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Ruth Huntman: Stories worth sharing

Journalist Ruth Huntman has cared for her dad, Sam, for the past four years. Used to interviewing the likes of J-Lo (photo below), she’s found talking to other carers as a volunteer a whole lot more rewarding.

p18 Ruth JLoAs a journalist I have seen and done some surreal things, found myself in dangerous situations and interviewed countless A-list stars. Yet nothing could prepare me for caring for my 95-year-old father, who has dementia and now lives with me.

I was unprepared for heated arguments over the virtues of thick cut marmalade over thin cut, for his insistence that: “Morecambe & Wise can’t be on the telly because they’re dead”, for being asked the time at intervals so regular I thought of applying for a job as the speaking clock.

Dementia is no laughing matter but black humour is my way of coping. So now, instead of looking for the nearest wall to smack my head against I treat most of dad’s outbursts as comedy gold for the book or the sitcom I’ll never get round to writing.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my dad and get a kind of weird pride when he wolfs down his beloved fry-up while watching The Two Ronnies and says: “That was a lovely day”. But that doesn’t make caring for him any less exhausting and frustrating.

It was one of my closest friends who recommended I become a Carers UK member and volunteer. He thoughtthat not only could my writing skills help tell the stories of other carers, but also help me feel I wasn’t the only person going through it. He was right.

I took the plunge and now help out as a Communications Volunteer interviewing fellow volunteers and carers: the real stars who share their story freely in the hope it will help others on the caring journey. For me, it’s a million times more rewarding than interviewing some reality TV ‘star’ about their latest boob job.

I've felt an instant bond with the other carers I’ve interviewed. When I’m talking to them I don’t feel the need to apologise for feeling frustrated or for my black sense of humour. I’ve also felt part of a caring family, where situations may be different but we share the same thoughts and feelings.

Ultimately, volunteering has given me the energy boost to carry on caring. ‘Carry on Caring’... now there’s an idea for a sitcom!

p18 RuthDad

Photo: Ruth and her dad, Sam.

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