In the U.K. there are thousands of carers looking after their loved ones, a job that is difficult and comes with limited support from the government. The role of a carer is to help a loved one with duties such as cleaning, shopping, and getting dressed. A carer carries out tasks that help a disabled person to live comfortably, whether this person is a friend or family member. In return, the carer receives money from the government (called a disability allowance) to support both themselves and the person receiving care.
The Komorebi Post interviewed Michael*, 28, from Manchester, who became a full-time carer for his dad five years ago, after losing his job as a construction worker. His dad, who Michael describes as being a well built man, already struggled with heart problems and needed around the clock support.
His experience as a carer has been an up and down journey. It has allowed Michael to feel fulfilled, knowing that he is making a positive difference to his parent. However, as with other stay-at-home carers, the role is financially straining and he often has to cut back on his weekly shopping in case he goes over his monthly allowance. This is a typical issue in the U.K. Carers often have to go without necessities or choose items that are reduced or on special offer. Michael’s case is no different.
November cancer diagnosis
In November 2018, Michael found out the news everyone fears – that his dad was diagnosed with cancer. On a path that was already full of struggles, this obstacle was met with fear and numbness.
In a nervous, hoarse voice, Michael explained that, “When I saw him he was struggling to breathe, and was slumped on a downstairs chair and kept holding his chest- I had to call for an ambulance. They sent him for scans, and that’s when they noticed a shadow on his chest.” Michael’s dad was taken into a room before Michael was told the news. “He came out of a room crying, saying he had the big C,” he explained, “Immediately you think of the worst, that you’re going to lose your parent.”
Staying positive is what Michael believes has stopped him from isolating himself and falling into depression whilst his dad was in and out of hospital receiving care for his cancer. “I wanted to stay positive for dad. I’m a firm believer that a strong mind is a strong body.”
I look into Michael’s eyes which are heavy and dark, as he describes that continuing what he did when his dad was at home was crucial for him. To help keep his mind clear, Michael has continued looking after the family’s animals they keep in a pen near their home. He emphasizes that worrying is something that is mentally and physically draining, saying that: “You just have to get on with things. It’s something my mum believes in- If you give up, then it’s all over.”
When his dad was in the hospital with heart problems, that was a learning learning curve. It allowed him to see other patients who were going through a similar or a worse time. It made him realize how lucky he and his dad were. Hope is described as being like smiling- it’s infectious and catches on to other people quickly.
Christmas and the future
When Christmas came, Michael went to visit his dad in hospital to watch him open his presents. This is something they have done since Michael was a child. Being together at a special time to celebrate has made the family stronger. They appreciate the time together and believe this will give his dad a more positive outlook, knowing he has support to help him get over this difficult time.
Shortly after Christmas, his dad returned home with plans for continuing treatment. The family is optimistic for the future. It’s been an experience that has allowed Michael to develop (giving him time to rest so he can be a better carer for his dad).
In preparation for his dad coming home, Michael explained that the first thing he did was “tidy up the house. It’s a ritual in our family and it’s what we did when mum went into hospital. I think that cleaning the house when someone has been in hospital is like welcoming them back to a fresh start.”
* Name changed as requested by the interviewee.