Carers Week (June 6th to June 12th) aims to raise awareness of unpaid carers, to make caring visible, valued and supported. A special thank you to Hina for responding to our call-out for creative writing pieces and sharing her thoughts to help others understand what is is like to be a carer.
Twenty years ago, my mother’s health began to deteriorate. I began to help her with small chores, like taking her to the surgery or hospital according to appointments and some house work. A short while later, due to Osteoarthritis, she had to have knee joint replacements – for both knees. Now my mother needs a hip replacement, but she does not feel confident enough yet to have the operation. This is mainly due to her other health issues, which have developed over time.
Before all this, she was extremely active and independent. I have watched my beautiful, strong and super-active mother become a frail person in a wheelchair. This really hurts my feelings, but I do not always tell her how I feel because I know it will upset her.
I have been working as an unpaid carer for twenty years. In the first few years of caring, I was not so busy, so I decided to go into higher education. Thus, I gained a BSc, Honours from Bath, and an MSc. from Oxford. I was caring for my family in Swindon, and somehow commuting to and from Bath and later Oxford. After this, I was hoping for something good to happen, but my mother’s health became worse, she almost died.
A few years passed, and my brother became very ill, the illness was rare. At that time, the doctors were not sure if he would survive, this was very traumatic for us all. Thank God, my brother survived, but the illness left him with some challenges in life, and so I have been helping him for nine years.
About five years ago, I myself encountered a few nightmares regarding my health; I almost died, it changed my life. Then in 2020 I caught Covid-19, I was in ICU in a coma for some weeks; I was in hospital for over a month. Just when I was supposed to rest and recuperate after Covid-19, I was told that my father was dying. He had six months to live, however, my father died within two months. I had been caring for him to some extent in his last five years, but I had to do a lot more during his last two months and some months after that. I am still grieving the loss of my father whilst suffering from Long Covid and its side effects, one of the main ones is M.E – Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or simply put, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
When my father died, my head felt fuzzy, I thought, how am I going to cope with all this psychological pain and distress? Yet, I arranged my father’s funeral and coped with everything and everyone associated with the matter. It seems being spiritual, turning to faith and having a close relationship with my mother helped me to cope. My mother has always been and still is a great psychological support. However, it has still been very overwhelming and stressful to care and cope with life without my father. Despite the way I felt and the way I feel, I have always managed to hold on to some level of confidence and motivation to keep going.
Being a carer involves a high level of patience, commitment and hard work, and these are just the basic aspects. I also include a good and positive atmosphere, and this involves a sense of humour and music/entertainment. Some may do it as a job, but some of us gradually slip into the role as it concerns our family. I knew very well what caring would involve, and that it would not allow me to pursue my goals. However, family always comes first, thus I became a carer. I have also learned that I can get small windows of ‘me time,’ and that helps.