Cathy Poulton, aged 73, from Bardney in Lincolnshire turned to St Barnabas Lincolnshire Hospice who transformed her caring experience.
Cathy Poulton has been the sole carer for her husband Ted, aged 78, for the past three and a half years. He requires daily care since the onset of dementia and the muscle wasting disease ataxia. Cathy herself has faced personal health struggles when she underwent surgery in 2010 to have a tumour removed from her pituitary gland, at the base of her brain.
Cathy said: “The tumour was discovered during a routine eye test and although I was worried at first it was soon removed successfully. However just seven days after the operation I began to suffer with sickness and I was readmitted to hospital were I learned I had suffered a bleed.
“The sickness soon passed but unfortunately the bleed had severely and permanently affected my eyesight, leaving me with little more than tunnel vision in my left eye. Despite all this I am grateful that the operation went well and I am even more grateful to still have some vision.
“It was crucial that I retained my mobility and independence, not just for myself but because keeping me well means I can continue to care for Ted.”
Despite only having partial eyesight Cathy cares for Ted alone. She does all the cooking, cleaning and household chores. She is also Ted’s emotional support as he struggles to understand and accept his conditions.
Cathy said: “The tragic part about these two conditions is that one progresses the other. They feed off one another and Ted has begun to deteriorate rapidly. He can’t be left alone for long, which means I can’t go out and see friends as much as I’d like. Ultimately, he relies on me entirely. Our whole lives are dictated by Ted’s illness.
“Ted doesn’t realise how bad he actually is. He doesn’t recognise that his behaviour is out of the ordinary. It’s sad really. There are times when he just sits in his chair staring endlessly out of the window for hours, his face expressionless and his eyes vacant. His behaviour can be very erratic, one minute he is completely on the ball and then the next he acts like a small child.
She added: “Caring full-time can often leave you feeling isolated and cut off from society. It is important to have someone who can meet you half way and support you. That’s where St Barnabas Lincolnshire Hospice has proven to be a lifeline.”
Cathy’s caring experience was transformed when she finally got support from St Barnabas Lincolnshire Hospice when she began accessing Day therapy in late 2013.
Cathy said: “I first learned how St Barnabas could help me at a brain tumour seminar I attended as there was a guest speaker from the charity in attendance. I had gone along with a friend who was insistent that I contact St Barnabas as she recognised that they might be able to support my role as a carer. Although a little hesitant I followed her instruction and made an appointment for a consultation.
“That was last October and I have been attending on a weekly basis ever since. I was immediately struck by how helpful and empathetic the staff there are. They have helped to put my mind at ease by creating an emergency carer’s plan which details how Ted would be cared for if I became unwell.
“It has also been wonderful to have the opportunity to talk openly and freely; I don’t have to bottle everything up, and I know it sounds strange, but I could never speak to my GP like that. They have also been able to offer me advice on living with my own condition and have taught me how to overcome fatigue.
“Being a full time carer can be stressful and exhausting and I often find it difficult to relax. When I’m at home with Ted I’m always on edge, if he’s in another room I’m straining to listen out, worried that he may have a fall or need my help.
Cathy concludes: “Day Therapy offers me a tranquil environment and the chance to have time out from my everyday life. I am so grateful to the outstanding staff and volunteers I have met. I’d be absolutely lost without St Barnabas now.”