Lisa’s story: Caring during COVID
Lisa is a senior tennis coach at Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club, with two children aged 20 and 22, both studying from home during COVID-19. Despite her busy life, she and her husband Steve also care for Lisa’s childhood nanny – Bernie. Every aspect of caring has been complicated by COVID-19, and it’s become a huge job for her. We asked her what it’s like to be a carer.
Bernie was my nanny from when I was born until the age of around 5, but she was at every birthday, Christmas, and celebration in my family after that. Even now with my own children, she’s always been a constant. When my own mother was ill a few years ago, Bernie visited her practically every week to make sure that she was alright. She’s been a part of four generations of my family, which is rather incredible.
Bernie started coming to the Hospice quite a few years ago now, but things have progressed much more quickly in the last year or so. We are practically the only people she trusts to care for her and I know she’s lonely after isolating for such a long time.
I have never really thought of myself as a carer. I think a lot of us don’t, because it comes on so slowly. An afternoon here and a phone call there, and suddenly its hours and hours of little things you didn’t notice. The first time I realised I was a carer, I was taking Bernie for her COVID-19 vaccination at this massive centre and I looked around and saw that I was one of the only ones who wasn’t in a uniform; the only one who wasn’t an official carer. It suddenly struck me that this was practically our full-time job now. Steve, her nephew Mark, and I answer all her calls and organize all her appointments, we set up her banking and phone plans, we moved her into her new home, we pick her up when she falls and is in the hospital, and we strategise with the medical staff about the best next courses of action.
COVID-19 has doubled the time it takes to get anything done as a carer, and it’s complicated everything for Bernie. Even something as simple as setting up an online bank account so we can help pay her bills takes hours on the phone instead of a simple visit to the bank. It’s also limited the kinds of support that Bernie can receive, and I worry a great deal of the time about if we are making the right decisions.
One of the things I didn’t know when I first started is that some of the systems around caring are unbelievably difficult to navigate if you don’t know what you’re doing. Knowing who to call to make sure that benefits are coming through, and how to set up getting a disability parking badge, and how to make sure that hospitals share their patient records with each other so you don’t have to repeat yourself constantly. That’s where the Hospice becomes an absolute lifeline.
Eileen will come over often to make sure that groceries are taken care of, and Sue and Peter talk me through everything and strategize every aspect of Bernie’s care. An example is when I was moving Bernie into her new flat to make it easier for her to get around in (she is 90 after all) and it was exhausting and complicated, the Hospice had Bernie in for five days of carer respite to give me some space to get things sorted. The sense of relief to know that I could get on with things and she would be kindly and compassionately looked after was immense.
I’m so grateful to all of them for everything they’ve done for us as a unit, and all they continue to do for Bernie. I have at my fingertips a bunch of people who will always help me, and they know me so well, which just makes it so much easier. I just cannot overstate how much the Hospice helps us.
What I always come back to when I feel overwhelmed is that every time Bernie turns to me in tears and tells me how much it means to her, it’s just all worth it. She was there for me, and now I can be there for her.
Too often people don’t seek out resources because they don’t define themselves as a carer. If you help a loved one, even if it’s only a few hours a week, please read more about the different resources that are available to you. If you would like to talk to a member of our team please get in touch by emailing us on firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 020 7806 4040.