Pensioner Cyril Parsons is urging other carers to use brain injury charity Headway, saying it has given him vital respite for more than 25 years after his wife was injured in a devastating accident.
When Cyril's wife Joyce Parsons was knocked over crossing the road in Aylesbury in 1991, life changed forever them both.
Joyce, previously a fit and active psychotherapist, survived after a lengthy spell in intensive care - but was left with a brain injury which ruined her short-term memory.
It meant she had to rely heavily, on a day-to-day basis, on Cyril, then a busy accountant, who is now her full-time carer.
The task of looking after his wife could have become a huge strain on Cyril, but crucially, he says, he was soon introduced to the services of Headway, a charity that helps survivors of acquired brain injury (ABI).
And Cyril, now 82, says that Headway Aylesbury Vale has made a massive difference to him by offering regular respite care. This safeguards his own health and well-being, making him better-equipped to look after Joyce, now 78.
“When she came out of hospital, the problem with short-term memory was immediately apparent – she was asking the same question several times,” he said. “Her mother died suddenly while Joyce was in intensive care – but it took months for the news to sink in because of her memory problems.
“Over the next three years, Joyce slowly improved but not well enough to continue working. For the next ten to 15 years, she was able to make a reasonable stab of household things and drive short distances, but she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t as sharp and her ability to do things, such as the craft work she loved, was much more limited.”
Joyce’s condition has deteriorated in the last 18 months, after she developed vascular dementia. But her twice-weekly visits to Headway in Wedgewood Street, Fairford Leys, remain an invaluable help for Cyril.
“Headway has provided a lot of support for both of us,” he said. “She enjoys the activities there, but it also means that I can leave her for two mornings a week without having to worry. Many years ago, I was advised not to get into the trap of being a full-time carer to the exclusion of everything else, and this is really important because it means I can do my own thing. I am convinced it has helped me maintain my own health.”
Cyril spoke out after national Carers Week in June because he wants to appeal to other people to use Headway where appropriate.
“Many people in a similar position to me may think they do not want to be a burden, so they go on caring for their loved one alone,” he said. “However, this could ultimately really harm their own health and make them less able to care in the long run. I would urge anyone caring for a survivor of ABI to at least look at what the services a group such as Headway can offer.”
Cyril, who lives with Joyce in the Aylesbury Vale area, is so grateful to Headway that he is a trustee of the charity and acts as treasurer.
“It’s such a relief for me that Headway is here. Just talking to other people in a similar position is really helpful because it shows you are not alone.” he said.
To find out more about Headway Aylesbury Vale, contact Karen on 01296 415469 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: http://www.headwayaylesburyvale.org/