Natalie Purdham (38) is a wife, mother of four and long term carer for her husband, Peter (46). She’s just one of the 650,000 people in Scotland with a caring role, a number that equates to approximately one in eight of the country’s population.
Natalie, from Kirkcaldy, said, “My husband has a range of medical conditions but the main one is Neurosystems Functional Disorder; a condition where the body mimics the effects of strokes and Parkinson’s disease. Peter’s left hand side is weak and he suffers from shaking, confusion and loss of memory.”
Five years ago Peter had to give up his job. Natalie said, “Soon after that it all came to a head. I was working as a waitress and soon had to give up my job too as I felt that Peter was becoming a danger to himself and the kids. I would come home from work to find the cooker or deep fat fryer still on and once Peter was lying on the floor after a fall.”
Natalie has been full time carer to Peter ever since then, sometimes a round the clock job. She said,“Peter is Type 1 diabetic and sometimes takes hypos during the night so before I go to sleep I make sure everything is ready, the needle, a sandwich and a glass of milk. Often he has to go to the toilet afterwards and then I make sure he is settled. I always take ages to get off to sleep afterwards.”
Things have also taken their toll mentally on the couple. Natalie said, “Peter has suffered depression over the years and I have also been severely depressed. About four years ago I was seeing a psychologist to help me cope and she told me about Fife Carers. It couldn’t have come at a better time as we were really beginning to struggle financially. All of us were living on £40 a week at the time. My kids were surviving on beans on toast and my next door neighbour was dropping in bread for us. I had been struggling for months to sort benefits out and Fife carers sorted us out within two days.”
Princess Royal Trust Fife Carers Centre received £472,731 in 2011 from Investing in Communities to support adult carers across the region improve their coping skills and family relationships. It’s just one of the 59 projects, totalling almost £20m, that the Big Lottery Fund has supported since 2006.
Natalie said, “My kids go to Fife Young Carers now and it’s made a huge difference to them as they have all grown up helping to look after their dad. They’ve all had a hard time at school because of it and have been bullied because they are carers. “
If he is well enough Peter goes to a day centre three days each week. Natalie said, “I drop him off about half past nine and pick him up around 2pm. Then I can catch up on the housework and all the other stuff that I never get to do when I am watching him.”
Natalie doesn’t know where she would be without the help she has received. She said, “From day one to now, if I am having a really bad day I can walk into Fife Carers, burst into tears and let it all out. They just drop everything to listen to me and, after I compose myself, they’ll just ask what they can do to help. I would have cracked up by now if it wasn’t for them.”