Month: April 2024

I, like many others, followed the tragic story of Kate Garraway’s husband Derek, during and in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, as seen in the TV documentary entitled “Derek’s Story”.  The last episode recorded the events and emotions in play during the period running up to his death earlier this year.

It undoubtedly echoed the stories of so many of the families who contact me for advice about the care and support of a loved one. The observations she made were familiar, honest and real in equal measure.

In particular she spoke of the massive change in a relationship caused by significant disability against the backdrop of a loving marriage. She reminded us not to lose sight of the person within and to remember who they are despite the “new wrapper”.

She spoke of the impact on the whole family, particularly when there are children involved, and the importance of self care. She describes an inability to think ahead and rather a need to focus on the present.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given her professional background, she had established that 1:5 women age 55 – 59 are unpaid carers and she spoke of the huge demand this makes on their own physical and mental health needs. That’s not to forget the men out there who are also fulfilling the same role or indeed the children over the age of 5 who are playing a crucial part in the care arrangements of a family member.

She described the stress she felt, the sense that she was existing not living and the harsh reality of trying to achieve work life balance. But she also described “a different kind of love” and what a privilege it was to care for Derek who was of course at the centre of the entire series.

She offered an insight into how Derek was feeling; heart breakingly his feelings of failure when fighting against the odds. And feelings associated with dependency, that is, frustration, anger, fear, despair and agitation. I would add that these sentiments are also seen in the family carer, understandably so, and of course this doesn’t make them a bad person, it makes them human.

The program closed with her experiences of trying to access NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding (non means tested financial support from the NHS for individuals assessed as having a primary health need) and her observation of the severe financial crisis that so many ordinary families face trying to secure financial support towards the cost of the right care solution. This is a topic that is far from new, has far reaching consequences for older people and their families and the solution for which continues to be debated, proposed and then kicked into the long grass by consecutive governments of all political persuasions. This is without a doubt a cross party issue.

In Kate’s words “we need a system that catches us when we fall not one that catches us out”