It seems that I'm a carer (and I didn't realise!)

Tell us a bit about yourself here.
My wife and I have been retired (from the NHS) for about 6 years. I retired due to severe depression & anxiety, she retired due to arthritis in her knees and not wanting to take a desk job. We are both in our early 60s.
My wife's arthritis has been getting steadily worse, and she now has osteoarthritis in her spine, hips and knees, as well as multiple cardiac issues and - not surprisingly - worsening depression. (Not that the various bits of the health service talk to each other - but that's a different rant :evil: ).
I've been increasingly doing the housework, so that now I'm doing all the cleaning and such like; I do all the driving - because she can't drive any more, and has panic attacks if anyone even suggests public transport. I'm also helping a fair bit with personal care.
A couple of weeks ago the practice nurse at our GP surgery suggested that she apply for PIP (mobility) and other support services, and it's snowballed from there!
Our application for a Blue Badge was successful which astonished me; her PIP application is in progress; and the Local Council have told me that I'm a carer due to the amount of stuff I'm doing for her.

This has all been a real shock to me - a couple of years ago my wife was an active, outgoing person, and now she's effectively disabled. We were going for long country walks and dancing - now that's all off the agenda. It's this rapid change that I struggle with! And now I've got a label - I'm suddenly her carer :!:
I do feel as though I'm constantly on the edge of slipping into a repeat of my depressive state, but if that happens then I know I'll be letting both myself and my wife down, and that won't help either of us!
Hi Micheal make sure you get all the help that you require to keep yourself well. I have to tell myself this also as we often just do what we need to do to get through each day (well I know I do)
Hi Michael ... welcome to this wonderful world we call " CarerLand " ... it's usual for many to leave their sanity at the front door before entering.

For my part , have a crack at a financial mot ... an Online benefits calculater ... to see exactly what's out there in the way of financial support :

https://www.entitledto.co.uk/

Early 60s ... Carers Allowance ... will tied you over until the State Pension kicks in.

Once that's drawn , kiss goodbye to Carers Allowance ... the dreaded " Overlapping " benefit rule ... as if the state pension was a " Benefit ? "

Support services / housing ... any problems ?

Feel free to bounce anything off us on the forum ... not much we have not come across ... yet ?
OK, ideally she would be fit and healthy for her age, and neither of you would be depressed. BUT, do you think that IF she were 'less depressed' about her infirmity, and you were as well, that things would be 'better'?

I'm asking because although of course being physically infirm can make us depressed, it is not a 'given' that we are. Lots of folk with physical problems are very 'cheerful' and 'resilient'. SO, for example, IF your wife were less depressed, even though she still were physically adversely affected by her arthritis, would things be 'nicer'?

The one thing we DO have 'most' control over is our minds, and our attitude to things. So I'm asking whether focussing on improving her physical state, or focussing on improving her mental state, is the 'key priority'?

If her osteoarthritis either 'got better', or was 'less crippling/more manageable' would your lives improve as in, you'd both be less depressed by things? Or would you STILL be depressed?

Panic attacks are 'horrid' BUT, as NHS folk, you'll know how 'self-induced' they are.....the very symptoms we 'panic' about are 'self-created' and so, hey presto, we 'panic'! (and that of course, even more hey presto, exacerbates the physical symptoms - a vicious cycle).

of all the problems assaiing the pair of you, the panic attacks are surely the 'most treatable'....is that the first thing therefore for you to focus on?
Hi Michael
Carers need to look after themselves, physically , mentally and financially so you need, especially as you've had problems with depression in the past, to ensure you stay well.
Daily exercise, fresh air, healthy eating, respite and 'me time', interests outside the home, social life etc are all vital and being relatively young you need to get them all in place before wife's condition either deteriorates or she gets dependent on only you.

You'll read many stories on here on how caring has either crept up unawares or been suddenly thrust upon someone. You have the opportunity to get things in balance from the start. You may well have another 30 years (my Mum is doing well at 95 and she's no exception) so best to put things into place now , starting with a cleaner .

