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Htay's story

Htay

When Minnie died, I felt empty. It was a loss for which I knew there could be no replacement. She was my wife, my very best friend and my soulmate.

Minnie was also the person who taught me what caring for someone truly meant. From the moment she was diagnosed with early onset dementia at the age of 55, through to her death 14 years later, I was her full-time carer.

Caring hit us when we least expected it. I had recently qualified in maritime arbitration – a career I had worked hard to obtain, one which was well paid and could ensure the kind of life I wanted my family to have. When Minnie was diagnosed I was forced to choose between my career or caring. I have no regrets about the choice I made.

Whilst caring for Minnie I felt very supported. Help and advice about decisions I needed to make was available, and in the early days we joined workshops together which helped us to understand what was happening. When she passed away, it was a different story, I felt empty and at a loss. Although the GP offered some support with bereavement, I didn’t know what else to do except caring. It had been my life for 14 years – what now?

At first I became unwell. My blood pressure shot up and the doctor was concerned. Images of Minnie’s suffering toward the end lingered with me. When Minnie was alive we went everywhere together, did everything together. Now everything had fallen apart. I wished I could have cared for Minnie for longer – 14 years wasn’t enough.

Gradually things began to get better. My love of classical music – something which had helped me and Minnie relax when I was caring for her helped keep me going. I got in touch with old friends. I started to volunteer as an Ambassador for Carers UK.

As part of my quest to help other carers I undertook a research study Preventing Carer Burn Out to understand how carers could cope with caring and stay well. I was proud to be awarded an MSc degree 50 years after completing my first degree. The loneliness and isolation I felt dissipated and slowly I became me again.

After the person you have cared for passes away you can feel very isolated, lost and numb. Many carers tell Carers UK about the loss of identity they experienced. Whether it’s someone to talk through feelings with or advice on how benefit entitlements may change when you are no longer caring, Carers UK’s Adviceline is there for you. The emotional support that can be found through their online community can be particularly helpful – messages of hope, strength and support that provide great comfort in times of distress.

Life after caring isn’t something we think about very often, but the shock of caring coming to an end can be just as profound as first becoming a carer.

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