The Struggles and Joy as a Carer

We started Katharina’s story in Part One and here we are catching up with her to capture her positive approach to life. She tells us of her joy as a carer.

You may recall, Katharina and her son Jan, are the first international carer family to visit Kingham Cottage. We are proud to continue her story.

What are your struggles and your joy as a carer?

I am around people all day long. I work as a teacher at a “Gymnasium”, e.g. students aged 11-17. I am constantly approached and need to focus on a lot of different tasks and different people all day long. When at home I want to be present for my family and their multiple demands and try to give them my full attention. I actually tell myself, ‘My day starts now’, before I open the door in order to avoid getting into the ‘Feierabend’ (end of working day), winding down mentality when really the most demanding part is just about to start.

My main struggle is that my Mum is completely non-verbal. She can’t even say yes or no or perform the appropriate head movements when she is agitated and trying to tell me something. Of course, this is in between cooking and spending some time with my kids. You can imagine it is extremely frustrating and also disruptive. Even using cards with symbols and a book can take 20-30 minutes to figure out what is wrong. And then the routine has gone.

Struggles and joys as a carer

My joy is to still have my Mum around to tell you the truth.

My Dad passed away with cancer almost eight years ago and my brother lives in Switzerland, so she is my only family and I love her a lot. She gives me joy as a carer.

I appreciate the inherent beauty of life and the joy of simply being alive. This might stem from seeing every day as a gift. But it is also a result of having been a carer for many years. Carers know that life can change in the blink of an eye and I guess many of us therefore really appreciate every moment of it.

Mattis was prognosed not to walk and wasn’t able to breathe on his own when he was born. Like many parents with special needs kids, I have spent enough time in hospitals to know not to take any ability for granted. Getting up in the mornings, walking, to see and to hear. I am known as the Queen of Gratitude and the kids in school often comment on my positive approach. It’s probably because I joke around a lot – especially before grammar lessons because that makes it easier for the lessons to stick. S0 far, my students have not made the connection, I hope!

To be in the moment

Being a carer has definitely shaped my ability to be in the moment – to focus on who and what is right in front of me. That said, having to manage my Mum’s life on top of my own – with all the bills and paperwork and health insurance communication really sucks. There is little joy to be had in those moments. There is only so much a scented candle and a nice cuppa can do, right?!

The stay at After Umbrage has meant the world to me. It was a joy as a carer.

To have quiet and peace of mind. To enjoy the silence inside the cottage and the beautiful countryside, especially. To slow down. To have time for self-care in the form of a cream tea. To breath. To unwind enough to be able to fall asleep. It was so good really. Truly magnificent. I also really appreciated the care Tara and the team have put into every detail. Every water tap, every door handle. It all made me very calm and happy.

The fireplace! Beyond great. A dream come true.

For women, in the midst of raising a family, it is often still our mothers who take care of us. Telling us to rest, inviting us for a meal, or making us a cup of tea. I don’t want to deny that there are many spouses and friends out there who are also doing a great job at supporting their partners and friends. But from my experience, we are all very caught up with the multiple tasks of the everyday.

The lives of carers are particularly in need. The support system is busy enough helping with some chores of the carer as they devote so much of their time caring for their loved one. My eldest son, Jan, watches his siblings whenever I am at my Mum’s or does the shopping. My children’s Godmother, Bee, is amazing too. She looked after Mattis and Dan while we were at After Umbrage.  (I would have loved to bring her.)

That After Umbrage provides the cottage for the carers AND their family and friends is really thoughtful and shows that Tara really knows what it is like to be a carer.

In my case, it is unheard of for someone to offer me a break. At school, I am super grateful to the kitchen team for providing me with a meal I didn’t need to cook myself. I tell the lady in the school canteen every day. So, it is hard to find words for the gratitude I feel towards Tara and the sponsors of After Umbrage. I will try though.

I felt seen and appreciated in my role as a carer.

I felt that Tara understands what my life is like when it comes to caring. By offering the cottage and immediate and lovely help when it came to the little things – like figuring out the gas appliances. Cath even popped over to show me in person! I felt indeed very well cared for.

I really think After Umbrage is the best charity ever.

Yes, it is extremely important to spend money on research and the money I donate goes to the British organisation for rare chromosome disorders “Unique” who are doing truly amazing work and its German counterpart Leonida e.V. These – and many more – are all important causes. But carers give constantly to others, are often so exhausted, stuck in bleak hospitals and hospices, or just faced with the same sad situations day after day while trying to cheer up the person they care for. To give to them is a true act of kindness.

Being a teacher and a single mum translates into limited resources but I definitely want to support After Umbrage at some point in my life. Ideally, with a paid stay knowing the proceeds all go to the charity 😊. It is a really brilliant concept and makes a true difference! I felt so much better after only three nights, despite the journey. Everyone I talked to so far has agreed and greatly admires Tara and the team. Thank you. It is very much appreciated!

The After Umbrage Team thanks Katharine for her open account of life as a carer and her generous words of appreciation. It’s been a pleasure hearing your story.