Kelly's Family Carer Story

Kelly, our own Care Services Supervisor, tells us her heartfelt experience of being a family not once, but twice for her Mum and later Dad.

Family carers are close to our heart at Home Instead Swindon & Vale of White Horse because so much of what we do is to relieve the pressures and challenges faced by family carers when they are supporting their loved ones living with medical conditions and at the toughest of times.

Kelly Cox, one of our Care Services Supervisors, has her own deeply personal reasons for being passionate about supporting clients and family carers through caring challenges, having been family carer both to her Mum when she was just 23 years old, and then later for her Dad too.  We are privileged that Kelly has shared with us her personal family caring story.

Kelly’s Caring for her Mum

Kelly explains that her Mum became poorly with breast and liver cancer when Kelly herself was just 23 years old. Kelly says “Mum needed full time care and I was working in a supermarket at the time.  I decided to leave work and support her. I didn’t know about care options at the time, and it seemed the only option. Mum had looked after me all my life, I wanted to do that for her.   Caring for Mum included things like personal care, it became intense as Mum stopped eating and drinking.  We knew because the nature of the condition having gone to her liver that medics told us she wouldn’t recover, but I always believed in my heart she would.  I needed to be there for her and even slept there in her room at night holding her hand so she would know I was right there at her side.  

My whole family was involved as one person couldn’t do it alone. I was there in the evenings and at night times. Other family member including my older sister would see her in the day. Palliative nurses visited. One day we asked that dreaded question, “how long”. They said not long. My sister said she’d stay over. That night my Mum was agitated, imagining things. She said “please let me go” and we said “Where Mum?”  “To heaven” she answered.”

The next morning Kelly was with her Mum and she explains that her Mum managed to say “I love you” and Kelly answered “I love you too”, even at this point when speech became near impossible. Kelly is still very emotional to share this with us, even after many years, and her deep grief for her Mum, is still part of her today.  With tears in her eyes she recalls “I always believed she was going to get better”.

Kelly explains: “Once Mum was gone, I was left on my own, and I suddenly realised “I’ve gotta get back to a job!”  Before caring for Mum I’d worked in a shop. At this time a friend said to me “have you thought about care”. I wasn’t sure, but thought I’d give it a try, and after caring for Mum, it did seem the most natural thing to do. So, I started in care working for a domiciliary care company (domiciliary meaning going to people’s homes to care for them, not working in a residential care home) and I just took to it like a duck to water.”

Kelly had a Family and Developed her Caring Career

Life then continued for Kelly and she met her now husband, had babies and had a short break from caring. But when her second baby was 12 weeks old, she went to work at a care home. Within 6 months she’d been promoted to a senior role, with a lot of responsibility.  Kelly also worked extra hours doing some domiciliary care too.

Then one day, unexpectedly a new tragedy struck: her Dad had a stroke. Kelly says “He was out at the pub, a usual night out, but luckily someone there recognised the signs of stroke i.e. his face dropping. They called an ambulance. It was such a shock.  We were told that in the following 48 hours it could go either way whether he’d pull through or not. And he did pull through, although they did scans and discovered as well as the stroke, he also had lung cancer.”

Kelly’s Caring for her Dad

Once again for Kelly, it was a natural desire to be the person who cared for her Dad.  The stroke affected his left side.  Kelly supported her Dad with much to-ing and fro-ing from the hospital to see what they could do. They offered chemo, but Kelly says “He was frail and it didn’t seem likely he’d be able to cope with chemo, so instead they operated to remove 2 tumours from his left lung.  After the day of the operation, he sat up in bed in the high dependency unit, having a cup of tea.  But then the very next day he had another stroke! This time he became confused, not really knowing who I was.

We were supported by the John Radcliff and Abingdon hospital for rehabilitation. However, it became clear he wasn’t going to cope on his own. One day he actually wandered out of the ward, just in his underwear, and he went to police station asking where he lives. By this time, because of being a carer professionally, I had more experience and realised what was involved in supporting Dad. So, again, as I had for Mum, I just felt I needed to do it for him. So dad came to live with me. This involved a significant structural change to my home and we converted a downstairs room to make it happen.

