While caring for a loved one is something which brings an enormous sense of pride, it can so often leave carers at breaking point. As part of Sanctuary Care’s respite care campaign we shine a spotlight on Alice Coaley, who cares for her husband of 55 years, Brian. Alice talks openly about how the respite care Brian and others like him receive is essential to give carers the rest they so desperately need.
Where it all began
About 10 years ago Brian started to come home with odd scratches on his car. Alice could not understand where all the marks were coming from. Brian would say it was because he was trying to squeeze into small parking spaces. This was when Parkinson’s disease began to affect his judgement and mobility.
After nine years of thankfully slow progression, the disease has accelerated over the last 12 months and Brian’s health has deteriorated rapidly.
Not only is Alice Brian’s carer, she has a 99-year-old mother whom she visits each morning, taking her a home-cooked meal.
Respite care is Alice’s lifeline
Because of Brian’s Parkinson’s he can frequently fall over and tumble, with Alice unable to lift him up herself.
While caring for Brian is something Alice is completely dedicated to, it can often leave her feeling emotionally drained and physically worn out. At the end of last year she hit rock bottom.
“I couldn’t take any more – I couldn’t cope,” she says.
“It got to the point where I felt so depressed – just worn out.”
For Alice, the most exhausting part of being a carer is the loss of sleep and constant anxiety over what could happen next, for example if Brian falls or has an accident.
She adds: “It is not that you don’t love your husband. You just worry all the time and you don’t sleep as you are constantly listening out.”
For Alice and those like her, caring for a loved one at home is a round-the-clock responsibility. She says “It’s so hard. Unless you are with someone with Parkinson’s you don’t realise that it is 24/7.”
Precious time to recharge the batteries
While carers visit the couple’s Malvern home twice a day to give Brian and Alice the support they need, a lifeline for Alice is undoubtedly the respite care Brian receives at Hastings Residential Care Home in Malvern. For two weeks at a time Brian is cared for by staff while Alice has a break from her role as a carer. The couple can pre-book these breaks over the course of the year.
Alice adds: “Respite care is a blessing – If I didn’t have it I wouldn’t survive, it is my saviour,”
“The freedom it gives me is remarkable. It is keeping carers like me alive.”
Alice says for her it’s the peace of mind that Brian is being well cared for and that he feels so safe.
She adds: “Hastings is a wonderful care home and the team are lovely. Brian is happy in there. They are wonderful and the home is beautiful.”
For Brian, going to Hastings is also a rest for him.
“I quite enjoy it and I feel safe because it is 24-hour care – it is something to look forward to, he says.”