When you’re caring for a family member at home, it is easy to become isolated. But in Islington there are meet ups every week – and more – that you could go to for friendship and advice.
When Purleane Chambers’ husband, Clifton, fell ill aged 54, she was in Barbados caring for her dying mother. When she came back to Islington close to a year later he still hadn’t been able to return to his job at London Transport. “The doctors didn’t know much then about what was wrong with him,” explains Purleane who has now been her husband’s carer for 22 years.
In the couple’s colourful sitting room Clifton – who was eventually diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s, problems with his waterworks and more recently found to have cancer – watches Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Ignoring the TV but with a fond eye on her husband, Purleane explains just how useful Islington Carers Hub (now run by Age UK Islington) has been for her family.
Clifton spends four days a week in day care at Highbury New Park, enabling Purleane to meet with other carers, including a BAME group, as well as health and legal professionals at Carers’ Rights and Pathway meetings.
BAME Carers’ Group
“Five years ago it started as a black group to help black people who don’t like to go forward and speak. It’s run by ICH. It opened in Finsbury Park and now is based in Manor Gardens, with the monthly meetings at The Old Fire Station, Mayton Street. It’s changed and anyone can go – there are Italian, Greek, African and West Indians attending now. We learn from each other; it helps us trust each other and is very friendly. Suppose someone comes and says ‘My husband is ill,’ the group can help sort it out and we can learn about our rights. A solicitor might explain how to get Power of Attorney because money is always a problem.”
Pathway Meetings and Carers’ Rights Meetings
These meetings help carers find out about their rights. They are often attended by professionals, including the local MP, councillors, doctors and solicitors. “I go because I’m able to help people who are afraid to speak out. You meet them at other groups and they tell you their problems. I can then ask their questions,” explains Purleane.
Legal problems and banking issues are the sort of complication these groups can help carers resolve. They also tell carers about how to get time off. “They said I could have respite of £200 every two years and use it for anything I wanted – haircuts or even travel,” says Purleane.
Relaxing with the choir
Most weeks her relaxation comes from attending the Singing for the Brain choir at Hargrave Hall, N19. “It’s for people with dementia and their carers. “We do singing – lots of good songs, Irish tunes, carols and a lot of Vera Lynn – to get rid of stress. And you dance! There are nearly always 40 people, tea and cakes. I recommend it,” says Purleane who is also a big fan of laughter therapy.
Working with UCH Purleane regularly helps to train groups of medical students to look after patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s (and pass their nursing exams) by explaining what’s needed. “People with dementia and Alzheimer’s can be OK, but when they turn, you need to know how to handle them. It’s patience they need. You have to be calm and talk them back to their old, natural self,” says Purleane.
She finds ways to help others and enjoy what she does, toughing out the hard bits and relishing the good parts. “I love caring. I like to help other people and Clifton,” explains Purleane who deservedly won Age UK Islington’s Carers Appreciation Award in November 2016.
“Clifton loves his club at Highbury New Park,” adds Purleane looking contentedly across the table towards her husband, “and they love him. I showed him how to bake a cake and now he helps them in the kitchen. He told them ‘I’m not going into a home because my wife gives me good food! When I heard that I laughed and said ‘Now I know after all these years that’s why you stayed with me’!” It’s a sweet moment recalled by a very caring lady.
Please call Islington Carers Hub on 0800 0851 141 or 020 7281 3319 for more information.
Training Sessions for Carers and workshops for carers take place throughout the year. If you would like more information about what is on offer please call the office on 0800 085 1141 or 020 7281 3319.