Kate Garraway has converted her house to look after Derek Draper at home (Picture:ITV)
Kate Garraway’s documentary, Finding Derek, gave viewers an insight into her husband Derek Draper’s year-long battle with coronavirus and the resulting complications he has suffered as a result of being so ill.
In it, viewers saw Kate remodel her home to be able to look after Derek once he is eventually released from hospital – something which may not even happen until December 2021 – and take on the role of primary carer for her husband herself.
While it has been harrowing for Kate and her family to be separated from Derek for such a long time, with the ongoing pandemic meaning even visitation has often been banned for months, caring for him at home will also be a colossal new challenge to come.
Watching Kate surrounded by standing aids and specialist hospital beds in her home brought back vivid memories of my own experiences of suddenly being thrust into the role of a carer unexpectedly – and just how unprepared me and my family were for how difficult the journey would be.
Although not the same condition, mine and my parents’ lives were turned upside down in 2017 when my grandmother suffered a massive stroke that took her from living independently to not being able to communicate or do anything for herself quite literally overnight.
After six months in hospital and visits to look around 15 nursing homes in our local area, we made the decision to look after her in her home ourselves, to give her the chance to continue her recovery in her own surroundings and with her loved ones around her.
Derek may need to remain in hospital until December, after which Kate is planning to be his primary carer (Picture: ITV)
As Kate will be, we were given a crash course in using all the specialist equipment we now needed, from electric hoists to get her in out of bed, to manual handling and how to change the bedsheets while a patient is in bed, as well as setting up the machine to pump food into her feeding tube, something Derek was also using at the end of last year.
At long last, the time came to bring her home, and after a long and tiring journey in a patient transfer vehicle, we all shed tears of joy to see my grandmother laughing once she recognised her newly converted living room and knew she was finally home.
This memory is one we will all treasure and knowing that – much like Kate is hoping to do for Derek – we managed to bring her back to her home after so long in hospital made all the difficulties that were to come, worthwhile.
Similarly to Kate getting glimpses of Derek’s lucidity in between the ‘dead-eyed’ gaze that has her wondering how much he understands, it’s the moments when the ‘old’ them shines through for a few seconds that keep you going.
While the daily care seemed straightforward enough, there is no way to explain the mental and physical toll looking after someone who is so gravely ill will take on you – and that was with three of us sharing the care and without a pandemic meaning getting help is even harder.
Between my mum, dad and myself, we rotated around the clock to make sure all the day-to-day things were done as well as responding quickly in case of an emergency, which can happen at any moment when someone is so severely affected.
Kate mentioned in the documentary that she is considering leaving work when the time comes to be a carer, but to take on such a mammoth task pretty much single-handedly is going to be one of the hardest things she ever does.
Even with all the mechanical aids, helping to move and support a patient that has mobility problems can be very tough physically if they are unable to bear their own weight, which was something we found out very quickly.
Taking on the care of someone so ill is a task nobody can prepare you for (Picture: Rex Features)
As well as the physical side of it, there is also the constant worry of missing some vital sign of illness or deterioration without a constant team of doctors and nurses on hand to spot when something may go wrong.
While we knew our time looking after my nan was numbered as she was 91 and the effects of the stroke were so severe, Derek is still only 53 years old, so Kate’s caring responsibilities could stretch for many years depending on whether he is able to make enough of a recovery to live a semi-independent life once again – something doctors have warned may not happen at all.
Kate’s dedication to helping Derek recover at home is something that will bring her and her family a lot of special moments and joy when they are finally reunited, but there is nothing that can prepare you for making that transition and how vital it will be for her to have help and some respite, too.
Looking after a loved one is immensely rewarding but taking on the care of someone so seriously ill is also all-consuming and exhausting – but always worthwhile.
Credit: Original article published here.