Putting yourself in a position to understand the life of an unpaid carer can be difficult, so to get a real first-hand perspective we spoke to Sarah, who is a carer for her husband, Adrian, who has MS (Multiple sclerosis). MS is a progressive condition, so her caring role has gradually increased over the past 10 years. Sarah also helps with care for her disabled sister, elderly parents and an elderly mother-in-law. She also works as a school administrator part-time, two days a week:
What does a ‘normal’ day look like for you?
Adrian has an electric wheelchair and can take himself to the bathroom and move around the house, but he gets unsteady when he’s transferring between things so it’s essential that I’m here in the house with him.
We’re in the house most of the time, as currently, if we want to leave the house I have to drag a heavy ramp into position for my husband’s wheelchair, this is challenging but we’re waiting for adaptions to be done which will allow him to get in/out of the house easier. We haven’t been out much at all during the pandemic, due to the risk of Adrian catching Coronavirus, but the other day we did get out for a meal with friends for the first time in a while, which was lovely.
Prior to the pandemic, we had a relatively active week with perhaps only one day a week spent completely at home – Adrian went to support groups and exercise classes a few times a week and we socialised with people at these classes. The pandemic did restrict these sessions however, but I’m hoping we can get back to them in September.
When I get some time to myself I enjoy being out in the garden, pottering around with my plants. I’m also a big baker, so I’m often making a cake for us to have a treat of tea and cake in the afternoon – this was a nice ritual that I started during the first lockdown when everyone seemed to be baking!
How does the Carer Friendly Card fit into and benefit your day?
In fact last week I went to Winterbourne Gardens with a friend and they let carers in free, even if you’re not with the person you care for. I showed them my card and everything was great.
It’s nice to be able to use the card when you’re not with the person you’re caring for, because sometimes when you do go in that situation you’re not always getting the full benefit of the place because half of your focus is on the person you’re looking after, rather than just enjoying yourself.
I’d also use it in situations where I’d be able to use it on Adrian’s behalf. For example, if I went into the chemists and wanted to prove that I was a carer. I don’t have to produce it as much when I’m with him, as he is in a wheelchair and people assume I am his carer.
Is it important to you that there are businesses that are ‘Carer Friendly’ and recognise carers?
Having a list of businesses that recognise carers would be useful and I think carers would be much more likely to choose these over other businesses. The number of times we’ve been in places and nobody even holds the door and I’m trying to hold the door with one hand and push the wheelchair through with the other, it’s just little things, so knowing that a business would recognise and support carers, would be great.
Funnily enough, the meal we went to last week – we went somewhere that we know is accessible, and as soon as we got there they showed us to our table and asked if they could move chairs or doing else to help. It was a fantastic, relaxing evening – there was space for the wheelchair and it’s the little things that really make a difference. We go back to this place again and again for these reasons.
If you’re an unpaid carer looking for support from your local community, make sure to look at the Carer Friendly Card. Not only can it provide you with over £400 worth of savings each year, but it will help you to connect with businesses and organisations wanting to recognise and support you. Get your card here: https://bit.ly/3aqblVC
Interview edited for length and clarity