I belong to a closed Facebook page of carers in the UK. An amazing group of people, both men and woman who all have great compassion and empathy for each other on so many levels. Most often as a ‘carer’ there is nobody to talk to and no shoulder to cry on when we are living with and caring for our clients. We definitely do not have the luxury of calling a friend to pop in for tea and a chat, most often there isn’t anybody nearby and there is a strict policy against inviting anyone into your clients home. (understandably of course). So many carers have clients who cannot carry out a normal conversation so one can feel terribly isolated at times. There are ‘events’ in our day which only another carer could understand and more often than not, an awful situation becomes something you can actually sit down and have a good giggle about (with all due respect). I will not elaborate on this, however, if you are a carer you will know exactly what I am talking about and if you are not a carer but have a good imagination…imagine the worst case scenario and you will probably have an inkling.I wondered about the reason so many people are caring so I posed the question on this Facebook page to all the carers out there. I was overwhelmed at the response I received. I know my ‘story’ was one which left me little choice and a huge feeling of gratitude for my British Ancestry but it broke my heart to read some of their stories.I found the common thread to be one of enormous strength of character and tenacity to endure emotional pain, trauma and abuse and come out smiling and spend their days caring for someone else. I was gobsmacked to say the very least. I felt humbled and blessed and it certainly made my own load feel lighter, I hope it will do the same for you.
With their permission, I would like to share these stories with you. I like to think that they are not just sad stories, they are awe-inspiring and as always, my wish is that if this blog reaches only one person whom it could make a difference to, then I will be well pleased.
“Instead of wishing you were someone else, be proud of who you are, you never know who has been looking at you and wishing they could be you.”
For obvious reasons, the ladies felt more comfortable remaining anonymous. I have not included all the responses to their posts. As always responses were genuine, heartfelt and encouraging. There certainly is an amazing amount of mutual respect and caring for each other.
S wrote:- Left me husband lol
E wrote:- “Sold my flat in Sandton, used funds to build 2 bed house on daughters property in Table View – 3 years later they evicted me – no reason, paid me R100k. No option but to come home to the U.K.” ‘E’ added after many comments… “OK ladies, Thanks for commiserations, over it now – been here for 7 years now and no regrets”
S responded to E:- “my heart goes out to you. I had a similar experience with a daughter. One of the reasons I’m now here. I miss my relationship with her and especially my 4 grandkids but I’m as happy as I can be”
M wrote:- “My husband was made redundant and we had put all our money into saving our house.. but had to sell it anyway. So we then needed money so came to do caring”
C wrote:- “Haha well my hubby moved my stuff into the maids’ room then, years later just upped and moved from rented home to a bedsit without consulting me. I’m now homeless”
F wrote:- “2 sons passed away within a year of each other, husband left me with nothing, I had a good corporate job, survived from month to month, but in the end, depression and finances got the better of me, so I am here for possibly good. So 3 countries I have paid my taxes to, and no one can look after me… (homeless I am). I do have another’s 2 sons, (same Dad)… so I am blessed…”
M responded:- “I feel for you. Can’t imagine it. I have been blessed with 2 healthy boys. Nearly lost my eldest in a bomb blast but he survived to run 3 Comrades Marathons and is now into body surfing. I can just thank the Lord”
R wrote:- “Always planned to be a gypsy once my 2 divine brats were old enough, now I’m living my dream of being a gypsy and following the sun. Lots of traveling in between working and home for summers where I once again open my office as a Kinesiologist.”
S wrote:- “Was married for 17 years, left my husband who was wealthy, but bipolar and a womanizer … long story short, I didn’t take a tenth of what I was due because he was so unpredictable but I was convinced he would look after his two children’s educational needs (he didn’t!) he then committed suicide within 3 years after losing all his money and canceling all policies … I came to the UK to pay for my daughters tertiary education, both kids have done well, and are happy, they’re 23 and 26 now and I love the UK, almost 5 years later I think I’ll stay here forever .. I see them at least once a year, but that’s my only gripe, he managed to separate the three of us.. but we survived thanks to my ancestral connections with this country! I have my moments of being angry but I really do understand that he wasn’t well…I also believe we are always exactly where we are supposed to be at any given moment…this is my path with my own life lessons.
