Daphne Berkovi, an active supporter of the Campaign, discusses her personal experience of loneliness and isolation after becoming a carer, and what helped her overcome it.
“Britain’s army of unpaid carers struggle to cope without support” (the I 08/05/12)
“Loneliness: the tragically silent killer which is so easy to combat” (the I – 15/03/2012)
These two recent newspaper articles resonate so profoundly with me. They epitomise the distressing situation I was placed in 2 years ago, when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. Less than a year later after the cancer diagnosis my husband then suffered renal failure, and is now a dialysis patient.
Nothing could have tested my mettle more than being placed in the role of sole carer. Suddenly, everything that we had been doing in unison and individually had come to an abrupt end; we were in shock. Dramatically, the shift from a position of being strong, fit and independent people was swiftly replaced by the roles of carer and being cared for.
Normal everyday life was replaced by the challenges of physically exhausting journeys to and from hospital every week, coupled with a ‘roller coaster’ of excruciating emotional and physical pain. My days were filled with feelings of utter isolation and loneliness. At times it was frightening, yet I had to remain resolute to ensure that I did everything possible to support my husband, emotionally, physically and practically.
Two years hence my husband’s condition has stabilised. Life is planned around dialysis. Despite all the complexities of this new life together, I have found strategies that have helped me. Firstly, it has been vital to try and regenerate some of the social life we had lost. Seeking out links with people who are caring has proved crucially important. Social contact has proved imperative.
So, last year, I joined the University of the Third Age, an Age UK weekly walking group and a reading group. Equally supporting Carers UK and the Campaign to End Loneliness has made me feel that I am doing something really worthwhile with my life.
Being a carer has been the most challenging and stressful role I have ever taken on in my life. It has not been an easy journey, and one encounters continual demands. Nevertheless adopting objectives to cope has proved a necessary ingredient to manage daily life.
–As Daphne’s story illustrates, becoming a carer often triggers isolation and increases our risk of experiencing chronic loneliness.
A recent survey conducted for Carers Week found 2 in 5 carers delay their own medical treatment to care for a loved one. 87% of respondents also said caring for a family member or friend has had a negative impact on their mental health.
Social support for carers is therefore vital. We know that loneliness has a detrimental impact on our physical and mental health, and caring duties can only exacerbate this.
All local authorities – with their responsibility and involvement in health, public health and social care – should be acting to help older people stay connected and supported by their community. Recognising that carers are in particular need of this support can ensure any services are as efficient and effective as possible.
For more information and support for carers experiencing loneliness or isolation, see:
Carers Trust: ‘Top tips to tackling loneliness and isolation’
Carers Week: ‘Emotional and practical support’
This article has had 4 comments
This is a moving and uplifting story of how taking action to resolve one’s issues will in itself make one feel so much better, and in control. How amazing.
To be the main support of an ageing parent, in my case my Mother, who has had short term memory loss for the last five years, is a huge responsibility. She had spent 8/9 months out of 12 with me here in the UK since my Father passed away in 1986. I have no Sisters and Brothers and her family have all passed away. She became very ill in January of 2008 with pneumonia, and spent 3 weeks in hospital. After that, I effectively became her carer. To add to my woes, my Mum speaks little English, and there is no one in Denmark who could visit her on a regular basis r be here for her. Hence, she ’emigrated’ here at the age of 94,to live with me permanently. Yes, I had help from the council, and carers came around to help. In the end, I could not leave her alone for more than an hour or so. Therefore, I tended to invite people to MY home. My Mum is now in a care home. She fell and broke her hip last year and spent fur months in four different hospitals. I still have to ‘fight her case’ and be there for her. I don’t believe in interpreters and feel responsible for her welfare. It is hard. I love her very much and want to do the best for her, and I also get very tired at times. I consider myself quite lucky with friends and family. It CAN be a lonely business though, and my heart goes out to those who are even less fortunate than me.
Dear Daphne, your article is very touching. I was particularly moved by it’s three dimensionality, as it portrays a very real, complex and multifaceted picture of how life has been for both of you over the past two years…the pain is very tangible, however, as one reads on… a beautiful sense of ‘rising from the ashes’ emerges…with awareness, resilience and increased strength..
…thanks for sharing your very own story with so much honesty and dignity!..so inspiring, not only for other carers but for all of us!
As one who, at various times, has fulfilled the roles of patient, carer and doctor, I was very moved by Daphne’s words. It takes enormous strength to ‘keep going’ but what Daphne has illustrated so powerfully is that it pays to hang on in there despite the feelings of despair that she and her husband have experienced. This is an inspiring story and a lesson in hope and love to us all.
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