I’ve been asked to write this blog as the Amazing Grace (how sweet that sounds!) takes on a series of 10 arduous challenges to raise funds for Carers Leeds.
I got hooked on carers many years ago, mainly due to coming across two formidable ladies while working in Bradford – Jan Rhodes (who had carried the carers agenda almost single handed in Bradford for years) and Anne Smyth (founder and Director of Carers Resource) – I owe them both a great deal for imparting some of their wisdom upon me and for giving me a passion for trying to improve the support available for carers. I now count myself fortunate to be working in Leeds, with the equally formidable, and charismatic, CEO at Carers Leeds, Val Hewison, who continues my education.
I’m not usually one for mixing home and work – I like to keep the two things separate – but I want to talk about another lady even more important and valuable to me than any of the ones I’ve already mentioned – my own mum!
My mum had previously cared for my grandma who passed away in 2011. During the last year or two of grandma’s life my dad was diagnosed with both Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease.
My ‘old man’ was my best mate and my hero. He was an active member of the Tingley community and well known locally. He was thrilled to have two grand-sons who he could teach to be fast bowlers and a grand-daughter who he could dote over. Dementia, Parkinson’s, stroke and finally cancer stole him from us in his early seventies. His health, physical and mental, had both deteriorated rapidly and significantly.
Through all of this my mum never wavered, she cared for him with every ounce of love she had. Her own health suffered. Of course we helped out and played our part, but when we weren’t there – she was, she had to be, she couldn’t and wouldn’t have it any other way. I know she didn’t eat properly, I know she didn’t sleep properly, I know she was exhausted, I know she was angry that illness had taken away the man she loved – even though he was still there.
We were both with him at the end at Wheatfields.
My mum is one of those remarkable people who knows what it’s like to care for someone, who took on the arduous challenge of putting someone else first. It’s been four years since my old man died and I know there isn’t a day goes by when mum doesn’t think of him. Mum is now involved in running the Friends Café at Tingley Methodist Church, established as part of the Church’s contribution to the Leeds Dementia Action Alliance.
It’s fitting that Grace is taking on a series of arduous challenges because that’s exactly what unpaid carers do every single day. I wish her every success – I hope she raises millions – let’s get right behind her – for carers in Leeds – and for my mum!