Kr
MrsA
Thank you Jenny - interesting and challenging thoughts!
I feel that the key to a lot of this is the physical side - getting relief from the pain and difficulties of the arthritis would ease the pressure on both of us. I don't expect ever to 'go back to how it used to be' but we could breath easier if she wasn't in constant pain and in need of my assistance.
I'm not sure what the key to the panic attacks is - that may be a deeper and more complex issue related to self-confidence in a more general sense.
I need to give this a bit more thought!
Hi Michael, I used to be very fit...until a boy racer lost control, and slammed sideways into the car I was driving, when I was 54. Fortunately rather than my usual Escort, I was driving my late husband's Range Rover, and it was written off, having been shortened by two feet! (All this 3 months to the day after I'd found my husband dead in bed).

My knees had been badly damaged, for five years every single step hurt, and my whole life changed. I had to crawl upstairs to my bedroom - ultimately we converted my garage to a bedroom with en suite, so I sleep in my own Granny Annexe.

All the borders in my half acre garden were flattened, so it could just have a quick mow with the garden tractor - but a new patio was built across the back of the house for flowers in pots, and a seating area. Actually, I wish we'd done that years ago.

Happily after two knee replacements I can now walk miles again, but can't kneel, and can't walk on really rough ground. I know just how difficult it is when you have a different life snatched away.

Try to keep your relationship as good as it was, and get help with the work your wife can't do any more. it's so easy to fall into the trap of one person trying to do the work of two.

Make the house and garden as labour saving as possible. Flatten the garden and employ a gardener to mow the lawn. Have a dishwsher, tumble dryer. Longer term, is your house really suitable for the future? Whilst you are in your early sixties, there is time to move if needed to a bungalow rather than a house.

Don't leave this too late, there are so many people here who end up with huge problems not being able to use half the house at all because of the stairs.

After all that, make the most of what you have. A Blue Badge gives you top priority at sea front car parks, shopping centres, garden centres, etc. etc. I trust you have the PIP Mobility Allowance to help with transport costs, so enjoy what you CAN do. Try not to dwell too much on what you have lost.

Has your wife been taught how to manage her pain?
Thank you bowingbun
This has all come to a head because the Practice Nurse at the GP suggested that my wife apply for PIP - and we are steeling ourselves for a long form-filling session one quite day (or two).
She had previously applied for a Blue Badge and much to my surprise got one - I think her cardiac issues swung it. The Blue Badge has made an enormous difference, particulalry with the wider spaces and being closer to places she needs to get to.
Until we started down the PIP route, even with the Blue Badge, we didn't really consider that she was 'disabled' or that I was her 'carer' - and I suspect that a lot of couples fall into this trap of just coping, when in reality they aren't.
It's this transition in a relatively short space of time from being just a regular couple to being in a carer/caree relationship that is really a challenge to come to terms with.
The garden is interesting as I've already started on some of what you've suggested - much to her disgust as the garden was always her domain, and our allotment mine! (I'm keeping the allotment as a place to escape, as much as a place to get a bit of exercise)
We'd love to be able to move into a bungalow, but it seems impossible to find somewhere suitable that's within spitting distance of here that we can afford - we seem to be in a bit of an equity trap - again I suspect that's not unusual as well.
Finally, no, she gets no help with pain management except with random GPs, randomly trying to randomly increase her doses, or attempting to prescribe random additional painkillers! (Do you sense a teeny bit of frustration here?)
MrsAverage wrote:
Mon Oct 08, 2018 9:38 pm
You'll read many stories on here on how caring has either crept up unawares or been suddenly thrust upon someone. You have the opportunity to get things in balance from the start. You may well have another 30 years (my Mum is doing well at 95 and she's no exception) so best to put things into place now , starting with a cleaner .
Thank you - that's very helpful - and does put a bit of perspective into our situation.
I suspect I'm someone who'd have to clean up before a cleaner came in! :D
OK - so it seems, not surprisingly really, that tackling the pain business is your first priority. Living with constant pain is just dreadful, and really, even if your wife doesn't want to be 'doped up to the eyeballs' she HAS to have at least periods of time when the pain is minimised.

Has she been seen by a palliative care expert, pain clinic, etc etc etc? Don't just leave it with the GP - they are NOT specialists in pain management. Find out everything you can by way of minimising the pain from the arthritis, whether that is physio, or supplments or diet or exercise, or changing behaviour (eg, accepting a wheelchair) etc etc ....ie, as well as painkillers. If she knew she could get 'some hours' without pain or the minimum, then that would give her days 'hope' if you see what I mean....

(Sorry if you're doing all this already, and she is already at 'minimum pain possible'.....I do hope not.....)