Caring for the carers

Categories: Care, Featured, and People & Places.

Linda Yallop was her husband Peter’s carer for more than 40 years. Here she tells us how Saint Francis Hospice in Essex supported them both.

When Peter Yallop’s GP suggested that Saint Francis Hospice could help him, just the word ‘hospice’ was enough to fill his wife, Linda, with dread.

“I thought that it must be the end,” Linda remembered. Little did the couple know that the hospice would bring joy, new friends, and ease mental health challenges that seemed insurmountable.

Pete attended the hospice, and once his pain was under control he was able to return home.

“When I told people we were going to the hospice, they made the same incorrect assumptions as I did,” Linda explained.

After Pete accidentally cut himself on a piece of scrap metal, his leg swelled up to double its size.

Surgeons performed four amputations as they tried to save Pete’s limb, but were baffled as to why it would not heal. Pete was living with pyoderma gangrenosum – a rare skin condition that affected its healing time – which went undiagnosed for 20 years.

The disease led to a range of health problems for Pete. The list was over 20 conditions long — including being epileptic and partially sighted. As a wheelchair user, Pete had arthritis all over his body. He underwent more than 60 operations, sometimes spending 10 months of the year in hospital.

Linda admitted that being Pete’s carer for over 40 years took its toll on her mental health. As well as doctors and nurses from the hospice managing Pete’s pain, Briony Townshend from the Family Support team supported Linda psychologically.

“I always found it difficult to discuss my feelings with my friends and family. I feared I’d become a burden on them,” Linda revealed. “Therapy with Briony helped me immensely. Talking to someone who I could be open with and trust meant so much. Before we discovered Saint Francis Hospice, I felt like we had been discarded.”

Carers would visit to assist with Pete’s needs, giving Linda a mere three hours of free time every week. “That wasn’t even enough time to get to the supermarket and back,” Linda explained. “I was emotionally and physically drained; the pressure became too much for me.”

Thanks to Briony advocating for an increase in carers’ support, Linda’s three-hour window became fourteen. This meant she had time for daily errands as well as meeting friends and family, and catching up on her sleep too.

When the UK lockdown began it meant Linda and Pete were unable to leave their house, but Saint Francis Hospice continued supporting the couple over the phone.

Sadly Peter died in November last year, but Linda wanted to share her story to encourage others to reach out and get the support they need.

“The hospice has lifted me out of a very dark place. Without them, I don’t know where I would be,” Linda said.

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