O wrote:- “Had a business for 26 years but the stress was killing me, I still have a bond to pay so had to look for work elsewhere and through a very loving and kind friend I came to do caring. I am grateful to God every day that I have a job. I owned a Florist, but after all those years and staff problems mainly driver, wrote off two cars in a few months I had enough of all the stress. Then a friend of mine was doing caring I just decided to jump head and feet into it. I’m into my second year and haven’t looked back”
J wrote:- “I was living in Cape Town and my boss was transferred to Oman so I was made redundant. A friend was doing caring so rented out flat in Cape Town and came over. I am originally from Sandton. Living here now permanently and rent a flat in Surbiton. My sister lives in Brysnston.”
J wrote:- “I too left NZ to work in the UK caring mainly due to my eldest daughter alienating and estranging me on and off from her life and my grandchildren’s lives after me being their mainstay for many years. I went home every year to try again (just wanting some contact) but eventually was denied any access or contact once they moved into a house on my ex’s farm. After my 4th visit to the UK for a year, I eventually came back to NZ as my second daughter was having another child and is much nicer to be around. Although finances are hard here doing community elderly care work, I am reasonably happy and settled under the circumstances but it’s nice to know I can go back to the UK to live and work anytime I like.here is not much money in community care work in NZ. Very hard to make a living especially if you are on your own. There is very little live-in care work as small population and not a lot of wealthy elderly. Also, care homes are the usual choice when needed, especially if no live-in family. Both kiwi and SA carers all over UK. At least we’re making the world our oyster, it certainly has given me some confidence to have another string to my bow
J wrote: – “I did caring in rest homes in NZ for yonks. I worked 18 years in one home ( Maranatha Liz Olsen) and after returning from my first trip to the UK worked in another that was mainly hospital level care. Caregivers have always been at the bottom of the heap re wages but as from July, there are going to be some significant pay rises which is fantastic. Live in care is very rare in NZ. I have a private live-in job at the moment and am very well paid so can’t quite believe it . Especially as it’s 7 days a fortnight so half of each week I’m in my own home. Some of the stories I’ve read on this post are just so sad. I admire these ladies who pick themselves up and carry on. I was widowed at 48 but have 4 awesome kids and 4 grandchildren.
Finding out at age 50 my grandmother was born in Scotland was the best thing, I’d never been able to afford to travel so being eligible for an ancestry visa was amazing. I’m now on my 2nd one. Caring in England certainly has its highs and lows particularly the good old British class system but I’m thankful for the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met.”
D wrote: – “My husband passed away 17months ago. We sold our house and never had much money over. He was ill and living in Joburg, white and 60 something could not find work!…
He succumbed to a stroke in Sept 2015 and died in the December….I miss him, 32yrs of am a wonderful marriage.
I am now rebuilding my finances to buy a little cottage of my own!”I miss him, he was my light. My daughter was here for 2 weeks and we scattered some of his ashes in Cornwall….a place he always wanted to go.
It doesn’t matter how long you are married, always hard. He is looking down and protecting me, and guiding me! Bless you!”
J wrote: – “My husband had Alzheimer’s for 11 years, I took care of him until he had to go into a care home. Had to find a job to pay for the care home so starting caring. He was only in the home for 3 weeks when he died, carried on caring as I still had to pay the mortgage. 6 Years later and I’m still caring. Time to retire methinks….but where???”
M wrote:- “Gosh just reading all your stories makes me realize that I am not the only one with problems and I need to stop feeling sorry for myself. I lost my husband of 33 years 3 years ago. My son aged 32 committed suicide 5 years ago and I too have a daughter who will have nothing to do with me. She has a little boy who is 2 now and I have never met him. Fortunately, I have one daughter who loves me and she has the most beautiful little boy who will be 4 this year. I am blessed that her home is my home so return to SA every 6 months or so. I can truly thank God that he continues to guide me and walk with me on this journey called life.”
P wrote:- “First ex gay, 2nd ex bled me dry and affirmative action sent me on a one-way ticket to England. Damned hard work and have grown soo much. Still hurdles but I’m happy.”
D wrote:- “This is the saddest post to read for all the reasons you so painfully shared – yikes I feel for all of you and I am incredibly sad that such awful circumstances lead you to a job that’s more often than not thankless, brutal isolating and soul destroying ( can a person endure soooo much just to make ends meet )”
M wrote:- “I believe as we are “broken” we make the best carers, I’m caring cos I can pour my heart n soul into my job “
J wrote:- “Although it took family troubles to send me packing to the UK, I already loved care work and was a diversion therapist for the elderly and loved the UK, it is my home away from home and the idea of doing live-In care for the elderly whilst exploring new sights was intriguing as well as scary”
P wrote:- “Caring is a natural gift for most of us and feel it goes without saying. I cared for both parents when palliative and a very dear friend who suffered years and has now passed.”
