Carers Week begins today and we want to recognise the amazing job all carers do by highlighting one particular story. Jacquie has been a carer for blind veteran Nigel for over 20 years after he lost his sight suddenly.
“My life had never been easy – and when I met and married Nigel at the advanced age of 52, I thought that my unspoken prayers had been answered, finally I had someone who wanted to take care of me.
“He was the original crusty bachelor, and had just started to adjust to being half of a couple when on New Year’s Eve 1999 he walked down the road to buy me a newspaper, and suddenly lost his sight.
“From being cared for, I was in an instant a carer, all of a sudden it was my job to organise everything. The vacuum cleaner got blocked – my job to sort it, the washing machine flooded – my job to sort it.”
Suddenly finding herself in the role of carer developed many challenges for Jacquie and the difficulties she experienced will be familiar to many carers.
She says: “I was still working full time and trying to do everything else seemed like an unclimbable mountain, but we got through those first few frightening months, and I began to cope a little bit better. It required preplanning of meals, housework laundry and everything else.
“I had to learn to be a chiropodist, manicurist, nurse. I had to learn how to deal with War Pensions, HMRC, TV Licensing and the local social services.
But Jacquie says that the fact Nigel was eligible for support from Blind Veterans UK has made a huge difference, to her as well as to him.
“Luckily in the middle of the chaos, Nigel became a member of Blind Veterans UK, or St Dunstan’s as it was known then, and our lovely welfare officer came to meet us, and started to smooth the path for us both.
“In 2006, I finally retired, and we moved to Peacehaven to be closer to charity’s training centre in Ovingdean. Home life didn’t really get any simpler, but at least I was able to get a few hours respite on the days when Nigel went into the centre.
“Sadly, Nigel’s limited sight has detiorated further and he now finds it really difficult to do simple things like make a coffee or a sandwich, which of course has affected his self esteem.
“Things were complicated further when in June 2017 a simple fall indoors caused a fracture in his lower spine, now he was blind and immobile, after several weeks in hospital and staying at Blind Veterans UK, I had to help him learn to walk again, a very slow process, which frequently made him short tempered, and of course, I was in the firing line for all the unkind words.”
Jacquie has particularly highlighted the support that has been provided to carers of blind veterans over recent years has made an enormous difference.
She says: “It’s so important to just know that the support is there. We’ve been for Carer’s breaks at the centre where Nigel is occupied with activities and I get the chance to get together with other carers and have our own fun.
Jacquie and Nigel are looking forward to the future and she added: “Life in lockdown has been quite a trial, but we are still here, still together, and planning to get our marriage vows renewed when we can safely do so.
“Has the whole process been easy? – No! - Has it been worth it, yes of course it has – As I have told him many many times, he may be a grumpy old git – but he is my grumpy old git.”