WHO CARES?: Why weathering the storm is a different kettle of fish if you're a carer
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What happens when a carer gets stuck in a storm and can’t get home on the day she expected to? Perhaps she thanks her lucky stars that her autistic son wasn’t with her at the time and gets on with rescheduling travel and making the most of an extra day on holiday.
That is the reality of my experience of storm Babet while I was in Aberdeen recently. I was on my own as I needed to get some work done on our bathroom at the beginning of the week, and it is very difficult for him to cope with strangers coming into the house as well as hypersensitivity to noise making drills and the like painful for him. So, I try to arrange for any work to be done while he is not at home.
This was much easier while he was at school, but nowadays timing must be much more fine-tuned. But with a bit of luck, I can usually make it work.
Off he went to York with his dad, and he had a great time by all accounts. I was relieved to hear he didn’t have much bad weather to deal with thankfully as he hates rain and wind and fears thunder – I believe part of it is the noise, and the rest is his perceived risk to our home after seeing storm damaged properties on the news.
Aberdeen however was a whole different teacup. After a lovely train journey through on the Wednesday, the wind arrived on overnight, swiftly followed by torrential rain; a combination that became the rhythm of my life for the next three days. Short walks outside resulted in soaking clothing and destroyed hairstyling, but I persevered managing to fit in going to a local gym, restaurants, cinema and even a Toploader gig around my tattoo days lying on a bed binge-watching on my phone while being repeatedly stabbed with tiny inky needles.
When the notification came in that all trains on Saturday were cancelled, I was able to shrug and head to the hotel reception to extend my stay by one night in a pragmatic acceptance of what could not be helped.
The experience would have been very different if the boy had been with me. The anxiety and sleeplessness would have led to him becoming virtually a recluse in his hotel room apart from mealtimes if we sat far from any windows. Going outside with him would have been impossible, and therefore he would have had to stay alone in his room while I was out and would have been texting constantly for reassurance that I was OK.
This is his reality and therefore mine, and we are far from unusual in dealing with these sorts of challenges around storms and being on holiday in general. The boy does get a lot out of going away, but managing the build-up, any issues during, and the settling back down afterwards are something that took time to learn. The strategies I use now are also a bit of a moveable feast depending on where we go and what we are doing as familiarity breeds confidence, so going back somewhere he has been and had a good experience makes life easier than new places.
If someone you know is a carer, see if there is any way you can step in to help or just offer support to give them strength and resilience to follow through with their plans.
Karen is Mum to an autistic son in his twenties and campaigns for the rights of unpaid carers to be supported in their caring role and involved in the decisions that affect their lives and the lives of the people they care for. You can find her on twitter and Instagram @Karen4Carers.