S wrote:- “I agree none of us seem to have come caring because we’re Mother Teresa’s , but I also know we wouldn’t have come if we didn’t think we could do it all with compassion, I have loved this job at times and hated it at others.. it really depends on the client, I know we all try our hardest to be nice to most people… I love the client I’ve been with for over 3 years and I know I can go above and beyond the call of duty for her, but boy oh boy I have had a cow too, who I begrudged even making tea for, and learned quickly to get out of there fast … I’m not sure Caring is a job that is a calling for anyone but it’s oh so rewarding if you click with your client..”
L wrote:- “We may not always get into caring for the right reasons but once you start it can be beneficial for your wellbeing too” and posted this image…
T wrote:- “My fiance died 3 years ago back home in SA, went from having everything sorted to just knowing nothing. Have worked with people my whole life, am a psychologist and later worked as a life coach, did some more studying after he died. Literally spent a year in bed, when I finally left the house I couldn’t take how my friends looked at me and how awkward it all was. So had to make a decision on what to do, whether to reopen my practice, travel or do something else and chose traveling. When I first got here all I knew was that I wanted a break from people and decided a nice office job would be so much better….was the first time in my life I have ever been turned down for a job. Doing a Skype with one of my best friends she asked why I wasn’t working with people like I should be…and that’s what I started doing again… first au pairing, then working for a programme that worked with special needs children and young offenders and then someone suggested caring (at that point I hadn’t decided to stay here yet), and have loved it…but now the decision has been made to stay, I will start again with my psych practice next year, with exception of my one regular whom I will find a way to fit in.” … It is long and sad and beautiful and I miss him every day and I ache for him every day. He was the best thing that happened to me, the best part of me… and also the hardest and despite everything I love the story of us. I turned 35 last week, the age he was when he died – I have been dreading it the last few years, growing older than him but him dying has also made me live a much fuller, and bigger life, a life big enough for 2″
D added:- “Thinking of you ‘T’, you made a good decision..it is Not easy. No one can tell you how to grieve. Take as long as it takes. I take each day as it comes. Thank goodness I love geriatrics!”
M wrote:- “Golly. When I read these stories I realize just how blessed I am. I still have my husband of 53 years, both my son’s and my grandchildren. Also my brother and his family in Australia.
You girls are heroes.
We have a problem with FNB who have not paid us out for our property which is our pension but we are still waiting. Thanks to caring we have been able to save a bit. Just hope I can retire soon so hubby and I can be together permanently.
Strength to all of you.
L wrote:- “After splitting from an alcoholic partner but still living in the same house, I was unemployed and on a benefit because I was too old to get work. I wanted to travel and was unlikely to do that on a benefit. I took cleaning jobs to get money to come here so I could get away from a dead end situation and I now travel and I’ve met some lovely people here. Never looked back. I go back to NZ once a year to see family.”
J wrote:- “just couldn’t make it financially. My second husband died leaving me with two kids at school. I battled through till they were both old enough to leave then came over to pay for further studies. And of course to feed myself and them. Been here going on three years. But it is soon my time to travel and see the world. I just wish I could get them over here.”
J responded:- “Wow. Incredibly awesome and powerful stories here. So many strong, courageous people who just keep on trying despite the obstacles en route.”
C wrote:- “I am a widow. My husband was shot in a burglary at our house. I was a single mom for many years working as a medical technologist. Put my daughter through six years of university and saw my son open his own business. (Doing very well) I decided to come and do caring so that I could have a bit of adventure before I got old one day. (Sometimes caring is more of an adventure than I bargained for) I try to travel as much as I can in between jobs. I plan to semi retire next year and spend half the year in S.A. And half the year here maybe working a bit if I need to top up the finances.”
M wrote:- “Goodness Cheryl
This has been one of the most heartfelt posts ever
I’ve always been picturing the UK filling and emptying of all the carers like migrating swallows and seeing most of them from my own perspective.
At my initial training I realised there were girls who’d come over on borrowed money from friends and girls who were trying to fill the financial gap that either a dead marriage or sad SA had left them in – but hearing all the stories here has been heart-wrenching.
I kissed the British passport my wonderful Scottish father made possible and came haring over to have fun and earn £’s and take them home to add great dollops of jam to the bread and butter my hubby provides.
