A break for carers too

Full-time carer, Johane Baker, recalls the first time she brought her aunt to Leuchie in April 2017, and her surprise - and pleasure - at discovering she was able to have a proper break too

I have been a full-time carer for my aunt, Johan, since January 2017.

My aunt is nearly 90 and had ended up in hospital after falling and breaking her pelvis. She has had falls before but this time was in hospital for over 15 weeks.

Without a full-time carer to live in and look after her, she wouldn’t have been able to leave hospital and return home.

I took the decision to give up my full-time job in the post office and part-time library job to take on her care, moving in with her to her home in Edinburgh. I now provide round-the-clock care for her five days a week, with other paid carers stepping in for the other two days splitting the day and night shifts between them.

My aunt has improved a great deal since she came out of hospital, thanks to physiotherapy twice a week and an improved appetite. However she is still limited in what she can do and needs care day and night.

We visited Leuchie House for the first time in April 2017 to give us both the chance of a break.

I fully expected to continue providing my aunt’s care while we were at Leuchie. I hadn’t appreciated that I didn’t need to come with her, or that if I did, all the care would be provided by the Leuchie team so I could have a proper break too.

Because I wasn’t expecting that, it was quite difficult at first to step back and not take part in the caring. When you’re used to doing everything for someone, it’s not easy at first to switch off. After a couple of days though, I could feel myself starting to relax and felt able to go off and do my own thing, knowing my aunt was in good hands.

On a practical level, I’ve actually learned a lot from observing Leuchie’s carers that will help me in my own caring role.

It was lovely to see my aunt taking part in some of the activities at Leuchie. She thoroughly enjoyed the printing workshop in particular. She ate well and became more feisty – which was a great sign! I think she enjoyed the whole social side of being at Leuchie too. Usually she only sees her carers and perhaps one or two friends who pop in to see her, so it made a difference to have lots more people around her.

From my side, one of the biggest benefits was the chance to sleep through the whole night. At home I’m up several times during the night to care for my aunt, and I hadn’t realised just how much sleep I’d lost. At Leuchie, carers stay in a separate part of the house, and thanks to the peace and quiet, it was wonderful to get a full night’s sleep.

It was also great to get out to explore the area and feel like I was on a proper holiday. I went to the Scottish Seabird Centre, took a catamaran to the Bass Rock, explored North Berwick and went on a trip to Dunbar!

I love the whole concept of Leuchie House. The staff are definitely Leuchie’s biggest asset. They come across as meaning everything they say and believing in everything they do. It’s clearly a vocation and not just a job. Every single one of them go the extra mile for the guests.

Having been to Leuchie myself, I can now tell Johan’s family with complete confidence, that when she goes on breaks in the future, we can step away while she’s there. We can be absolutely certain that all her medical and other needs will be cared for and that she’ll be happy.

Everyone was so helpful and kind to both of us. And at the end of my break, I felt relaxed and recharged. So while I didn’t realise when I booked that I didn’t have to accompany my aunt, in the end I was very glad that I did!