It’s all about juggling!
As we mark Carers' Week 2022, Rose Salmon, one of our super Library Assistants here at the University, shares her experiences of juggling life, job and caring responsibilities. "I am in the slightly unusual situation that I care for my partner as well as my octogenarian mother. And not only do they have opposing care needs, they also have opposing personalities!...
After suffering an aortic dissection while we were on holiday in Belgium, my partner Mark subsequently had three strokes resulting in both physical and cognitive difficulties. He can follow simple instructions and is happiest when there is order and calm. My mother, Ruby, has Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. She is loud, disruptive, sometimes abusive and in need of lots of direction – not dissimilar to having a young child following you around the house. Readers that home-schooled during the pandemic while working will know the difficulty of combining the two all too well.
However, working from home, while not without its challenges, is also a blessing.
Caring and working from home
For one, it provides a critical lifeline to Mark. When Mark had his second stroke I was at work. I arrived home after finishing at midday to find he could not speak. If I had been working for the entire day, the damage caused would have been irreversible, perhaps even fatal. While I initially installed cameras to keep an eye on him while I was sat at my desk in the library, now if Mark has a further stroke, I can instantly rush him to hospital for treatment, rather than worry whether I would get to him in time being a 30-minute drive from home.
Second, I am here to referee between the pair. Given their opposing care needs, and my mother’s progressive loss of her inhibitions, they are prone to upsetting each other. On the worst days, the atmosphere in the house can be cut with a knife. Thankfully, they’re only armed with walking sticks, so walking sticks at dawn it would be.
Finally, I am more productive as an employee. I found the busyness of the office environment could be distracting. Now, I tend to work early mornings and those times when I know I am less likely to be disrupted or needed by my charges in some way. Further, in changing my working hours, I’ve picked up the tasks that distract my team from their core roles, making everyone that little bit more productive.
Meeting the needs of carers
While I think the University more broadly is still exploring how best to support carers in the workplace, the flexibility afforded to me by my line management team has been invaluable. I have been able to carefully timetable my days to create a harmony between my work life and care needs. Without this flexibility, I would undoubtedly need to take more time off to look after my charges, or potentially even give up work altogether – an eventuality that would be financially devastating to the three of us.
As a Carer, I am much more in tune with my partner’s and mother’s needs – ensuring that they receive the very best care available. However, being a carer means that sometimes my own needs aren’t met. It is quite telling that the Carers Week 2022 theme is “Make caring visible, valued and supported”. Sometimes I do feel invisible outside of your immediate team and line manager, I miss out on opportunities to connect and collaborate.
A little thoughtfulness makes a big difference; providing carers with a space to come together has been a great start. In the future I would love to see this thoughtfulness pushed even further with dedicated HR resources and policies in place to ensure all carers feel visible, valued and supported by the University of Lincoln.
Rose Salmon, Library (Materials) Assistant
Library Acquisitions Team
The Carers and Parents Club (a staff network) was set up to provide support for members of staff who are parents or provide care for a friend or family member. If you would like to know more about the CaP Club please email firstname.lastname@example.org