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Jessica’s story: "My Admiral Nurse Liz was the first person I opened up to"

Jessica shares her story of how becoming a carer to her nan impacted her mental health and how Admiral Nurse Liz helped her.

Jessica and her Nan

Jessica and her Nan

My nan was such a character; the life and soul of the party. She was always laughing and joking – I don’t think she ever wanted to grow up. Nan was so mischievous, and you could always hear her before you could see her. She was my best friend.

I noticed subtle changes in Nan around six years ago. She loved cooking but started to forget to turn the oven on. I didn’t think it was a big deal at first but then it became more frequent and dangerous, like forgetting to switch the gas off.

Nan experienced health anxiety and went to the doctor a lot so the GP knew her very well and also noticed her symptoms. She was referred to the memory clinic and diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease around six years ago.

I felt alone

As Nan’s dementia progressed, she needed 24/7 care. I’ve always been really close to Nan, so I moved in to care for her along with my dad, who also played a vital role in her care. It was like looking after a child. Nan would hallucinate and try to leave the house as she didn’t feel like she was at home. She would often scream and cry in the middle of the night.

Jessica and her Nan

I felt like I should have been able to cope as I am a mental health nurse, but I was overwhelmed. I was looking after people all day at work and then it would start all over again when I got home. I felt alone and other parts of my life took a back seat. I bought a house with my partner that I couldn’t move into, and I wasn’t able to prioritise our relationship. I lost contact with most of my friends because I couldn’t commit to making plans and my career was at a standstill.

Admiral Nurse Liz was the first person I opened up to

My community matron put me in touch with Liz, a dementia specialist Admiral Nurse, and I finally felt like I wasn’t on my own. Nan loved Liz and her face would light up when she arrived. But Liz was mostly there for me, which I didn’t expect.

It never felt like Liz was there to do a job. She slotted into our family and was a listening ear. Liz was the first and only person I opened up to. It took a while to let my walls down but when I did it all flooded out. Liz knew that I wanted to care for Nan at home, and she made me feel like that was possible. She was like my angel wings.

Liz went above and beyond

Liz came to Nan’s funeral, and she met me at the house beforehand. I was so anxious and had a panic attack. My legs buckled and she grabbed hold of me to keep me steady. I was shaking and she did some breathing exercises with me to calm me down. She made me feel like I could face the day.

Even as I was walking in bearing Nan’s coffin, she caught my eye and whispered, “You’ve got this.” She kept locking eyes with me throughout the day to reassure me. Liz even put her hand on my shoulder when we lowered Nan into the ground. I wouldn’t have got through it without her. It’s things like that that I’ll never forget – she truly went above and beyond.

Even since Nan passed away, Liz has still been there for me. Liz messaged me to wish me luck for my first day back at work. On the drive there, I had another anxious moment in the car and pulled over to message her. She called me and I spoke to her for over an hour. What Liz did for me will stay with me forever. She was everything I needed at that time to help me get through it. I’ll be forever grateful.