I felt like a squirrel and the nuts were in London waiting to be collected. He hates me leaving but it’s my way to thumb my nose at adding tax to the trough and we enjoy the reunions when I’m back.
And seeing as no one will make me manager in a bank no more and I can’t work “under” anyone I now have a client who calls me Ma’am … if not Mrs Thatcher.
I’d been a manager in a bank while my girls were growing up and my first marriage – and had gone from that to sudden total non-stop fun with my second of working in the Sabi Sands at private game reserves to an island in Mozambique just short of Tanzania and then the Canyon in Namibia working for Peggy Rockafella and then back to SA to watch BEE blooming E take hold
… and now seeing all the other reasons girls have is so sad.
I’ve got no properties or major investments or Retirement Annuities so my £’s and my Flexi Fixed deposits and my Money Market will tide me till the time of my choosing.
I decided a while ago that I’ll never be one of those old people who slowly and extendedly have a dragged out end and will rather say “Cheers and Thank You” as I spend my last bean.
Thanks again for the post …
G wrote:- “So many reasons why I’m here but mainly to get money to fix up my dearest late mum’s house and to try and save for my ‘old age’ Taking a step of faith and going to see a professional this week to help me deal with nightmares that are resurfacing regarding abuse from my father when I was a child, all kinds of abuse which have affected me through my life, it’s time to consolidate what I feel like is 4 different people (sometimes I struggle to remember who I am ) sounds crazy doesn’t it ☺ Fortunately I have been blessed with the ability to smile and no matter how hard this journey has been or is, I will smile and try and make someone happy with my disposition. Caring is definitely for the strong but oh how we learn and grow. So much respect for you all. For your pain, for your courage and your will to succeed on your very rocky paths. Much love from me to you and never forget to love yourself ☺ xx”
C wrote:- “20 years ago I wanted to travel a bit and couldn’t afford to do it on the rand. A friend was already funding just such adventures with live-in care here and as I had British ancestry, it was an opportunity too good to pass up. Live in care was supposed to just be a temporary part of my adventure, but it turned out to suit my character much better than I ever expected, and even when I took a break for 2 and half years to go back to an office environment, I missed the personal satisfaction I got from caring so much, I eventually went back to it. I absolutely adore my job (though I am very realistic about which placements work for me) and have had several long term clients I grew to love as my own family. The job was supposed to fund my adventures, but somewhere along the way, it became the adventure itself! It opened many different doors for me, amazing and inspiring clients with backgrounds very different from mine have expanded my horizons in ways I could never have imagined, and I have earned self respect through knowing what a practical difference I have been able to make to people on such a personal level. I honestly consider it one of the greatest privileges of my life to have been able to share such profound, deeply intimate friendships with my long term clients, to benefit from their lifetime of accumulated wisdom (not necessarily what they say, but just how they carry themselves through their final years), and to have been allowed to accompany them even through their very final moments. It feels to me as if they open the way for me through their example, showing me that there is nothing fearful or shameful about growing old and that life is there to be enjoyed right up to the very last moment! How could I not love them for that?”
S wrote:- Dear Cheryl
Many thanks for this opportunity to tell my story. The loss of my relationship with my eldest daughter, Julie is still painful and this might help me with that.
In 2012, when I turned 60, the company I had worked for as a secretary for nearly 20 years, required me to retire. It was a shock as I’d hoped to continue working for a few more years. In hindsight, it was a blessing.
I have 3 daughters. The eldest, Julie and her husband Pierre, lived not far from me in Johannesburg, with their 4 children. I had a close relationship with them and loved interacting with my grandchildren. Julie has always been headstrong and difficult! She decided to buy a new house with a cottage for me. When I retired, I rented out my own home and went to live, rent-free, in Julie’s cottage in return for helping her with her 4 small children. In hindsight…always an exact science, I should have used my head and not just followed my heart and the dream of living next door to my dear grandchildren! I spent a good bit of money on renovating the cottage and making it liveable as it had been the office for the original show house, now my daughter’s home. Moving in should have been a warning alarm bell as, when I arrived with the removal people, with all my belongings, we couldn’t gain entry into the estate as Julie and Pierre were out cycling, despite having clearly communicated my moving plans. We just had to sit and wait. Whilst I was overjoyed at being so close to my grandchildren, there were teething troubles and communication problems with Julie and Pierre. Julie and I had numerous disagreements and I was told to give notice to my tenant and go! The initial problems were more or less resolved but after just 4 months Julie came to my front door and handed me a written eviction notice, giving me one month to leave. I was devastated! I really had done my best to make it work. I had an agreement with my youngest daughter, Katie who lives on a farm in the Karoo, to go and help her with her first daughter when her second child was born. Julie has always had jealousy issues and the timing in her eviction letter effectively ruined my plans with Katie. However, I assured Katie that I would keep my word and look after Samantha who was 18 months old when her sister was born.
