Toni works in the dementia team at Bolton Hospital supporting patients with significant cognitive impairments, she is married with three children and one grandchild.  Toni carers for her Nanna who has dementia.

Can you tell us a bit about your family life?

‘I live in a cul-de-sac in Salford, mum lives next door and my nanna has the house next to her.  Before I go to work, I get nan up and help her with her meds, my aunty pops and supports at lunch and I go back over after work and sort tea out.  My sister helps my mum who has End Stage COPD and she also helps nanna’.

What were you finding challenging about being a carer?

‘My biggest challenge was accepting my nanna’s diagnosis of dementia.  The system was my second challenge, we waited two months to get a diagnosis and then another 6 months to get her on medication.  I felt trapped between teams not speaking to each other, I’m in the health system and I still struggled, it must be really challenging for those not working in health’.

How did Empowered support you and your family?

‘I’m not a person who asks for or accepts help easily, but I felt comfortable and relaxed sharing the pressures I was having around diagnosis and my diagnosis denial.  Saying what was happening out loud helped to make it real.  I work with a great team with loads of knowledge, but I didn’t want to share this with them’.

‘I’m the oldest grandchild, I’m the strong one in the family.  Nanna brought me up and I didn’t want to admit that she was as bad as she was.  Vicky gave me a space to off-load; she gave me time to share worries that I didn’t want to share with my family.  She offered emotional support, she was an impartial person, not a friend, not family and not a work colleague’.

What advice would you give to other people who are caring for a person living with dementia/struggling for a diagnosis?

My first advice is that it’s a lot easier to talk to other people then you think.

I didn’t want to share how I was feeling, I felt daunted by it.  I also didn’t think that I had the time to spare for this.  The sessions made me see that I needed to take time for me, when I first started with Vicky, I wasn’t doing anything for me.  Vicky made me realise that I couldn’t do everything, as my Nanna got worse, I was doing more and more.  Having the time to say this out loud made me realise that I needed help.  I reached out to my family, my Aunty started to visit every lunchtime, she also helps with shopping and cleaning, and my sister now pops every day as well.

I have more time for my self and for my own family now, I’m in a much better place.  Taking a tiny step back from my life helped me see that it was getting worse.  Vicky worked with me to change this.

How has your family life changed?

I have more time with my own family now.  They are used to me always looking after other people, I’m a mum that never stops!  Instead of rushing off to do my Nanna’s shopping on a Saturday morning I now spend time with my family and my granddaughter.  I’ve been able to look after me, I feel more balanced, I have a different perspective on life, I have clarity.

Can you describe how Empowered Carers has helped?

I’ve been empowered as a carer.  I felt a huge sense of relief after I’d ranted or cried in a session.  I’ve been empowered to express the pressures of caring and the doubts in my mind.

I’ve carried forward the skills learnt from these sessions in my caring role and at work, I feel better able to communicate with families and share how Empowered Carers can help.