When lockdown struck Sally Loader’s family suddenly found they were unable to visit her care home because of coronavirus restrictions. The solution, her daughter Lydia Loader decided, was to get a job as her mother’s carer after being let go from her previous role as a make-up artist.
“All of a sudden you’re being told you can’t go and see someone you really love and you’ve basically done everything for, for the past 10 years.”
“It was probably some of the hardest work I’ve done in my life,” the 33-year-old said of her new position at Deerhurst Care Home in Bristol.
Her mother, who is 67, was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in 2009 and has been in care for almost three years.
She first began showing signs of dementia when she was 55 and Lydia was 21.
“We noticed she was being really forgetful and she just didn’t seem like her usual herself.”
“She was very, very glam. It sounds odd, but I will never forget the day when she stopped putting her lipstick on and me and my sisters were like, ‘Cor Mum looks different.'”
Lydia’s father, Chris, took care of Sally for 10 years until his wife’s health deteriorated and she was moved into a care home.
She said when that happened her dad “felt like he had failed”.
At the height of the pandemic, visitors to care homes in England were banned and the homes were only allowed to reopen for family visits in July 2020.
“I ended up getting a job there to kind of support my family,” Lydia said.
“It was affecting their mental health, especially my dad. He used to go into the care home three or four times a day and assist and spend time with her.”
Lydia said it was really difficult in the beginning to be so intimately dealing with her mother’s condition, as well as the pressures of the pandemic in a care home.
“When I first started working there I often used to cry in the bathroom.”
But she also said working with her mother had been “so lovely because I’ve gotten close to her again”.
“My mum hasn’t spoken for probably over a year-and-a-half and she’s completely lost all mobility.
“I was doing personal care one morning, and then, all of a sudden, she just looked at me and went ‘I really love you’.
“I was in such a state because I hadn’t heard my mum’s voice [in so long]. If I wasn’t working in the care home I wouldn’t see those special moments.”
The experience has inspired her to study nursing and she hopes to be able to carry out her placements at her mother’s care home.
Grace Kenway, the wellbeing team leader at the home, said: “It’s been really lovely having Lydia as an addition to the team.
“First she came as a visitor and was very keen to help everybody.
“If she was making her mum a cup of tea she’d offer one to everyone else, even the staff.
“She’s always had those qualities of wanting to help other people, even as a visitor.”
Ms Kenway said it had been a long process for Sally Loader’s family because of the relatively young age at which she was diagnosed with dementia.
“Lydia’s brilliant at detaching herself when she needs to.
“She can be a daughter with her mum, and then can go and be a brilliant carer to the other residents in the home. It’s a really special thing to be able to do. “