By Claire Henderson, People Coach
She was ace my Mum. During the 1960’s, she was one of the first women in the country to be coding computer mainframes. By the time she retired, she was a maths teacher and also Head of Computing at Manchester High School for Girls. She loved tennis, rambling and Cliff Richard. One summer holiday in the early 1980’s, I fondly remember her bringing a Research Machines 380Z home from school. This was my first induction into computing. She was loving and caring and always there for me and my big brother, no matter what.
My Mum, Elizabeth, was diagnosed officially with Alzheimer’s about seven years ago. At that point she still knew who she was, where she lived and who we were, but she was starting to get a bit forgetful and confused. The disease has continued to progress and during the pandemic she went missing a few times. We had to call 999 to help find her. Thankfully, good samaritans found and rescued her from harm.
Since then, she started to feed the cat muesli, we’ve found bananas in the dishwasher and spent cat litter in the washing machine. All of these things were manageable, but every day the disease continued to eat away at her brain. She’s now incontinent, unable to walk or communicate and she struggles with swallowing. My 87-year-old Dad is a legend and provided care for her without question until she moved into a care home last year – a true test of 55 years of marriage.
Co-op have been brilliant in supporting me to be able to be there for both Mum and Dad over the last few years. I’ve worked really flexibly to be able to provide them with the support they need.
This has varied from things like being able to take Mum to medical appointments during work time; being there when medical professionals were coming to their house; working from their house so that Dad was free to go out; dropping everything and dashing round when there’d been an accident or Mum had gone missing or just simply taking time out to be with them, providing company for Dad and care for Mum. Dad’s been very lonely, almost a prisoner in his own home as Mum wasn’t safe to be left in the house on her own.
At times, the emotional burden feels colossal. Watching my Mum deteriorate before my eyes, a shadow of her former self who can no longer communicate, feed herself or even recognise me. I feel very fortunate that my manager and team genuinely care for me and continue to trust to me with the space to perform to my best and balance the caring responsibilities for both Mum and Dad.
Carer’s provide unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health condition, or who needs extra help as they grow older. Many carers are invisible in the workforce, reluctant to discuss their personal situation and unaware of the support available to them.
This week, Co-op are marking Carer’s Week, an annual campaign to raise awareness and highlight the challenges carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.
PACT is our dedicated colleague network to provide a safe environment for colleagues who care for children, elderly parents, disabled partners, or other family/friends, to share experiences and support each other whatever their circumstances. You can find out more here including how to get in touch with them if you need some additional support.