"Waving, not drowning"

About: Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust / Carer services

(as a carer),

My wife has had an intermittent mental illness for over thirty years. We have both managed to carve out a reasonable living, despite breaks for her hospitalisation or recovery.

That is until just nearly three years ago, when she went down with a severe stress related illness. This time it did not go away after a few weeks, and I found myself having to stop work in order to look after her. Gradually I found myself taking over more and more everything which we had shared for so long. Running the house, looking after a teenage daughter (herself with a kidney disease), managing all the administration of utility bills, insurance, car paperwork, as well as doing all the shopping, gardening, and wood cutting.

My wife had always managed the admin side of the house, while I worked as a business/technical consultant, often away for several days each week. It was perhaps inevitable that, knowing nothing about the Jobcentre "system" and the various allowances and grants, that I should have got it all wrong, resulting in us struggling to balance our budget.

I phoned the local Advice Bureau for help, and the volunteer put me in touch with the Carers Support Team in Somerset. Within a very short time, I had an offer from the Adult Carers Assessment Worker for a visit and a talk. At this point, I was in danger of drowning from the burden of looking after my wife on my own for over two years without any absence, and from looking after the house and all the administration.

The vist changed my life: he put my position as an unpaid carer into context, and gave me lots of cogent and very focussed advice on how to cope with pressure, how to manage my time more carefully, and how to look after my own mental health. He also put me in touch with the local Carers Panel, and I have been to a couple of meetings.

The visit by the Care Worker has brought me back from the edge of being lost in the stormy and turbulent seas of looking after someone with a serious mental health problem. We have not fully resolved all the emotional and financial issues yet, but as a result of the advice and help I received, life is much more under control.

Without the help of the Care Worker - and the team behind him - I would have been lost. For the first time in nearly three years, I feel that there is some sunshine in our life, and I am waving, not drowning.

Three cheers for the people of the Somerset Mental Health Partnership for all the work they do, and for helping me with such skill and expertise.

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Response from Karen Howard-Grenville, PALS, Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Thank you for your positive comments regarding our services for carers and also for taking the time to let us know

I am so pleased that you have been able to find the support that is helping you in your caring role

I do hope that life continues to improve for both yourself and your wife

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