Adult carers Beverley, Jack and Pauline of Blackpool Carers Centre
Blackpool carer Pauline doesn’t need a week in Barbados – an overnight stay at the De Vere Warrington worked wonders.
It was her first break in 18 months, there only because it’s handy for the Priory, Cheadle, where her other half had been admitted.
“They wanted to see me one day and back at 9am next day,’ says Pauline, whose partner is bipolar swinging from manic highs to deep depression.
“I couldn’t do four motorway runs in two days, so I booked the hotel – and Blackpool Carers Centre helped.
“I felt like I’d won the jackpot. I did my face, creamed my feet, shaved my legs, all the things you don’t get a chance to do when you’re caring round the clock.”
She dressed for dinner, braved the bar alone, ordered a vodka “and felt like a right devil, a real grown up.”
She slept soundly for the first time in almost two years.
Pauline fell in love 10 years ago with her “brilliant broken man”. She’s been fighting for support for six years.
“He’s broken, we’re being broken, by it all – it’s like sticking a dirty plaster on a gunshot wound.”
In National Carers Week(June 10-16) Pauline reveals her greatest frustrations: “You fight the system all the time. You go into battle every day. You go over the same ground every day.
“I’m his partner but I feel more like a carer. It’s getting harder to say come out, let’s get a sandwich, walk the dog, do something, because he’s so depressed.
“Last night I had half an hour spare. I thought do I mop the floor where the dogs have made a mess or do I have a bath – the floor won.”
She’s “treading water” most days, out of her depth on others. Poet Stevie Smith could have penned the poem Not Waving but Drowning for adult carers
“If we weren’t so hard up, I’d book in at a B&B for a night next time he’s taken in. It’s a bath I don’t have to clean, a bed I don’t have to change, a breakfast I don’t have to make and if I could just sit up in the bed, reading and eating chocolates, and get a good night’s sleep that would be heaven. It doesn’t have to be a week in Barbados.”
The former DWP worker is also caring for her elderly mum, while her sister’s in hospital, and has health issues of her own.
It’s other carers who provide her safety net, peer support out of hours, beyond the support sessions at Beaverbrooks House, base of Blackpool Carers Centre. It was rebuilt by BBC DIY SOS for the charity as the Big Build for Children in Need in 2016.
There is no Adults in Need annual appeal but it’s worth noting that for every young and young adult carer on the charity’s books there are five adult carers in all 1000 YC and YACs and 5000 adult carers.
The property that Beaverbrooks Charitable Trust bought from the local health trust and presented to the charity at a peppercorn rent for 20 years – back in 2015 – is an enduring legacy. Somehow, the extraordinary act of generosity was all but lost in the translation to the TV screen in 2016. Beaverbrooks continues to actively support the charity and local carers.
In the wonderfully sunny art room that Laurence Llewelyn Bowen designed spirits are lifting. The close-knit clan trade banter and compare notes on who’s had the worst week ahead of a mindfulness session.
Pauline’s won hands down. No prizes – or surprises there.
“It’s their turn next week,” says Pauline.
In truth she wouldn’t wish it on any of them. And vice versa.
Jack cares for his partner. They met in Brighton at a karaoke bar, moved to Blackpool for a fresh start together.
“We’ve been together three years,” says Jack. “I wasn’t aware I was a carer until we moved here nine months ago.
“I was quite broken when we met, we looked after each other. He’d had a high-powered job, things had changed, and he was going through divorce, too. He came out in his 40s.”
His partner has mobility issues and multiple seizures have also taken their toll. “We didn’t realise how ill he would become. He doesn’t remember two years of our life together now.
“I have to do so much for him, but I ‘m still his partner when we’re sat watching TV or I’m making dinner, all the natural thing you do with someone you love. He knows how much I love him. I need him as much as he needs me. Coming here was our salvation, the light at the end of the tunnel. The carers’ centre has helped us both. It’s a safe place for us both. It’s ended our isolation. And I have made some great friends here.”
Former businesswoman Beverley cares for her son. At 15 he was in a band, at 18 he was accepted by the Royal Academy of Music in London – one of 50 that year.
Beverley reckons what should have been the making of her handsome and popular son became the breaking of him. “We found him a place to live with other musicians and that’s when the depression set in. He found it hard to cope. Looking back that’s when I started to lose my son.
“He came back to live with us, and it went from bad to worse.” Beverley took him to a psychiatrist. “She was fantastic.” He was diagnosed as schizophrenic.
Beverley became a carer. “Carla (Talbott) from the carers’ centre came to my house and told me I was a carer. She met my son, got to know him, more than anyone else has, and put me in touch with help.
“You don’t want to put on your family – so you come here instead. Nobody else has the patience.
“What I feel is almost like bereavement. My son was the life and soul – he’s gone from that to no real interest in anything.
“I worry about the future. I’ve had two heart attacks and a stroke. I don’t know what would happen if I died.
“I’ll never get my son back to how he was – but here I can be myself again.”
”I am very happy such a place exists. I simply don’t know where I’d be without this help – for my children too.” Wife and mother caring for husband after a stroke.
“When I started getting my state pension I stopped getting carers allowance. We’d sit in the cold and decide what bills to pay. With the support of the Blackpool Carers’ Benefits Advisor we have accessed pension credit and PIP – we had no idea we were entitled to any of these benefits.” Adult carer – with mobility problems – who cares for partner who is disabled.
“If I didn’t visit the drop-in sessions I wouldn’t know about dementia, how to manage and what to expect as it gets worse. We not only learn from staff from each other as we’re all going through the same thing.” Wife caring for husband with dementia.
“I feel great when I come here; it’s relaxing. I feel like I’m caring for myself.” Adult carer.
“Things have changed so much since mum – my carer – got referred here. She was struggling. I have achieved stability thanks to medication and counselling. The one to one sessions we both received separately gave me hope things could get better – and they have.” Cared-for with bipolar disorder.
“Being a volunteer has brought my confidence back and helped me regain my identity.” Cared for mum with epilepsy.
Stats ‘n’ facts:
- £5 enables one carer to attend dementia peer support
- £20 pays for one carer to attend a four week dementia awareness course
- £50 pays for two carers to receive intensive one to one support
- £100 will pay for a craft session for the bereavement peer support group – or for 15 carers to attend a six week mental health awareness course
The charity’s emphasis this year has been on:
- curbing the impact of loneliness on the most socially isolated carers;
- delivering carers’ support services in new neighbourhood hubs with other teams and partner agencies
- identifying more carers at an early stage
- increasing provision of benefits advice
- continuing fundraising to build a respite lodge