Riding the Tsunami – by Lorna Breckell

I work at Rampton Hospital as the Family & Volunteer Service Manager. I have worked for the Trust for nearly 10 years. In that time I have also become a carer myself. 

Eight years ago my Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. As I am sure you will know, this is a degenerative illness that is neurologically based and affects every part of a persons body. The individual starts to lose not only their memory but the ability to do day to day tasks (even as simple as brushing their own teeth). My Dad now is end stage Alzheimer’s; he is no longer able to walk, talk, read, eat by himself and he no longer recognises who I am (though I do believe he has moments when he recognises that I am someone who he loves!).

In the last eight years I have many phone calls from my Mum who was initially caring for my Dad, when I have had to dash out as he had either wandered off and couldn’t be found or he had fallen over and Mum was unable to lift him, or where he was ill and needed to be taken into hospital as he was unable to say what was wrong. My Dad is now in full time nursing care.

Needless to say, family is priority. As a staff member it can be extremely difficult to balance my work commitments with the emotional and practical need for me to help out at home and deal with other professionals (social workers DOL’s assessors, parents medical appointments, care staff etc) particularly when a situation has required me to drop everything and head home or to my Dad (or Mum) for whatever reason.

I wanted to also say that the emotional impact of caring hasn’t been easy. I am going through a daily grieving and loss process that is ongoing but I also have to remain the source of strength when it comes to dealing with not only my Mum (who also has significant health issues) but when it comes to dealing with Dads supporting professionals, I take the lead in this as my Mum is unable. There have been times when the stress of the emotional impact affects my own health (everybody deals with stress differently, but for me it affects me physically and then triggers my Asthma). I have been very fortunate that my managers are understanding of this and on the very odd occasion when I need it, I am able to work in an alternative location (to limit walking etc).

I do have to mention COVID as this has really impacted on my family as, for the first time in 15 months, I have actually been able to physically see my Dad and hold his hand. It has been so difficult to see his declining health without being able to provide the comfort a hug can give. He contracted Covid at Christmas time himself (pre-vaccine) and the home lost 13 people to this horrible illness. I was getting phone calls from doctors asking about end of life preferences and saying that they didn’t think he would survive. I was at one point in the position of having to choose which parent to comfort; my Dad who would not possibly survive the night and my Mum who would need my support if he did pass. If I chose Dad, I would need to self-isolate for 14 days afterwards in which I would not of been able to see Mum! I’ve never felt so helpless.

I work with Carers in my job role and I can truly empathise with the many stories I hear.  The struggle as a staff member is sometimes a dilemma, trying to retain your own professionalism and maintain a work life balance.  At Rampton Hospital, though we have experienced periods in the year of our doors being closed to visitors due to the pandemic, we have managed to enable some reduced visiting opportunities which has been great.  For me personally it has been a struggle knowing that visitors could visit at the hospital but I have been unable to visit my Dad in his care home. However, I have felt quite proud that as a hospital we have managed to support visits when we can.  We did this via an app called Purple Visits. Sadly this app wasn’t suitable for me personally with my Dad but it has been a lifeline for many patients and family members. The technology has been embraced moving forward, giving many carers and families more options as an alternative way to keep in contact and communicate with their loved one. It has been a year I don’t think any of us will forget!

The Trust is now a member of Employers for Carers and is Carer Confident I feel this is a fabulous recognition to the supportive nature the organisation with regard to recognising the impact of being a carer for a staff member. I have always been very fortunate with my line managers understanding and recognition that I have these added responsibilities. At my every supervision my caring responsibilities are discussed.  I have always been able to make hours back if needed and the flexible working has been a godsend. I’m aware this isn’t always the case, that other staff with similar commitments to myself and they may have a different experience.  It’s great that as a Trust, we are working to improve and promote the importance of supporting working carers to aim towards providing a carer-friendly workplace. Without the Trusts support and my managers support and flexibility of working I would not be able fulfil my commitment to the Trust whilst also being able to ‘be there’ for my family and my Dad as and when I’m needed.

Dad & Jasper

The painting of the boat is mine, I created it at a time when I was extremely stressed and life felt tumultuous with regards to my Dad. It was also at the time we had to make the extremely difficult decision to access full time care for him, not something we ever thought would happen.

Lorna Breckell – Family & Volunteer Service Manager – Rampton Hospital

Lorna Breckell

Riding the Tsunami

A painting by Lorna Breckell

Team email – FamilyandVolunteerSupprtServiceRH@nottshc.nhs.uk

Carer Confident

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