Work can be a source of enjoyment and fulfilment as well as for earning money. Many people we spoke to combined work with varying degrees of caring for a relative with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Some people chose the location, type and amount of work that they did specifically to fit in with their home life and the needs of the person with MS. A job which offered flexibility to have time off at short notice and to attend hospital appointments had been very important for people. Kay Z works three days a week and she is able to switch her working days around her husband’s hospital appointments and other needs.
Some people needed to decrease their working hours in order to look after their relative. Others needed to increase their working hours after they became the main breadwinner. Louise, David, Alice, Karl, Mully and John Y all continue to work full time while giving various amounts of support to their partner with MS. Some of their partners also continue to work.
Karl’s employer provides very good support for carers, including a Carers Network.
Other people choose to continue working even if part-time, and value the variety of experience and perspective that working adds to their life.
Patience went back to work after 10 years of looking after her husband full-time. She enjoys giving her time and skills to nurture others as well as her husband.
Kay works three days a week and although she doesn’t earn much, she really enjoys her job and the chance to have a role which is not remotely a carer’s role.
Some people who were near retirement age decided to retire early. Bernard and Jeff both retired from their jobs as teachers so that they could spend more time with their wives. Jeff had already given up a senior role and gone down to half time hours a few years before he retired. Eric gave up his job as a driving instructor when he had to start coming home between each lesson to make sure his wife was okay. Norma decided to give up her business as a restaurant owner sooner than she had planned so that she could look after her son.
Norma couldn’t face the thought of leaving her son at home ill while she was working. On the day he was diagnosed she decided to sell her restaurant.
Not everybody was able to combine work and caring. Betty had been made redundant before her partner was diagnosed. At first she thought that she might be able get a job but as his health declined quickly she gave up the idea of getting paid work and decided, ‘Right, that’s it: I’ve got to become a carer.’ Mike’s partner was having such frequent relapses that he couldn’t get back to work, although he hopes he will be able to return to work in the future.
Some people decided that they would not pursue work opportunities which could have been very exciting for them, because they felt that they should give priority to the needs of the person with MS. Jeff gave up his senior position in a school for a half time teaching job. Louise stopped running her own business and moved to a company which gave her more support so she was able to do her job and not have to worry about it.