John is an unpaid carer and uses his lived experience as an Involvement Volunteer at Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust. He looks after his son Christopher. Through January and February 2020 Channel 4 broadcast a series on mental health in our region.
Titled, Losing It: Our Mental; Health Emergency, The Trust made the decision to take part with the aim of trying to further reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Filming took place during the Summer of 2019.
John and his son Christopher are featured in Episode 3. John was also a carer for his wife who has sadly died since the making of the documentary.
Here’s John’s thoughts on ‘lockdown life’.
My son Chris was told to self isolate by his GP. This caused a few issues as he has diabetes Type 2 so due to him suffering high levels of anxiety as part of his mental health illness, he was not able to go out and do any shopping which is something that he finds very therapeutic. This affected his mental health. Chris is very selective on what he has to eat due to his diabetes and he is also conscious of his weight due to the effects on his physical health as a diabetic.
I myself come under the vulnerable age group and have medical issues but I had no option and had to go out to do the food shopping as it was difficult to obtain a online delivery slot at the time due to the demand.
After sending several e-mails to the two supermarkets which we use regularly, I managed to gain VIP access from one where I booked a weekly delivery and a recurring slot with the other supermarket. It was a very worrying time for me until I sorted this out as not everyone knows that anyone with diabetes has a compromised immune system.
Chris commented. ‘ Lockdown is difficult, I’m wary of using public transport and I’ve had to use taxis to get about. I used to go to the Nottingham Cathedral and feel socially isolated. I’ve got a good support worker however, called Sally from Real Lives to help me.’
Jude Greenaway from Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust works for the City Carers Support Service Jude offers vital support to anyone who looks after someone who receives care from our Trust Adult Mental Health Services. Jude provides an opportunity for people to talk, be listened to and understood.
Jude commented, ‘Lock down has been a very difficult time for John, especially due to the recent passing of his wife. Initially John struggled with delivery slots for groceries and essentials and had to brave going out as his son was under the vulnerable category and was shielding.
John and his son have really missed the face to face social contact with mental health services, however both were able to access telephone support, reassurance and advice. John is very resourceful and has used all the available support options to manage his day to day living.
The most difficult part of lockdown for him was when the cemeteries temporarily closed due to COVID-19, and he couldn’t visit his wife’s grave. I provide John with weekly support to catch up on the weeks events and support him with any queries or concerns he might have.’
What do carers need during the pandemic?
Unpaid carers require different levels of support but the pandemic has meant that the some of the established support we provide has been moved online or through telephone conversations. This is more challenging when you can’t see someone face to face.
John recently joined the Trust Carers Connect Network with other unpaid carers and Nottinghamshire Healthcare staff using MS Teams. This online forum provides a link to other people with lots in common. Supporting unpaid carers whilst the pandemic continues means we have to think of ways to be together and to reduce the isolation brought about due to the Covid crisis.
John has been able to add his voice to the Triangle of Care and Carer Awareness Training for the Trust. This is co-produced with staff and carers. This has also moved online for the first time due to the pandemic using MS Teams. In the future, John aims to participate in staff interviews as they resume with our Trust volunteering service. John will be able to give his unique perspective. People with lived experiences of our services, add so much to the interview process of recruiting new staff to the values of our Trust.