I packed up, put my things into storage and within only about a week of being evicted I drove to the farm where I stayed for 2 months.
Prior to all this, a friend had suggested I do caring. I’d replied that I’m not the caring sort! Then another friend suggested it and I thought I should at least give it a go. I wasn’t ready to retire. However, I was in a difficult position as my rent-free cottage came with the agreement that I helped Julie with her 4 children, aged from 1 to 8 years. I agonized and prayed about how to manage both caring in the UK and fulfilling my role to Julie. Therefore, when she threw me out, I was free!
After my 2 months on the farm in the Karoo, I returned to Johannesburg, garaged my car at a friend and flew to England. Fortunately, I have family in the UK, so I was warmly greeted and my sister opened her home to me, whenever I needed a room to stay.
I joined Consultus, did my training with them and went to my first assignment in July 2013 in Sevenoaks which became like home to me. I loved my first client and returned to her regularly. I felt very blessed to be able to work and earn. I hadn’t been there long before I decided to move to the UK permanently. With my job in SA coming to an end and my relationship with Julie and my grandchildren ended, there wasn’t much to keep me in SA.
I was very blessed to sell my townhouse in Johannesburg easily, quickly and for the right price. I was also very blessed to be able to use a friend’s new home, which she hadn’t yet moved into, to bring my things out of storage and sort them out so that I shipped only the bare essentials to England. Again my sister assisted me and stored my bed, chair and 10 boxes in her garage until I had earned and saved enough from caring to add to what I’d brought over from the sale of my place in SA, to buy my own home here in England. For months I dreamed of having shelves to put my clothes in!! It wasn’t easy living out of suitcases. Although I was blessed with always having a bed to sleep in at my sister’s home between assignments, it wasn’t always the same bed and I kept my clothes in my cases.
I worked hard and loved caring. I’d always wanted to “make a difference”. That’s not to say that I didn’t have trying times and one nightmare client as I’m sure most carers have experienced.
I was again extremely blessed to eventually be in a position to buy my own home in the UK. I moved in November 2014, just in time for my birthday!
Once I had my own home, I just wanted to be there and sleep in my own bed. I became less and less keen to pack my case and sleep in other people’s homes. Again fortune favoured me and in September 2016 I secured a job caring in a local rest home, just a 30-minute walk from where I live. Now I am blessed to be able to enjoy my own home and sleep in my own bed.
Unfortunately, even after 4 long years, my daughter Julie still won’t have anything to do with me and on my last visit to SA she refused to allow me to see my grandchildren.
I still belong to various carer groups on Facebook and I draw much love, friendship and support from them.
Thank you for allowing me to tell my story.
R wrote:- “Hi there, I am currently in Montenegro, it’s been amazing, so much beauty in such a small country, also so much history. Tomorrow I fly to Turkey for a month. Turkey is where my soul lives, its where I am happiest. This time is going to be very special as I’m treating my best friend to a holiday in Turkey and will be introducing her to all my favorite places. She takes on the role of surrogate Mom while I am away and without her being such an amazing support system I would find it much harder to live my dream.
I’ve been divorced 4 times, my brats have nothing to do with their dads, am very blessed to be exceptionally close to both of them. I am loving the flexibility and freedom that Caring gives me. Also, like the challenge it can be. I have always tended to live in the moment and this lifestyle enhances that way of being. I just trust the Universe will keep providing for me.
Love your idea of capturing people’s stories,
(I just love this pic which accompanied the email, thank you for giving me the permission to share it here ‘R’)
My response to all these wonderful ladies is well done, you have risen to so many challenges, got up, dusted yourself off and have been incredibly brave and strong. Even though I am sure there are times when you don’t feel so strong. I admire you all. I am sure so many of you have had to work through some very painful emotions, some angry ones too, I have no doubt. You have done this all (and probably still are) while putting on such a happy face for your client. Well done! Every carer has this will to rise above devastating losses and disappointments and come out smiling. They say anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. Often so much easier said than done. It is amazing how one’s life can change in a split second, the lesson here, of course, is that no matter what happens, life does go on, no matter how difficult your set of circumstances. You are all amazing! Thank you for sharing.