Respite care needs a helping hand

Expert care at Leuchie House. Picture: Contributed
Expert care at Leuchie House. Picture: Contributed
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LEUCHIE House survives on donations, so give generously, urges Catriona Munro.

I have volunteered to feature in this year’s Christmas appeal to find stars for Leuchie House because I want people to know the positive effect Leuchie’s unique approach to respite care has had on the lives of me and my husband Donald since he suffered a severe stroke three years ago.

The impact on our daily routines has changed beyond all recognition and I now find I have become one of over 600,000 carers in Scotland. I do not resent looking after Donald, but I am now in the position of knowing first-hand how stressful the physical and emotional demands on this role can be – but more importantly, how lonely.

Which is why Leuchie House means so much to us – and why I want other people to think about giving a gift to it this Christmas. As a charity, it relies on donations to keep going and it needs to keep going so that people like me and Donald can keep going too.

Leuchie provides respite breaks for people with a range of long-term conditions as well as stroke, including multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease and cerebral palsy. It also provides a day respite service and, living nearby, we are fortunate that Donald can go each week for day respite, meaning that I have a day to myself.

The simplest chores have now become huge tasks. Hobbies and holidays we shared together are a thing of the past and plans for the future are very limited. Following medical advice, I continued working to keep some “normality” in my life. I reduced my hours but eventually the strain proved detrimental to my own health and I gave up work. Should I become ill, Donald would be placed in a nursing home and I can’t allow this to happen.

There are many days (and nights) when I become overwhelmed with the sole responsibility of caring, making all the decisions and finding the strength to get through another day.

I cannot envisage life without Leuchie. “Me” time is a luxury and I fully appreciate every minute of this precious time. I am comforted in the knowledge that Donald is relaxed and happy in Leuchie’s environment. Although it saddens me to have a holiday or visit family without Donald, I have come to accept that without respite breaks I could not continue to give Donald the quality of time and attention he needs. I can relax when Donald’s there, knowing he’s in good hands with 24-hour expert nursing care. That’s what is truly special about Leuchie – knowing Donald is being cared for by very special people. His personal and medical needs are looked after, while he is able to enjoy the social interaction of other guests, great home-cooked meals, trips, activities and therapies.

The care team, the volunteers and the office staff are all stars and if my experience can persuade anyone to become a Leuchie star by donating to the Christmas appeal, I will be happy.

The vital care provided means raising £73 every hour. When people are buying Christmas presents, maybe they can think about adding Leuchie House to their list.

People like me, looking after a partner with a long-term condition, are not asking for any extra help. All we want is to get on with our lives as best we can. It is imperative that we get a break, safe in the knowledge that our partner is being well cared for in a safe and stimulating environment.

It’s a privilege to be able to care for someone you love, but it is also exhausting and can also be incredibly isolating. The team at Leuchie know this better than anyone and do all they can to help, but they desperately need funds to continue to offer this level of care.

If anyone is able to donate and become a star during this festive season, please go to www.leuchiehouse.org.uk

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• More information on becoming a Friend of The Scotsman