Martin and Jean have travelled the world. Martin devoted his life to the church and was a minister in New Guinea as well as Australia. He was also a schoolteacher for many years. In around 2002 however, Martin became ill and Jean became his primary carer.

In early 2016 Martin became palliative after a long journey of ill health. This year Jean was also diagnosed with macular degeneration and told she needed treatment at the Fremantle Hospital every four weeks. The appointments were a 45 minute drive from Martin and Jean’s house, leaving her with a dilemma of how to care for Martin and get to her appointments. She didn’t know how she was going to attend the treatment she so needed to save her eyesight. Jean’s daughter-in-law Jenny was the only person who had sat with Martin up until then and Jean needed Jenny to take her to the appointments. Chorus (then Care Options) were able to provide respite care for Martin, enabling Jean (as Martin’s primary carer) to attend the vital treatment appointments for her eyes. Jean had not left Martin alone for more than an hour until that point, as his condition had been deteriorating.

Jean says she cannot praise Chorus staff and volunteers enough, particularly Leanne and Gavin, who cared for Martin while Jean had her eye treatments. Without this respite she fears she may have lost her sight. Martin’s battle ended in August. Jean is thankful for her sight, which would have added to her grief if she had lost it.

Jean is now living each day at a time and has taken on board advice not to make any big decisions in the first year after Martin’s death. She has time on her hands now. She’d like to get back to the shops and in time, to reconnect with the St Nicholas church group. Chorus now supports Jean with her house and garden upkeep and James (Chorus coordinator) has been in contact to make sure Jean is coping.

Jean’s story demonstrates the importance of respite for carers. It can be a full-time role and emotionally demanding to care for a loved one. Carers sometimes need a break to continue doing what they do and in Jean’s case, to look after their own health needs.