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November 17, 2009

A carer’s world

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 5:26 pm
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It was only recently that Sheena became a carer. Her aged mum, Gladys, suddenly and inexplicably felt sick for much of the time; no longer ate much; no longer walked anywhere; became housebound; bedbound; and eventually passed away on a busy workday behind closed curtains amid floods of tears by the grieving family.

It was a sudden, cruel and relatively brief introduction to the world of the carer – and Sheena coped through a combination of stoicism and selfless devotion.

 Caring is a very private affair that happens in millions of homes across Britain. Thousands of people – you, me, Sun readers, Guardian readers, X-factor voters – quietly carry out their carer’s roles with little fuss, behind closed doors and with few rewards except to help their loved one. In many ways it’s a tragic culture of silence, but one of deep love and understanding.

 It turned Sheena’s world upside down; she’ll never be the same, but she would never have had it any other way. Importantly, she now understands what it is to care for someone and how that has helped her life.

 Carer’s stories like Sheena’s are often hidden from view and seldom surface amid the razzmatazz of daily life. Just imagine if more people could tell each other about the tragedies, the love, the necessary sacrifices that occur when you’re caring for someone.

 Last weekend the Guardian ran a beautiful photographic essay by Chris Steele-Perkins on the hidden face of caring www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/nov/14/magnum-photographs-carers

 Steele-Perkins sums up by saying: “Caring is an activity that usually goes on behind lace curtains, and it was special to be allowed into people’s lives to take these photographs and record their feelings. As I grew more involved with the work, I started to realise that while I was indeed photographing carers and the cared-for, I was also beginning to map out the considerable parameters of love.”

 This perfectly encapsulated the world that Sheena inhabited when she was caring for Gladys. Apart from close family and a few work colleagues, nobody knew Shena’s world had imploded or had any inkling of her strength of character to ensure her mum’s final days were peaceful and shrouded in love.

 I was able to gain an insight into this selfless world of caring for a simple reason: Sheena is my wife.

Gladys and Sheena

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