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Carers Week: A look at the love and dedication of unpaid carers

Updated: Jun 4, 2021

Joan and Michael Hughes

As we all continue to face new challenges as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, we are seeing many people taking on more caring responsibilities for their relatives and friends who have sight loss, or are older and need extra support.

So during Carers Week, we want to celebrate the love and dedication of all those unpaid carers.

Joan Hughes, of Astley Village, tells us what it is like caring for her husband Michael, who was registered severely sight impaired following a stroke in 2018.

She says: “Michael had a stroke a couple of years ago out of the blue. He got a blood clot behind his left eye and went blind.

“Michael has only got five per cent vision in his right eye, so all this has been totally life changing for us.

"We went to Royal Preston Hospital and we spoke to Glen, the Eye Clinic Liaison Officer, at Galloway’s. He was very good and helped us along.

“Through Galloway's, we were referred to Richard, who provides counseling, which has been a great help because we were in a dark hole when this happened.

“Through this, Michael has started to build his confidence. He is very good getting about in the house because he knows where everything is, but if we go out anywhere, he needs my help.”

Joan and Michael, both 68, have been together 21 years, marrying 15 years ago. Although they have no children together, between them they have five children from previous relationships, as well as five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Speaking of their unbreakable bond, she adds: “We are best friends, as well as husband and wife. We have such a strong bond which connects us and that helps in this situation. We have been married 15 years, but together for 21 years.

“I am his loving wife, but I am his carer as I do a lot of things for him, like making sure he has the right clothing on, cooking him nice meals, putting eye drops in his eye and, giving him his medication. When he is feeding himself, I have to watch if he drops anything and make sure he is clean. He is pretty good at showering himself and I just pass him his clothes.

“Michael says I am his rock and I do more than my best for him. He really does appreciate everything I do for him. He says he would not be able to cope if he didn’t have me. I just try to do the best I can for him.”

Joan adds she has been able to encourage him to do gardening outside, saying: “We do these things together. He never thought he would be repotting plants and working in the garden, so he is so grateful to me that I have encouraged him to do that.”

Joan admits that being a carer can be tough, but she has been given a lot of support from Galloway’s.

She says: “I love Michael to bits and it is sad sometimes, but we just bond together and help each other the best we can.

“If we did not have the meetings and support from Galloway’s, I don’t know where we would have been. We cannot thank them enough.

“Assistive Technology Co-ordinator Andrew has been marvellous in helping Michael use his phone and putting apps on his iPad. Knowing Michael can now ring me gives me peace of mind, so I can go out shopping and leave him at home. At the beginning, I did not dare go out and leave Michael, which was awful. But since the technology support, Michael is like a new man.

“During lockdown, sight loss advisors have rung us to check we are ok and in the early days when I was unable to go out shopping, they arranged for someone to do that for us.”

Joan admits she does worry about getting ill and not being able to support Michael anymore, as she says: “I am not always in good health. I have a bad back and hip, so when I am ill, it is frightening to think what could happen.

“But when Michael was taken into hospital a few months ago with cellulitis, social care services got in touch and we had carers in for a few weeks to help him. At least I have peace of mind that social care services would be able to offer carers if I was to be taken ill. He would not be able to manage on his own at home.”

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