and time when I could stop worrying about dad and just be myself. I also knew I could leave dad in a place where he was safe, supported and cared for.
When I dropped him off at the hospice, I didn’t have to worry about him or think I might get a phone call in a minute from the person I had dropped in to sit with him because they couldn’t do this or that with him.
On these days I started to go to the Living Well Centre’s activity room, making arts and crafts as I found this a real outlet for myself. It was and still is somewhere you can escape and totally relax.
I knew I had nothing to worry about when dad was over in Day Care. It gave me a break. I also gained real support from the other members in the group.
I really needed the support from the group when my dad died. He was admitted to hospital and went downhill rapidly. Seeing the decline, my family and I knew we wanted him in the Rowans and thankfully when we rang on the Monday morning they had a bed available.
He was lying comfortably in his bed in the Rowans by late afternoon. When he died the following day, he did so in comfort and with dignity.
The staff continue to be so wonderful even after his death. I was really down after losing dad so quickly after mum, but with the support of Rowans bereavement councillors who have been on hand to support me since my dad died, I am now in a more positive place.
I feel a great weight has lifted from me somewhat. I will continue to attend the arts and crafts group each Wednesday as it offers such strong support, friendship and we have a right laugh.
I am also considering volunteering and running a few of the craft sessions myself. It may sound corny but the nurses, staff and volunteers at Rowans are angels, offering a consistent source of support throughout your journey, even if you are the carer.