When there’s been a bereavement in the family and you also have caring responsibilities, it’s a lot to manage and can feel very tough at any age.

With today being the start of national Carers Week (7 – 13 June), we’re sharing 19-year-old Aaron’s story to raise awareness of caring and highlight some of the challenges carers face, as well as the important difference a friendly, listening ear can make during a really difficult time.

City College accountancy student Aaron was close to his grandfather Brian, who was looked after at home by our community team before sadly, he died last year. While living with such a sad loss, Aaron and his mum, Sarah, are also sharing the care of Aaron’s grandmother, Jill, who lives close to them in Eggbuckland.

Aaron said: “My grandad was an upbeat person and always busy, and it was very hard seeing his health suddenly decline within a short space of time. We all miss him so much, but it does comfort us that he got his wish of being at home when he died because St Luke’s were able to come in and look after him there.

“It’s been particularly tough on my gran because they were married for over 60 years and now she lives by herself. I know she looks forward to the visits she gets from mum and me, and because her health isn’t good – which affects her mobility – we share the responsibility of looking after her. It’s a bit of everything really, from shopping to fixing things around the house. It’s getting harder for my mum though because she herself has arthritis and finds it difficult to move, so I’ve been taking on more.

“We manage as well as we can but it can feel stressful, particularly when I need to study for my exams, and sometimes it’s hard not having any siblings to share the responsibilities with. It can feel quite isolating. I find that what helps is the bereavement support I’m getting from St Luke’s. Due to the pandemic, this has been over the phone and it’s been reassuring to know I can talk about how I’m feeling to someone who understands.

“I also like making art – in fact, it’s a bit of a stress-reliever for me. What’s nice, too, is that my gran used to be arty so she takes a real interest in what I do. Although she’s too shaky to draw now, she’s always keen to see my latest work and that really means a lot to me.”

The theme for this year’s Carers Week is making caring more visible and valued, highlighting the vital role carers play in our communities and draw attention to just how important caring is. To find out more, click here.

If you are a carer for someone who is a patient of St Luke’s, our team is here to help you through emotional support and practical advice.

St luke's fundraiser Jill sat in a garden

While for many of us, it’s a piece of equipment that goes unused – simply gathering dust despite our best intentions – a Plymouth grandmother living with Parkinson’s disease has used the power of pedalling her exercise bike to raise much-needed funds for St Luke’s.

When she heard about our Landmark Challenge, Jill Baragwanath, aged 77, wasted no time in signing up to take part in our Covid-safe fundraising event in memory of her beloved husband, Gerald, who was cared for by our team at Turnchapel 13 years ago before, sadly, he died.

For Jill, who lives in Pomphlett, it was not only an opportunity to say another thank-you to St Luke’s for looking after such a special man with the utmost compassion, but a chance to keep up her fitness level while the gym she usually attends remained closed under lockdown restrictions.

Cycling a total of over 20 miles on the exercise bike in her bedroom, Jill – who has two daughters and two grandchildren – raised a fantastic £300 in sponsorship to help keep the wheels of our specialist service turning.

Jill, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s last year, said: “Gerald and I were married for more than 45 years and he was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather – a real family man with a zest for life. He was really sociable and loved snooker and gardening.

“It was very hard when he became ill with cancer, but what made it that bit easier to bear was knowing he was receiving such superb care from St Luke’s. Every time I spent the day with him at Turnchapel, which is so peaceful, I left feeling reassured that he was comfortable and in a safe place because everyone there was so kind and nothing was ever too much trouble.

“I do whatever I can to support the charity because none of us must ever take its service for granted. I’ve taken part in the ladies’ Midnight Walk and I donate items to the shops. The Landmark Challenge was an opportunity to do something different while keeping as fit as possible, which is an important part of managing my condition.

“Memories of Gerald and all the happy times we had together helped me to keep on pedalling, knowing I was doing something positive to help other local families affected by terminal illness.”

From all of us at St Luke’s, a big thank you to Jill and everyone else who took part in our Landmark Challenge – and to all those who kindly sponsored them, too!