Ann was born in 1943, lives in Long Wittenham and has been a carer for over fifty years.
She has led a very busy full life, she worked as a teacher, ran a nursery school for 25 years and was a magistrate for 25 years. She was the District Councillor for Garsington, where she used to live. Ann was also involved as a volunteer on the Coproduction Board at Oxfordshire County Council for five years.
Her caring journey began with her aunt Rachel. “My aunt had a massive stroke and was disabled and paralysed. She was living with my grandma and when she died there was no one to look after her, so I took it on. She lived in the same village. That’s how I started caring.” Later, her aunt moved to a nursing home, but Ann still had a hands-on role. She visited her regularly, helped with her clothes and checked that she was being cared for.
Ann also cared for her mother Frances “She got a narrowing of the gullet and couldn’t swallow, so she couldn’t be left to eat, or she could have choked to death.” During covid she had very little help caring for her mum, at times she was on her own “I received only help paid for privately. I went there every day. I shopped for her.”
Frances lived to one hundred “She only died last year, aged 100 years and six weeks. She had her faculties right up until 3 weeks before she died. She was most pleased she had lived over her hundredth birthday. People came throughout the day to see her. It was lovely.”
Frances was one of the last people to get a card from the Queen to celebrate her 100th birthday. Ann described how the card was delivered to her mum. “The postman was more excited than she was. He was coming up to retirement and had been a postman all his life and he couldn’t believe that he’d had the luck before he retired. He’d always wanted to deliver one of these cards.” Ann still has the card framed on her wall “They are beautifully done”.
She also cared for her husband Cyril “He met me on Wednesday and proposed with a ring on Thursday. We were married for 54 years. He was a great romantic.” Cyril became ill and went to the doctor “He was diagnosed with dementia. I was caring for my aunt, my mother and a husband who was starting to get dementia.”
Ann has juggled caring with her health problems “All my life I’ve been in and out of hospital. I’ve had operations on both my legs, my hip. I’ve had frequent falls. I’ve been on crutches a lot of the time caring”. During a period in hospital, she had to organise care for her mother. Frances refused to go to a nursing home “My mother was very independent”. Ann therefore looked for carers which she found very difficult to arrange due to lack of funding and staff “I had to fight for it.”
She cared for her husband for three years “He was never any trouble, but he kept falling, he couldn’t really be left alone.” The only respite she had was “A lovely lady in the village, on a Wednesday she used to take my husband to tai-chi and then lunch. She is a true friend.” She used the time to attend fine art classes.
Ann explained the effect of caring on her friendships “You actually lose a lot of friends when you’re caring because you can’t keep up with them. The friends I have left understood because they had to do caring themselves. When you’re always having to say no, I’m sorry I can’t make it, some people don’t understand.”
She has known Carers Oxfordshire since we started through her work as a District Councillor “They all know me at Carers Oxfordshire. I went to all their meetings and discussion groups in the past. I met other carers and got to talk to them.” She also gets our magazine “It’s a useful thing to pass on because people do still come and ask me where to go for so-and-so”.
Ann has recommended us to many other unpaid carers “There is more help out there if you know where to find it, this is where Carers Oxfordshire and Age UK Oxfordshire help.”
Her advice to other carers is “Don’t give up and don’t take the first answer you are given. If you think you are entitled to something, keep asking.”