Lynne's story

My name is Lynne, I’m in my mid-50s, live in Thanet in Kent and I’m a full-time carer and new entrepreneur. I care for my beautiful mother who I have been caring full-time for, and living with, for two years now, although it had been part-time since about 2016. Prior to leaving in April 2018, I was an Inspector in the Metropolitan Police and was posted to a unit working with the Home Office. This was the end of an amazing 25 years, although I had taken a career break and left the police to work in an international risk management company for a short while.

My caring journey began about four years ago, when I realised that mum wasn’t able to do some of the things she would normally do, such as housework, as well as not wanting to see her friends or go out with them or not wanting to go on trips with me as often as she’d wanted to before. So I began to provide practical support such as shopping and housework etc. Over time I became much more aware of her cognitive and psychological wellbeing.

About three years ago she lovingly announced that ‘we were on the move again’. To put this into context, we have both moved homes a lot during our lives, including living in different countries. We had been in the same location for about five years, so it wasn’t a surprise that she wanted to move. Independently, I had been thinking the same, but hadn’t mentioned it at that point, so it was something I was keen to consider.  

However, it wasn’t until I started the process of moving (getting our Hampshire properties ready to sell and looking for a new location) that I realised just how her physical and cognitive abilities had deteriorated and it was clear that this move wasn’t about just living in a new and exciting place - it was her way of saying that she wanted us to live together. We had already done this when we lived in France for a couple of years, but not with me providing care for her, so I knew this time it would be different. Long story short, I sold our properties, left my career, bought a house in Thanet, suitable to be able to care for her, and moved us half way across the country in July 2018.

The main real challenges I have, have been in the emotional and psychological part of my caring role. I am good at ensuring all the practical things are in place, but I struggle with the feelings and emotions my mother has and being empathic enough to support her, without reducing or removing her independence.

I have Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and a few others neurodiverse traits including ADD, which may or may not make this element of caring more challenging for me. However, being aware that I think very differently to my mother, helps in allowing me to notice and identify when I need to ‘come at’ a situation differently than I might if I were dealing with another person.  

Another big challenge has been the significant change in my financial situation. I was fortunate to have earned a good salary and have been financially independent most of my working life. Now I am reliant on state benefits and I know I struggle with some negative emotions as a result of this.

However, being the eternal optimist and positive thinker, I retrained as a Personal Development Coach prior to leaving the police and undertook and passed an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology (MAPPCP) in 2018. So, I am now in the process of setting up a social enterprise (A Carer’s Heart) to support other unpaid carers and will also be launching an online business, with a paid membership in January 2021. Trying to learn, set up a business and care full-time is a challenge, but this combination gives me the best option for being financially independent again in the near future, I hope!

I am an only child, I don’t have children and I don’t have any close family members. It’s just me and mum. I do have friends who are local and that was one of the reasons for choosing this area. However, they have their own busy lives and I am not someone who can ask for help very easily (or at all really!), despite regular offers of support, so in a way we are quite isolated. In another way, being an only child means that I don’t have to ‘negotiate’ with other family members in relation to decisions, such as moving home, so in a way that is a positive as well!

There are so many other positives to my caring role. As an adult I didn’t get a chance to really get to know my grandparents, but now I have this special time with the most important person in my life. I am ensuring that I make the most of it, making memories together and ‘giving back’ the love and care she gave me as a child.

Also, this is an extraordinary time of challenge, learning and growth for me. Despite the interesting roles I have had in my life such as being a firearms officer and being posted abroad in an international policing mission, being a full-time carer is the hardest ‘job’ I have had but also the most rewarding. I became a police officer to help people, corny I know, but that was how I felt, and those feelings haven’t changed.

I might not be very good at being a carer and may never achieve the high standards I have set myself in that role, and that’s OK. But the experience and personal rewards are priceless and as difficult as it is sometimes, I wouldn’t change a thing (except buying a different house perhaps!).

Currently I feel able to provide the practical support mum needs. However, as her conditions deteriorate, we are increasingly interacting with health professionals and I am prepared to start asking for support, when I/they feel that I can no longer provide for all of her needs. However, it is our wish, that she remains in our home for as long as it is safe. I do, however, do a lot of research and part of the role of setting up the social enterprise, is connecting with some wonderful people and organisations who I might well need to call upon for more emotional and practical support in the future.

You might ask what it’s been like being a carer during lockdown. Apart from only going shopping once a week now (which is a lot more efficient and saves on fuel!) and being even more careful with hygiene safety than before, nothing much has changed for us, practically speaking. I couldn’t really go out for long prior to the lockdown and can’t now, so nothing much has changed with that.

However, it has been challenging to deal with the psychological impact of the pandemic. Mum is an avid sports supporter, really enjoying watching tennis, cricket, snooker etc so the absence of this, particularly as we moved into the summer, has had a negative impact for her as she misses it so much. But also, for me, constantly explaining why it hasn’t been on TV and more recently, how things aren’t going to change in the near future i.e. having spectators, has been emotionally draining for me.

Even though you might feel like you aren’t good enough to care for your loved one or friend, you are. More than enough. And remember what a special thing it is that you do ;0)