Kiran has been caring for his wife for seven years. She has a lot of health issues and it took over 20 years to find out that depression was an important part of her problems.
Kiran is 55 and lives in the Midlands. He cares full time for his wife Hema who has depression as well as epilepsy, diabetes and angina. Over the last few years she has also had cancer and a stroke.
Kiran and Hema married in the early 1970 and had three children. Hema’s health was not good, she had occasional fits and bad headaches. It took over 20 years before they learnt that depression was part of the problem. During all those years, Kiran struggled to help his wife and his children on top of his full time job as a Foreman. In the early 1990 Hema had a serious fit and was hospitalised. The doctors took a series of tests, including MMRI scan of the brain, but they didn’t find out what was wrong. Kiran says the situation led to stress for the whole family, which may have impacted on the children’s education. His daughter provided great support and helped out with household tasks. They didn’t get much help from others. Financially things became really difficult too and he hadn’t know whether they would be entitled to benefits.
As the children grew up and became independent, things became a little easier. However, three years ago, Kiran was told his wife would need 24 hour care, and he stopped working to be able to look after her. He found the change difficult. With the two of them at home all day he says it is easy to begin arguing and although he does his best to avoid it, they do have some clashes, in particular when he needs to keep reminding her of doctor’s or hospital appointments. He always accompanies her to these appointments. He feels that he is listened to by the psychiatrist, but less so by the other doctors. He is concerned, however, that his wife can be confused so he feels he needs to be there. Kiran says it is essential that doctors allow more time so they can fully take on board what patients and carers are saying. 15 minute appointments every three months, often with someone they have not met before, is not really good enough.
Kiran doesn’t really know what caused his wife’s depression. She did have some very difficult experiences early in life, but she doesn’t talk about them, and the consultant hasn’t found any particular cause.
Kiran helps Hema with other health issues too. She has developed a bladder problem and her pelvis is weak. When she wakes up during the night she can’t get up and she needs help to be cleaned and showered when she gets soiled.
Both epilepsy and depression are illnesses that people don’t know how to deal with. They stay away, Kiran says, and this feels hurtful. Still, he tries to take his wife to social activities. Due to her health, he needs to be available should she need him, so even when she is at a woman’s group or support centre he either waits by the phone or outside in the car. Even if religion is not really something Kiran seeks as a source of support, he takes his wife to Bhajans (event where holy songs are sung) as she is more religious.
The 24 hour caring responsibilities means Kiran doesn’t have a social life of his own. The caring role leads to a lot of tension, and, he says, this tension will probably be with him a long as he is a carer. He says as a Hindu he has a responsibility to look after his wife. He has to forget about the external world, not expect any help but to focus on the family and how the home is functioning. Had it not been for the support of his children, he says, he doesn’t know how he would have coped. He thinks the Government does provide some help, but says you need to go and get it yourself, nobody will do that for you.