Like many couples, Stuart and Pamela Atkin had settled down for their retirement and all sorts of plans for their future. Then Pamela had a stroke last year, and their lives turned upside down.
“It came as a great shock to all of us,” says Stuart, 77, who lives in Queensbury, Bradford. He found himself devoting all his energy to caring for Pamela while she was in hospital and adds: “I would arrive first thing in the morning and spend the whole day with her.”
As the weeks went by, Stuart did not realise that he was becoming increasingly stressed and anxious.
“It just seemed that everything was moving really slowly. The road to recovery is a very long journey. You just can’t see any progress because you are there every day.”
Stuart’s own health started to deteriorate and he received information and advice from a wide range of sources. He adds: “A lot of the time, what you need to know is buried in information sheets or web pages and it’s not to hand. There were many things that I found out long after I needed to know about them. I had never heard about the council tax reduction or being able to claim back VAT on certain equipment, so I thought I should jot things down that I could share with others.”
Working with Nafees Nazir, from Carers’ Resource, Stuart came up with the idea of top 10 tips for carers, which then took on the theme of Top of the Pops. Stuart adds: “Each of the tips has a personal experience behind it and I really hope that other carers will benefit from them.”
Stuart’s Top 10 for carers of people who have had a stroke.
In at 10 – I Heard it Through the Grapevine
Keep a list of relevant telephone numbers for services, wards and people involved in the care of your loved one and do not rely on the grapevine.
At 9 – Bridge Over Troubled Water
You have a right to be treated with dignity, compassion and respect as a carer while your loved one is in hospital.
And 8 – Our House
There is a lot of help and advice available if you are thinking about making any adaptations to your house, so please use these services. Your local council has a housing service that may be a useful first call.
Number 7 – Under Pressure
Life can be very stressful when your loved one has a stroke and the recovery can take some time. If you are feeling stressed and under pressure, seek help – including advice from your GP, and assistance from organisations such as Carers’ Resource and the Stroke Association. If you have anxiety, depression, or feelings of isolation, speak to a GP or get advice about coping strategies.
In at 6 – I Can See Clearly Now
Get planning, keep a schedule, and write a diary of recovery that includes goals for recovery.
Number 5 – Money, Money, Money
Look into finance and benefits, and reclaim VAT for equipment.
At number 4 – Can’t Buy Me Love
You can often try before you buy, so ask for trial period for equipment or hire it where you can, so you can avoid buying things that you do not actually need.
In at 3 – Reach Out (I’ll Be There)
I got help from Carers’ Resource and the Stroke Association.
At 2 – Lean On Me
Get involved in your loved one’s physio and other therapies.
And at No.1 – With a Little Help from my Friends
Keep in touch with your social circle and make time.