As Carers Network’s End of Life Carers Project Manager my role has been dedicated to supporting carers of people in the latter years of life – including those near the end of their life. So, you would imagine that I have heard all there is to hear about the experiences of carers. But hearing can never match the emotion of witnessing these experiences first hand.
When I went to visit one of the carers that I am working with I was profoundly touched by her compassion. The carer, in her early late 70s, looks after her husband who is now bed-bound and living with dementia. After caring for her husband all on her own for many years, there is now a care package in place to help with her husband’s personal care.
The care package is provided through a care agency and at each visit two care workers are meant to attend. During my visit, only one care worker arrived. After waiting for the other care worker for 15 minutes, the carer decided (as she often does) to help the care worker so that they could together attend to her husband’s personal care.
The second care worker arrived 45 minutes late, by which time they had attended to the carer’s husband. You would have expected the carer to be very angry, but, far from that, the carer let the care worker in, explaining that the work had already been completed and that they could both go off to their next job.
She took comfort from the fact that at least one of the care workers was a regular who has been attending to her husband for over a year. This was more important to her while she was still physically able to help. In the carer’s opinion, the lateness or absence of carer workers was often due to the care agency over booking or allocating them work without consideration for travel time and the care workers’ welfare.
This first-hand experience, and the very calm and stoic response of the carer, left me wondering what the experience of domiciliary care provision must be for those vulnerable people needing care who have no family carer, next of kin or neighbour. I was equally touched by the level of compassion and resilience shown by the carer who was still full of understanding and kindness towards the care workers. Despite the needs of her husband – and her own needs – the carer showed the strengths that keep unpaid carers going: understanding, compassion, generosity and a forgiving spirit. In a word: kindness.