Life

Radio review: Being a carer in lockdown

Nuala McCann

You and Yours Radio 4

“We're looking after the people we love and it's not their fault at the end of the day... if not me, then who?” asked Norman.

He is caring in lockdown for his wife who has MS and dementia and, now, also for his mother who has also dementia.

You and Yours had a call-in special asking: What's your experience of becoming a carer?

These were tough listens.

Norman said neither his wife nor his mother had any concept of what lockdown means.

“You're constantly having to repeat the message.”

He manages but has his moments.

“I call myself Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde. I'm the nice guy up to 6pm but after that I really struggle.”

Ann rang to say she is looking after her 88-year-old mother who has Alzheimer's.

Prior to lockdown, her mother had a busy social life – out at all sorts of classes with plenty to do.

Now Ann finds herself constantly having to repeat: “You can't go out because of lockdown”.

She can't leave her mother who does not understand what is happening and may wander.

Also in the mix was Angela whose son is 38, has a severe learning disability, autism and a heart defect.

This was one of the most upbeat, thoughtful, funny, loving interviews I've heard this side of lockdown.

Prior to lockdown, Angela's son went to a home for respite and had carers coming in. But she couldn't contemplate putting him at risk as there's no way he would survive the virus.

It's been 12 weeks of isolation.

He loves his mum, he adores her.

“It's the old dragon again today,” she tells him and he says: “Hooray, yeah, yippee.”

Even the autism has been a blessing in a way, she said. Her son loves routine, he loves knowing he is in the house with her all day.

“When I listen to the other callers I think I'm in heaven. My son is a delight, he is lovely. Everybody adores my son. He is so loving,” she said.

But it's not all roses, the caring is constant and she's not getting younger.

“You can't see an end, that's it.

“And although he is happy, his world is shrinking and shrinking... I wanted him to go somewhere where he could go if something happened to me, where he would learn to live away from me.”

His place is still there in the home where he goes for respite.

It's a decision she is going to have to make. Meanwhile, the old dragon and her son are doing lockdown with lashings of affection.

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