When you become a loved one’s carer, it can be a challenging and sometimes isolating time in your life. That’s why Birmingham St Mary’s ‘Support at Home’ service not only provides care for patients but also practical, emotional and social support to family members, loved ones and carers too.

Sandra, who is currently a full-time carer to her husband John, can find it difficult to make time to do the little things – like grab the weekly shopping or enjoy a coffee with friends. That’s where Carol, one of our Support at Home volunteers, has been able to help. Carol’s weekly visits allow Sandra to enjoy a little ‘me’ time, whilst also providing a listening ear. Read Sandra’s story below to discover how the service has become a lifeline to her…

It was in 2013 when my husband John was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and then later Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), a condition which affects his balance, vision, speech and swallowing. Ever since his diagnosis, John and I both agreed that we wanted him to stay at home and so we decided that I would become his full-time carer.

I therefore spend most of my time being with and looking after John. I was more than happy to take on this role but with Birmingham St Mary’s support, they’ve made it just that little bit easier. Once a week, Carol will come round to visit us and she has become a lifeline to us both.

Carol is my Support at Home volunteer but really, she has become more like a good friend. She is so down to earth, friendly and kind – John and I really enjoy her company. She visits us every week for a couple of hours and as soon as she’s through the door she’ll say hello to John, hello to me, and then tells me to pop out and enjoy myself. 

It’s so lovely to have a few hours to myself and enjoy that bit of ‘me’ time. More often than not, I’ll just pop to the shops or meet up with friends for lunch but it’s comforting to know that my husband is safe at home and being cared for by someone we both trust. When you care for someone full-time, it can be tough to get the little things done – even if it’s just picking up some food or winding down with a coffee – and so I’m so grateful to now have time to do these things.

Carol is also someone I can talk to – whether it’s having a good natter about what we’ve watched on the telly or chatting through any concerns or worries I might have. She’s my direct link with the hospice and thanks to her, she’s helped to sort out some vital things. Carol and the hospice organised a ramp to be installed outside our front door to help John get in-and-out of the house and has even arranged a doctor’s visit for me when I wasn’t feeling too well.

Before Carol came along, there were times when I felt like I needed somebody to hold my hand and help me through the tough days. Being a carer can be lonely sometimes but with Carol’s help, I really feel like everything has slotted into place. I always look forward to her coming round and to give me a hug, have a chat, and allow me to enjoy the things I like doing. 

As well as Carol coming to us, John and I also take part in the Support at Home coffee mornings. Every month, we’ll meet up with other people who are using the service – whether it’s patients, carers, loved ones or volunteers – and we’ll do all sorts. Last month we made some flower hanging baskets for the garden and next month I’m looking forward to doing some glass painting. It’s a great chance to get John out of the house and meet other people and it’s lovely that I’ve been able to meet carers and talk about things that we have in common.

Like most people, I thought a hospice was just a place for the very end of life. I didn’t realise it could offer a service like this and support not just the patients but their family and carers too. It’s great to have that extra support and I feel comforted to know that we’re not alone on this journey.

Thank you Sandra, for sharing your story with us. If you would like to find out more about Support at Home, or would like to volunteer to the service, take a read here.