Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.
For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.
You can write to Maggi at email@example.com for her to respond in the column.
IT COULD BE YOU….
Caring, a duty, an honour or a curse?
In my last column I wrote about a dear friend, Annie. It
set me thinking about my eldest brother.
became carer for my father at the close of dad’s long life.
His experience was, on the surface at least, different to that
of Annie. He was a reluctant carer. He knew he wasn’t a natural
housekeeper, cook or nurse. His care was constant, but the
strain of running his business and working to maintain the house
and large garden as well as dad’s needs was sometimes unbearable
and he struggled with his anger at being the one to bear the
thanks to him, dad was able to spend all but his final three
months at home. He was very deeply upset and confused when
dad died as he was experiencing huge relief alongside the loss.
sudden freedom is disorientating and the lifting of the burden
of care creates a sense of guilt that can take years to subside.
brother, like Annie, had saved the state a considerable sum
by being there for both parents. Unlike Annie, he had no support
from the state, no help, encouragement or recognition. And to be
fair, he didn’t ask for it. Like many ‘hidden’ carers, he
quietly got on with things and expected little.
are many who give their time, energy and resources to the care
of others who have no expectation or knowledge of help from the
state. There is support. It is patchy in some areas but it is
always worth asking your GP to be put in touch with local groups
and Social Services. Your local public library will also have
net access and many information leaflets that will give you
details of the nearest groups and relevant organisations.
Elizabeth is another person who has cared on and off for
years. With help, she has cared for her son since he became
seriously mentally ill in his late teens. Schizophrenia is the
sort of illness that can have a huge impact on the person
socially, as sufferers frequently develop low self esteem, an
inability to function adequately in daily activities and engage
in social interactions with friends and family. The resultant
low quality of life for them can be very a great burden to the
person, their family and carers. Now in his forties Elizabeth’s
son has stabilised enough to live nearby in sheltered housing.
She found the local mental health team supportive and helpful
and managed to maintain her career part time up to retirement.
After a few years of active and fulfilling retirement her
husband suffered a stroke. After a period of
hospitalisation, he came home fully intending to continue his
doctorate. Sadly, although a once highly-able man, he couldn’t
regain the mental agility to return to his studies. Elizabeth is
petite, retaining her attractive elfin looks in her seventies.
She struggled hard to care for him, encourage him with his
physiotherapy, speech and concentration. The physical effort
required to lift and support him was enormous for one so tiny.
And the mental anguish at seeing her once strong and intelligent
husband of more than forty years in this situation was painful
Following a more severe stroke, he is now in a care home and
looked after very well. The road to recovery for Elizabeth
is a long one. She visits less often now, as she comes to terms
with the knowledge that she did all she could for her life
partner. He is unable to converse and is more interested in the
sweets or the little bottle of wine she takes to share with him.
then falls asleep and she leaves, feeling guilty, stirred up and
confused, knowing that when he awakes he will remember little of
her visit. She is now unable to share with him any concerns
she has about their son or about managing their house.
She is effectively alone and feels panicky at times.
Elizabeth has suffered broken sleep, depression, anxiety and a
kind of agoraphobia and has had considerable difficulty in
adjusting, but is now finding the strength and ways to do it.
She has shared her concerns with friends and, with their help,
has gradually ventured out for short trips then steadily further
for visits to the cinema or to someone’s house for the
Evenings are still difficult for her but she is determined to
rebuild her life around her own interests and old friends; and
hopes to make some new ones too, in time.
I am full of admiration for all Carers and wish them strength
and time to find their own life again, health, happiness and
fulfilment in times to come.
This web site is for people with schizophrenia and their friends
and families. Living with, and managing schizophrenia presents
For an information pack on schizophrenia please phone 0800 587
The Stroke Association:
Stroke Helpline. If you would like further information or
advice about stroke, or have any questions about The Stroke
Association, you can contact our Stroke Helpline.
Stroke Helpline: 0845 3033 100 (calls charged at local rate)
open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
firstname.lastname@example.org , or
The Stroke Association,
240 City Road,
Things you should know about stroke:
Every five minutes someone in the UK has a stroke.
2. A stroke is a brain attack. A stroke happens due to a
clot or bleed in the brain, which causes brain cells to die.
3. The signs of a stroke are:
signs may only last a few hours (called a Transient Ischaemic
Attack – TIA) but must not be ignored.
4. A stroke is an emergency. If you see the signs of a
stroke act FAST and call 999. Early treatment saves lives and
increases the chance of making a better recovery.
5. Stroke is the third biggest killer and the leading
cause of severe disability in the UK.
6. Almost one in four men and one in five women aged 45
can expect to have a stroke if they live to 85.
7. More than three times as many women die from stroke
than breast cancer in the UK.
Carers UK: Carers UK operate CarersLine and we are open
Wednesday/Thursday only from 10-12am and 2-4pm.
Address: Carers UK, 20-25 Glasshouse Yard, London, EC1A 4JT.
TEL: 020 7490 8818
FAX: 020 7490 8824
Helpline: 0808 808 7777
UK research organisation into Alzheimer's disease.
OFFICE: Alzheimer's Society, Gordon House, 10 Greencoat
TEL: 020 7306 0606
FAX: 020 7306 0808
You can write to Maggi at email@example.com
for her to respond in the column.