Real life stories
How becoming my wife’s carer impacted me financially and mentally
Paul had been married to his wife, Julie, for five years when she received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. He explains how becoming his wife’s carer has impacted their lives.
Benefit support was not available
I took early retirement to take better care of Julie. We initially explored applying for Employment Support Allowance to help our finances, but it was clear to all involved that she was too ill to work. My savings and pension meant that, even if she was well enough, our financial situation would put us £40 over the threshold for help.
I also explored trying to get Carer’s Allowance, but upon researching it I was again advised that our finances put us just beyond receiving further income.
Using my savings and pension to support us
My savings have since been used up, and we rely almost entirely on my pension to continue supporting us. It’s meant that we’re often living hand to mouth each month, and while we save where we can, we can rarely keep up with the expenses of day to day living.
We supplement our income by taking on student lodgers in the spare room, but this isn’t always easy as Julie can enter a depressive spell at any moment. Her last episode lasted for 12 weeks, in which she rarely left her room.
Her biggest worry is that I should die first. It would mean that my pension is halved, and she would not be able to support herself. This is particularly stressful for her.
Isolation as a carer
I find the isolation of care very difficult sometimes. I don’t know where I am some days. The last time Julie was ill, it was clear that she needed medical help, but it’s so difficult as a carer to access help on someone else’s behalf. It took us six weeks to get support from a psychiatrist. Until that point it had all been on me.
The local Rethink Mental Illness carer support group has been invaluable in allowing us to share our experiences with people in similar circumstances. It’s allowed us both to maintain a feeling of self-worth, something that can be difficult when you live with a serious mental illness.
It’s not all bad though. We treasure the time that we have together. We’re keen cyclists and have recently learnt to ride tandem.
If you’re a carer like Paul visit our carer section to see what financial help you may be entitled to.