11 Oct National Carers Week | Eva Vickers shares her story
Eva Vickers was a carer long before she even knew what a carer was. Her life transformed before her very eyes from a world where she relied on husband Graham for a lot of things, to one where he relies on her for almost everything.
Graham, 63, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2009. There had been signs for a while, like struggling with buttons, but the diagnosis was still a devastating blow.
The former Princetown dairy farmers retired into Timboon earlier this year and agreed to tell their story to help mark National Carers Week from October 11-17.
“I still struggle with the term ‘carer’ because he’s my husband, I love him and looking after him is incorporated into our marriage,” Eva said.
“Becoming a carer is something that took a long time for me to come to terms with because our roles changed so much. I relied on him much more than I knew I did…it was particularly hard at the beginning.
“In the early days it was fiddly things like buttons and helping him in and out of bed. Eleven years on it’s most things, but he’s still a good walker which is a blessing.
“As a carer your whole day involves appointments, feeding, showering, going to the toilet – the basic human needs. He is at a stage where I can’t leave him on his own for very long.”
Eva remembers reaching a breaking point several years ago that forced her to get help from Timboon and District Healthcare Service (TDHS). It was a moment that changed her life.
“We had a particularly bad week where Graham didn’t sleep. I cope pretty well during the days, but at night – if he’s awake, I’m awake,” Eva said.
“Looking back, we just had a bad week and I hit the wall. I used to read the Quarterly and there was a story about what services TDHS offered and I just picked up the phone, rang the hospital and was put through to Fiona Hanel (TDHS regional assessment service officer).
“She arranged respite care for Graham immediately and ran us through all the services they offered. Graham was in respite for five days and it was a real moment for me.
“To know there were people here that could share the load. Fiona was wonderful and explained to Graham that respite care wasn’t for him, it was for me.
“Once he understood that, he was happy to do it for me – so I’d get a break. Now we book him in for one week, every six weeks. I know he’s safe and I can rest.”
The couple now live just a few hundred metres from TDHS, but Eva said they still stood by a decision they had made that she wouldn’t visit Graham while he was in respite care.
“It’s about having a total break and doing whatever I want, but we still talk on the phone every day,” she said.
“I tend to stay up way too late reading and I binge a lot of Netflix and I get out of bed whenever I feel like it.
“Before respite, I’m grumpy, short tempered and find myself taking a lot of deep breaths. I know I’m getting tired and Graham can see it too.
“Then, after respite, I’m like a different person again. I’m likeable,” she quipped.
Eva said over time the couple began tapping into more and more services at TDHS which continued to make their life easier.
“Graham goes to the PD Neuro Exercise Class with Tracey Heeps every week, which gives me another little break and is really good for him,” she said.
“We still utilise the Community Drivers when we need to, but we used to use them even more when we were still living on the farm at Princetown.
“More recently, we’ve started getting a Personal Carer three mornings a week to help with showering and a cleaner to help me out as well. We get wonderful support.”
TDHS provides a range of services that might be helpful for carers and those that have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and other Chronic conditions:
- Home Help/Maintenance
- Community Transport
- Occupational Therapy
- District Nursing
Please contact 5558 6000 for more information or to make an appointment.