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Carer Lesley Webster

‘I can have my own life, too’ – helping carers

Today (Friday) is Carers’ Rights Day. Around 1,800 carers are supported by Ealing Council and we spoke to two of them to find out how it is helping them and their relatives to lead independent lives.

Adults’ social care services help 7,000 people from across the borough with a wide variety of needs, ranging from the simple to the more complex. One of the aims of the council’s Better Lives programme is to keep adults independent for longer in the community. It is about prevention of problems to stop them from happening, or from worsening; and about supporting people so that they can stay independent.

To mark national Carers’ Rights Day on 30 November, we spoke to two carers who have relatives attending the Michael Flanders Resource Centre in Acton, to find out how support from the council is helping them and their relatives.

‘It lightens the load’

Lesley Webster, 65, (pictured above) is a carer for her mother Marjorie Neaves, 99. Lesley said: “My mum was already living with me, but in 2010, I noticed that she was getting worse and becoming more confused. I retired early to look after her and work part time. She comes to Michael Flanders once a week. She loves taking part in quizzes and knows everyone’s faces, but not their names. Because she comes here, she has her independence, she smiles a lot and is stimulated by the activities here. By coming here I’m sure will live to 100 and beyond because she is enjoying life.

“She was quite depressed before when she realised what was happening to her. My mum has always had this rebellious and cheeky side but, because of her dementia, it makes her placid, but then there are moments when her feistiness comes out. I know she is well, when that feistiness comes back out, because she is picking a fight!

“When her personality comes through, it is comforting to know she is well.

“I’m a full-time carer, who gave up work to look after her. When she comes here, I know that she is somewhere safe, it’s reassuring to the family, I know she’s being looked after. It lightens the load, takes the rucksack off your back. She doesn’t want to be a burden, it gives me a break, I can leave my mum there and go to the theatre or cinema.”

“I’m an older person too,” Lesley added, smiling. “Knowing that she is cared for has enabled me to do other things. My husband died some years ago and then came my mum’s diagnosis with dementia. Because of all the support for my mother, both from the council and friends and family, I can have my own life and move on from it all. Because of the help and support my mum receives, I was able to do a part-time degree and now I’m a qualified homeopath. I can work from home and look after my mum.”

‘It’s about living life in the here and now’

Mah Rana, 54, became a carer for her mother Regina Rana, 86, who also attends Michael Flanders one day a week.

“My mum has dementia,” said Mah. “So she needed someone to look after her with day to day living. That’s how I became her informal carer. Coming to the day centre helps her to socialise with other people, reduce isolation and not be at home. She enjoys doing activities and is part of the community. She loves dancing, making arts and crafts and gardening.

“She was diagnosed with dementia four years ago, but I think she’s had it for longer. Since coming to Michael Flanders, she looks forward to coming here. It’s about doing things that make her feel good. Half an hour later she might have forgotten she was here. She might not have the memory, but it’s about being in the moment, and doing things that make her feel good, that’s the most important thing.

“It’s about living life in the here and now, belonging somewhere and embracing life. That’s why it’s good to come to a day centre like this. If she wasn’t going here, she would have deteriorated faster. Being her carer has had an influence on my academic studies. I’m currently doing a PhD looking at the experience of dementia on informal carers in a caring role.“

More information for carers

  • More general information about support and advice for carers is available.
  • Carers’ Trust Thames provides the Carer Support Service and runs two local carers’ centres, at Sycamore Lodge in Acton and Elm Lodge in Greenford.
  • Michael Flanders Resource Centre provides day opportunities for individuals over the age of 65 who have been assessed by Ealing Council as having critical or substantial needs. It offers respite to support carers and reablement to help increase or maintain someone’s level of independence following illness, bereavement or trauma. The centre also promotes social contact to promote inclusion for individuals with little contact because of isolation within their own homes. Admission to the centre is made by the individual’s social worker following an assessment of need.
  • Adults’ Social Care works with a number of partner organisations including Age UK Ealing, a local charity for people in Ealing which is working to make Ealing a great place to grow older. It has an information advice service for all age-related issues. The telephone number is 020 8567 8017. It also offers a befriending service for isolated and house bound people and runs day services at Greenford Day Centre three days a week (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday) which include activities such as singing, bingo, chair-based activities and more. Service users will need a home assessment to access the service. The telephone number is 020 8578 2712.
  • Adults’ Social Care also works with local NHS services and has produced a practical guide on ageing well, focused on health and fitness.

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