Heidi’s story: This is Gladys

16 March 2021

Heidi, her mum, Gladys and her sister, Linda

Virgin Media has partnered with the charity, Carers UK, to make life better for one million unpaid carers. Together, we’re encouraging unpaid carers to self-identify by taking part in the Census and ticking the box in Question 24 (England and Wales) or Question 22 (Northern Ireland) by 21 March.

For more information about filling in your form as an unpaid carer, visit this page.

Heidi works for Virgin Media and has shared her caring story…

This is Gladys. She is 89-yearsold and she is my darling mum. Up until last year she lived a rich, fully independent life. A very capable, polished, and proud woman.  Then in September last year our world changed. My mum sadly had an accident and broke her hip.

What followed were eight excruciating lonely weeks in hospital. After four failed attempts to fix her broken hip, additional falls and contracting COVID-19, she eventually returned home. She had become so small in physicality and spirit, she was frightened, and quite depressed. Unable to walk or take care of any personal or domestic needs, my mum became reliant on my sister and I for everything.

It blindsided us. We had become unpaid carers overnight and didn’t even realise it. She’s our mum, surely that doesn’t count? That’s what we thought anyway.

When a loved one needs to be taken care of, it’s natural to just get on with it. You do what needs to be done without question. You show up for them. You put yourself second. But it’s so important to take time to acknowledge and recognise what this means for you.

If you are looking after someone whose wellbeing, or health would deteriorate without your care because of illness, frailty, a disability, or mental health, then you are a carer.

As an unpaid carer you may face competing needs (like I did): juggling work, kids, and household tasks just to keep your head above water, at the same time as looking after that person who needs you.

There will be limits to what you can cope with, both physically and mentally.  Taking the time to acknowledge this will make a big difference to your own wellbeing and ultimately help you to do a better job for those you care for.

When you complete this year’s census, tick the box to declare yourself as an unpaid carer.

This will help inform decisions on services that shape our communities, such as healthcare, education, transport, and services for carers.

Please act now. Make a difference and be seen, or we won’t get the help we need.

As for Gladys? Well, three months on and I’m happy to say she is on the mend, and is learning to mobilise with a walking frame, dragging her leg behind her. She has a strong positive attitude and is bossing us about again!  But it’s a long road ahead and we will be caring for our mum indefinitely. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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