Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke
Katherine and Mary’s Story

Katherine (right) and Mary.

It’s a Family Affair

Following two strokes in November 2016, 81 year old Eric spent four months in hospital before returning home to live with his youngest daughter Katherine, as he had done prior to becoming ill. The social workers had suggested he went to live in a care home, but the family agreed this would not be what their Daddy wanted and decided to rearrange their lives so that he could be cared for by them all. A good care package was also put in place.

Mary, the eldest, took a career break to care for him during the day while Katherine was at work. Katherine, who has MS, reduced her working hours to help look after her dad and also to try to minimise the impact of the additional responsibility on her own health.

Mary explains, “Katherine and my three brothers all have mortgages so financially it made sense for me to take a career break to look after Daddy. I look after Daddy during the day. Katherine gets home from work mid-afternoon and takes over. Our brothers take it in turn to come to the house every evening to bathe and shave Daddy. They also look after Daddy on a Sunday so Katherine and I can have some sister time, though we often only get as far as the supermarket!”

What has been the most difficult part of being a carer?

Mary: “It’s difficult being by myself during the day, especially if Daddy is refusing to eat or isn’t playing ball. I worry about whether I am looking after him properly, especially as I don’t like needles but have to give him his insulin injections.”

Katherine: “The most difficult thing for me has been letting go and allowing my siblings to help! I feel like I have been done out of a job, as I took on a lot of our Mummy’s role within the family after she died. However, with my MS, I know I can’t take on everything. It is something that Julie McCullins, NICHS’s Stroke Family Support Co-ordinator, has spoken to me about! I’ve been on a Carers Self Management programme run by NICHS and Arthritis Care which helped a lot.”

What has been the best part?

Mary: “I appreciate having time to spend with Daddy. I also don’t think I could have coped emotionally if he had gone into a care home. It would have broken my heart. Not everyone has the options we have and I think we are very fortunate to be able to care for Daddy this way.”

Katherine: “I think it is less stressful looking after him at home as we don’t have to worry about how other people are treating him. It has brought us all closer. Mary and I still have the odd argument but that’s just a sister thing. And we can still have a good laugh with Daddy. It is tough but definitely worth it.”