Jacqui has been joining our Virtual Cuppas for Carers. It has been great to get to know this lovely woman and to understand more about her caring journey through Covid-19. I thought you should all meet Jacqui; she kindly spent some time chatting to me so I can share her story with you.
Jacqui lives in Rutland with her two sons, Ashley age 30, and Joshua who is nearly 28. As well as being a single mum, Jacqui is carer for Joshua who has Down’s Syndrome, Autism and no speech. Ashley and Jacqui are the ones who really understand Joshua and help him to communicate with others.
Jacqui loves meeting up with people, enjoys a meal out and chatting to her extended family.
“I’m known to my family as the Jamaican woman who broke the mould, I don’t love cooking!”
Jacqui is an active volunteer who prefers being out of the house, keeping busy and supporting others in many ways. She has been a Foster Carer and Teaching Assistant too. In the early days of caring, she quickly realised that others like her were also having to learn for themselves, looking things up, finding networks and learning by experience.
“I started thinking if I’m having to do this, finding out things I don’t know, there are other people who don’t know these things too. So I started doing a newsletter that now goes out to Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Carers and some professionals”
Right at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, Jacqui became very suddenly unwell (at the Co-op!) People stepped in to help with a shop assistant keeping an eye on Joshua and helping him choose his lunch whilst emergency calls went out to family. Ashley was at work, but others were called and came to the rescue.
Top tip from Jacqui - have your emergency contacts listed as “I.C.E” in your mobile phone.
Jacqui was ill for three weeks in total. Ashley took on the role of caring for her as well as his brother. A friend of Jacqui’s realised they hadn’t heard from her and got in touch, they followed up by ensuring the GP aware of her situation and they in turn alerted the local Social Care team. Support was available and everyone pulled together to support the family.
Jacqui made a slow recovery. The family survived her being unwell, but they also took time to recover from the feelings that stirred up whilst noticing some positive steps that Joshua has taken to be more independent. Ashley’s employers were understanding and let him take time off work to be able to support not only his mum but his brother Joshua as well.
So how was life different during lockdown?
“Before Coronavirus, Joshua was busy with lots of activities which included cooking, creative workshops, music, media, drama and photography. Through this we discovered he had a real talent for drama. He continues to learn and develop.”
Now with the help of Ashley and Joshua’s network of support, Jacqui is helping Joshua to be active and engaged with a variety of things - using a variety of social media activities including 1:1 exercise sessions. We have loved hearing about Jacqui’s garden races and Joshua’s Scavenger hunts.
“I try to stop Joshua disappearing into his own little bubble”
I asked Jacqui about what she got out of being part of the Virtual Cuppas:
“Seeing people, getting to know new people, building friendships and hearing how people are coping. We’ve all got different people we are caring for with different needs - but the emotions are still the same. If you are not able to have a conversation with the person you are caring for these chats are so important”.
Hearing Jacqui’s story, I am struck by how vulnerable we can be, even when we are coping well with our caring role, we never know what is round the corner. A few things in place to be ready for an emergency are important but the most important thing for Jacqui was her network of friends and family and being prepared to let them step in.
We often worry “what will happen if I get ill?” It is reassuring to know that support is available but as Jacqui tells me:
“it’s important not to be under the radar, build a network, let people know your situation”
With thanks to Jacqui for opening up her story with us. We love hearing stories that offer insight into the world of caring from unpaid carers that can benefit the rest of us. Someone's caring story can be another person's survival guide. If you have a story you would like to share with us, do not hesitate to get in touch by simply emailing me.