“I’m not sure I’d be here today if it wasn’t for Jayne’s help. Although she says I did all the hard work myself – she’s helped me more than she’ll ever know.”

Emma has been through a lot in the last few years. After her mum, Sue, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease aged 70, Emma took on the role of caring for her.

Emma explains: “Caring for mum has been a massive challenge at times. I’d find myself snapping and getting frustrated with her, even though it wasn’t her fault. Then I’d feel guilty about my own behaviour.

“For years it felt like I was getting by on pure adrenaline. You don’t have time to think about yourself and, looking back now, I can see why things ended up getting so bad.

“Seeing mum deteriorate to the point she didn’t recognise us was heart-breaking. The essence of my mum has gone now and that’s been hard to deal with for me and my family. Things really came to a head after mum was sectioned for her own safety. I felt incredibly guilty and overwhelmed by everything and slipped into a period of chronic depression. I was suicidal.”

Emma was referred into Carers Trust South East Wales counselling service from social services. The counselling service offers free support to carers of people with late-life dementia living in the Vale of Glamorgan. Emma started weekly counselling sessions with Jayne Hill, a specialist councillor with many years’ experience of helping carers.

“It was a relief to simply offload at first, to talk to someone. Jayne is a great listener. Slowly, she began to ask me questions. She knew I would be able to figure things out myself and that’s what I did, eventually, but without that support I’m not sure I’d be here today.

“Jayne taught me to grieve for mum as even though she hasn’t died, who she was has gone. I want to remember her as she was and what she was like.

“I have much better self-awareness now. I can manage any potential episodes early on and I’m better equipped to do so thanks to Jayne. I have techniques to deal with my feelings and emotions. I’ve kept my notes from our counselling sessions and can refer back to them if I need to.

“But the big thing is I’m signed off now! I no longer see Jayne. Mum is in a safe place and she’s happy there. I visit all the time and although she doesn’t recognise me, we still connect in a different way. I think she feels comfort on hearing my voice.”

Fundraising

“After the help I had from Jayne at Carers Trust South East Wales I knew I wanted to support the charity and the work they are doing to support carers in the local area.

“I decided to do the three peaks challenge in 2018 – Snowdon, Cadair Idris and Pen Y Fan. I was able to convince my husband, David, and my daughter, Sian, to do it with me! It meant a lot for us to do it together as a family, especially after all we’d been through with mum.

“We actually started the challenge on a Thursday night – finish work and climb up Snowdon! We finished on the Sunday at Pen Y Fan. It was amazing talking to people while we were doing the challenge as everyone knows someone who’s a carer. We were even given donations on the way up and down the peaks as we told people our story and about the work of Carers Trust South East Wales.  

“I run a school uniform shop in the Vale that’s going from strength-to-strength. We opened in 2005 and have grown significantly since then. In 2018 we made Carers Trust South East Wales our charity of the year.

“In the end we raised over £1,800 for Carers Trust South East Wales in 2018. It’s been especially good to know the funds we raised have gone directly towards supporting carers in the Vale of Glamorgan. The money has gone towards some brilliant things – a new recliner chair for people at the St Johns Day Centre in Barry and the refurbishment of a much-loved garden space for carers. I’m really happy to see the difference my fundraising has made for local people!”

David, Sian and Emma celebrate reaching the top of Pen Y Fan mountain in south Wales.