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Juggling caring and daily life

Lynne Potter and her husband Bob have discovered that caring for elderly parents means some major adjustments to any personal plans.

Lynne’s parents Ray and Marjorie came to live in the granny flat at Lynne and Bob’s home after Ray began to develop vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and osteoporosis – he has more recently also been diagnosed with cancer.

“We’d noticed something wasn’t right with dad and from there we had to talk about what care he and my mum wanted,” Lynne explains.

“We already had a granny flat because Bob’s dad had lived with us so it seemed like the best solution for us all.”

And as Ray’s condition has deteriorated, Lynne and Bob became increasingly convinced that they had made the right decision.

“Mum and dad came up from Stroud so it was a massive thing for them to be in Sheffield and at one point dad deteriorated rapidly and became increasingly frail but once his condition was officially diagnosed and he was put on the correct medication, it was like a transformation,” Lynne says.

“Then mum had a stroke last September and that has affected her walking and her cognitive ability has changed so again we feel much happier knowing they are so close.

“We can leave them quite happily for a few hours and if I’m out my husband will make sure they’re alright.

“If I am out of Sheffield for some reason he will make sure he is in Sheffield so it’s all about planning our week around them and we always have to make sure that they are confident in knowing that we are contactable and that help is at hand.

“We can go out in the evening but I do have to leave clear instructions of where we are and what we are doing because my mum does get anxious – she will actually ask how far away we’re going to be.

“When I am at home with them it can be quite demanding because there is an expectation that you will do things for them and it can be quite a hard balance trying to encourage them to retain some independence.

“That’s big thing about being a carer – there’s never really a break because if you’re not actually doing something for them then you are thinking about what needs to be done or might need to be done and that can be quite a psychological and emotional drain.

“Even up to five years ago I would still go to my mum and dad and share things with them but now the tables have turned completely and there has been a complete role reversal.

“But I look back on my lovely childhood and how happy I was and I think it’s their turn now, that’s it’s my time to look after them and I am very happy to do that.

“The adjustment is massive though and I don’t think anybody ever anticipates that this is the way it will be.

“When I get my mum and dad out in the garden and he is chatting about the different smells and mum is looking at all the plants, you realise that’s all been worth the effort and there is real pleasure in that – it’s little things like that make it worthwhile.”