It was Carers’ Rights Day on 21 November 2019, when support group Carers UK shines a light on the 6.5million people who support a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill. Karbon resident Maureen Yarker of Middlesbrough tells us how she's continued to enjoy life to the full since becoming a carer for her husband.
Q. Hi Maureen, tell us a little bit about yourself and Ron
A. My friend introduced me to Ron on a blind date when we were both 18. He had a big quiff and wore a blue suit with matching blue suede shoes and my mother said he was a Teddy Boy. Then she fell in love with him, just like I did, and so did everyone else in the family. He was a very well-liked man and he still is to this day. We celebrated our diamond wedding anniversary this month, that’s 60 years of a wonderful marriage.
Q. When did Ron become ill and how did you find out?
A. I first realised something wasn’t right when Ron started repeating himself and doing funny things with money. A scan at the hospital revealed he had vascular dementia. It took a while for the news to sink in.
Q. How has Ron’s dementia affected you both?
A. Ron now finds it difficult to swallow, his balance is bad, and his memory is very unreliable. He used to be like the Road Runner – always buzzing about – but he’s slow these days and needs lots of rest. Our relationship has changed because I am now his carer, as well as his wife. I find I have to plan my days like I did when I had little children. Things take a lot of preparation and nothing can be left to chance. But I’m very lucky not to have lost Ron entirely to dementia. It’s a relief that his character has not changed. He’s always been a gentle soul and I’m the feisty one – the fact we are opposites was the reason we always got along. I’m grateful we can still enjoy each other’s company and our life together.
Q. How have you adapted to your new role?
A. I think I am a carer by nature, I really enjoy looking after Ron and my family think I cope very well. I know how important it is to take care of myself too though and when I need help, I will ask for it, I’m not too proud to do that. We’re incredibly lucky to live in sheltered accommodation. I’m never lonely and our neighbours are fantastic, as is our Karbon officer Karen. I really make the most of our communal facilities and Ron comes along too. I love organising afternoon teas, Christmas parties, Halloween parties – in fact I’ll use any excuse to throw a party!”
Maureen’s TOP TIPS to taking care of yourself as a carer
1. Create routines so you’ve time for yourself and you don’t neglect your own needs.
2. Seize opportunities to be sociable. Conversation is good for the soul!
3. Enjoy hobbies or learn something new. You can give so much more when you’re refreshed.
4. Get out, get fresh air and some exercise. If you’re healthy and strong you can be strong for someone else.
5. Accept all of the help you’re offered from friends, neighbours, family, and any services you use. Ask if it’s not offered!
6. Don’t deny yourself a treat. This is your life too. Enjoy it!
7. Go with your emotions. It can be tough when you’re going through so much with your loved one but smile and laugh when you want to because your positivity is like magic for both of you.
Find out more about Carers’ Rights Day by visiting www.carersuk.org