Shepton Mallet resident Bob became a full-time carer when he retired from a long career with the ambulance service.  He has spent the past 30 years looking after his late wife and in recent years, their two daughters and son, following a stroke, a cancer diagnosis, and a road accident.

Becoming an expert and an advocate

A large part of Bob’s time as a carer is spent advocating on his younger daughter’s behalf, which at times can be challenging.  She suffered a stroke six years ago and now lives in specialist neurological residential care.  Bob has had to become somewhat of an expert in her care, particularly in relation to her dysphasia and swallowing difficulties.  This can often be the case for those looking after someone with an acquired brain injury – the side effects can vary greatly, so care needs to be individualised.  One thing which stands out for Bob is that there is often a lack of joint working between the different health and social care settings.

Managing multiple care responsibilities

Bob’s other daughter underwent a gall bladder operation, which required regular travel to Yeovil Hospital for an operation that was repeatedly cancelled and re-arranged, often at very short notice, and on one occasion as she reached the operating theatre door.  This resulted in a lengthy hospital stay for his daughter, followed by confusion around discharge and incorrectly labelled medication.

This was a difficult time for Bob and his family.  He was travelling across a large area, spending money on petrol, phone calls and car parking at the hospital.  He was often tired and felt communication at the hospital during this time was extremely poor.  This was in addition to Bob’s usual day-to-day care for his other daughter, and it also meant that he was away from her for extended periods of time.

Caring during COVID-19

Bob is trying not to worry too much about coronavirus, preferring to focus on how he can support his loved ones; he takes pride in “being a comfort to them and speaking on their behalf.”

Bob’s daughter was in hospital again at the start of lockdown.  Her discharge was delayed until the COVID-19 test had been set up and administered, and while she waited for the results, which fortunately came back negative.  He is full of praise for the levels of service she has received from her GP during the virus outbreak.  All callbacks have been on the same day and the GP has kept in contact, which they have found very helpful.

Carers should be consulted about the care of their loved ones

During his career with the ambulance service, a highlight for Bob was the Patient Transfer Service, which allowed him to support people in their recovery.  He found it extremely rewarding to be able to see people making progress and becoming well again.

Because of this professional knowledge and his personal experience as a carer, Bob feels it is vital that carers are involved in any care planning and in the hospital discharge process.  He knows that alongside the practical care they deliver, they will also play an important role in maintaining the mental health of the person they are caring for when they return home.  He also recognises that the person being cared for will rely heavily on their carer for support and they will often want their carer to be present at appointments.

Carers need support too

When caring for his late wife, Bob found the Carer’s Representative at his local GP surgery a great source of support: “You could call them and talk, and they would just listen, and I would feel better.”  He found that having someone to ‘offload’ to at times, was important in maintaining his resilience and coping.