Understanding the challenges of caring for a loved one

Sue Johnson is a Sister in the Integrated Community Team at St Luke’s so knows all there is to know about the challenges of caring for people in the home environment.

But when her dad Raymond was diagnosed with cancer and her mum Joyce developed vascular dementia Sue discovered for herself what the pressures and demands of being a personal carer really are.

It was decided that Raymond and Joyce would leave their home in Cheshire and relocate to Sheffield so they could be closer to Sue and her twin sister, Gill.

“Dad had been mum’s main carer but not long after they moved to Sheffield his cancer spread to his bones and he became too unwell to provide that level of care himself,” Sue explains.

“My sister Gill and I became carers quite suddenly, visiting every morning and evening and with our days off centred on caring. We were also supported well by our two brother Paul and Chris who live away from Sheffield.

“We would attend mum and dad’s hospital appointments, juggling work commitments at the same time.”

Eventually Raymond’s condition deteriorated to the point that he was admitted to the St Luke’s In Patient Centre – and at just the same time Joyce experienced a mini stroke and was taken into hospital.

“I felt supported when my dad was admitted to St Luke’s because I knew he was safe and it allowed me to take a step back,” Sue says.

Sue’s dad died in St Luke’s and just 10 weeks later her mum died too – a difficult time for both sisters and their brothers as they were forced to come to terms with a double loss in a very short space of time.

“I’m glad we were there to care for mum and dad and I would not change it for the world,” Sue insists as she looks back on that difficult time.

“The overriding feeling is one of exhaustion, with poor sleep and your mind always on the go, just waiting for a call at any time.

“And it is difficult to balance your caring role while maintaining your own wellbeing, social time and relationships with friends and family.

“The important thing to remember is that it is important to keep yourself well and take care of your own mental health needs, putting time aside for yourself and the things that are important to you.”