Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Woman who began support group for carers honoured

A WOMAN who founded a support group for carers in Goring has won an award.

A WOMAN who founded a support group for carers in Goring has won an award.

Christine Tucker, of Station Road, Goring, set up the group in 2011 after more than a decade of looking after her husband Geoffrey, who died last year, aged 91.

She realised from talking to friends in a similar situation that they could exchange useful advice and support each other.

The group meets monthly at the village’s community centre and welcomes speakers from care charities and organisations across Oxfordshire. It also puts pressure on councils and care providers to improve their services for carers.

Mrs Tucker, 78, has now been presented with an Age UK Oxfordshire Dignity Award after being nominated by two villagers anonymously.

The pair said: “Christine is widely respected and admired for her exceptional dedication and the selfless care she gave her ailing husband.

“She offers valuable support to other carers and is an effective spokesperson on their behalf.

“Christine is known for her warmth, openness and good humour and always has time to listen, to encourage and to offer practical advice. She is outstanding among carers.” The Tuckers moved to Goring from London when they retired in the early Nineties. Mrs Tucker had been a primary school teacher while her husband was a dental surgeon.

Mr Tucker suffered the first of several strokes in about 1995 and his health continued to deteriorate. He also developed arteriosclerosis, a hardening of the blood vessels, and vascular dementia.

By about 2005 he was heavily dependent on his wife and a team of professional carers who visited twice a day. He needed a wheelchair to get around and had to be lifted in a manual hoist. He also ceased to recognise his surroundings and even his own loved ones.

Mrs Tucker started the group after chatting with four other carers at a coffee morning she organised.

She said: “We were discussing our various problems and realised each of us knew something that the others didn’t. By sharing information we had a better idea of the services and equipment that were available to people in our position.

“Help is often available but it isn’t very well-promoted and carers have to speak to lots of health and local authority departments which don’t necessarily communicate with one another. There’s not much of a joined-up approach and many carers just give up because they can’t get the support they need. Their loved ones then have to go into residential care even though it’s far better for them to be looked after at home. It’s a great pity.

“We realised there was a need for help in navigating the maze of services that exist. I was generally lucky in the support I received for Geoffrey and was able to care for him right up until his death but that’s not true for everybody — there are areas of support that are very patchy indeed.

“Our group explains all sorts of things you need to understand as a carer, but which nobody normally tells you about. For example, our speaker this month is going to be discussing the power of attorney.”

The group regularly liaises with the Goring Medical Practice and has helped GPs and nurses to understand the challenges carers face. The surgery has now produced an information leaflet for people who are new to caring.

Mrs Tucker is a member of the surgery’s patient participation group and regularly speaks out about carers’ problems.

She recently wrote to David Cameron calling for closer working between medical services and councils’ adult social care departments. She said: “The practice has been very good about it, which is important because Goring has a large elderly population and the problem isn’t going to just disappear. We need to be willing to fight for carers’ rights.

“A lot of people don’t think of themselves as ‘carers’ — they think it’s just what you have to do out of duty but they don’t always realise how much help is available.

“When you suddenly become a carer, you’re thrust into a position for which you have no training. Your doctor can help to a point but they don’t always know everything.

“I didn’t initially know about all the grants that were available but when I did I was able to get some additional care and take time off for respite, which is really important. You need to feel like you’ve still got a normal life.”

Mrs Tucker said she was amazed to learn she had won the award.

She said: “I was very humbled because the group is very much a team effort — it’s not just about me.

“I find myself getting quite cross when I see the difficulties people face over things that should be easy to understand. I will continue to get mad about this and intend to fight on.”

The next carers’ group meeting takes place at the community centre in Station Road on April 21 at 11am. All are welcome.

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