At this point I had a husband and 3 children.  It was very hard.  Although I was a care professional and used to doing personal care for clients, it is different when it’s your own Dad and he wouldn’t let me do personal care. It was a tough time.

Dad’s behaviour really changed. He had a few falls. I reached out to the GP as dad was imagining things. The doctor did a memory test and diagnosed Vascular Dementia.  These times were very hard: Dad was trying overdoses, trying to escape as he just wanted his life to end. He would go wandering and I didn’t know where he’d gone, and we would have to get the police involved. In this situation it became impossible to continue 24hrs 7 days a week, without additional care support.  I was still working part time and with all the responsibilities of being a mum to my own children, I needed to balance their needs too. Really genuine close friends told me to think of my family – meaning myself, my husband and my children. I made the decision to move Dad to a warden-controlled place, with a care package.

I was still a wife, mum, for my family and was still working, but I was also caring for Dad doing his laundry, cooking fresh meals, including his main meal every day.  Professional carers would do the personal care, and this way I was able to work in a nursing home doing 12 hr shifts as well as caring for my young family. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it!  But I suppose the fact that I loved my work helped. I’d found my true vocation in caring.

Then one day at work I found 6 missed calls on my mobile. I knew something was wrong.  Dad had had a fall. I needed to go.  As Dad was taken to Great Western Hospital in Swindon on a stretcher he cried out in his usual cheery way, “I’ll be ok babe!”. He was treated for a chest infection, pneumonia, but later a scan confirmed the cancer had returned. He was in a side room, so we knew the news wasn’t good.  The doctor told us that the cancer spread everywhere. Dad was just oblivious.  It was going to be palliative care now and Dad’s wish was to come home to me.  I had to do it this last time. He couldn’t speak but beckoned me to come closer for a cuddle. I called my older sister to come for the children. I have to say, she was my rock through this. This enabled me and my husband to stay with dad.

The following morning the nurses reckoned I’d got the time to go and make my home ready for him. So, I went and did it: preparing the telly, his bed and so on. He came home by ambulance on the Friday. Great Western Hospital were great, and they provided double-handed care (2 carers at the same time) 4 times a day.  Oh, the emotion! I knew he was coming home for 1 thing: to pass away. Dad wasn’t eating and drinking and the meds the nurses did were palliative. On Sunday night we called the nurses because he was really agitated, and it was upsetting for him to be in that state.  They gave him something to calm him down. I held his hand. I told him “I don’t want you to go, but if you need to go, you go”. I told him I’d miss him.

And he waited ‘til I was asleep.  I must have drifted off.  When I woke at 2.30am he’d gone. I screamed and screamed.

But I truly believe things happen for a reason. I know I did all I could for both my Mum and my Dad. I ensured they had their last days and hours at home, and I’d do it all again.  I kept talking to them both, right to the end, as the last thing to go is the hearing.” 

Kelly’s Passion for Her Caring Role

In 2021 Kelly came to work at Home Instead as a Care Pro. She was so well-loved by clients and great at her job that she soon progressed to her current role as a Care Services Supervisor.  This role means she supports others Care Pro’s to be fulfilled and excellent at their caring role. Kelly is a natural when it comes to caring – she is genuinely passionate about it.

Kelly says “It’s really rewarding to support clients and family members as they are where I was. I feel the pain family carers are going through, as I can relate. This is why I do what I do: because I have been there!  I thrive on making a difference. When you talk to family members of loved ones with dementia and especially when they are end of life, I put myself in their shoes. You understand that there are reasons why different families deal with things differently. I’ve been caring personally and professionally for 24 years. Had I not had that personal family experience of caring, to be honest, I’d probably still be working in a shop now!”

When I look back to being a family carer I think “How did I do it all?”  It is so full on. Cleaning shopping, visiting, working, running your own house. Family carers need the support of the quality care services that we at Home Instead provide. It helps people get through the hardest times.

Caring has made me who I am today. It’s sad about my Mum and Dad but I’m here to tell the story and it’s where my passion comes from.  It’s not just work for me; it is a lived experience.   I’m definitely a true believer that “everything happens for a reason.

And Kelly’s last word of advice “Tell them you love them”.

If you are caring for yourself, or for a loved one and would like to have a chat with us about how we can help with our personalised care services then call 01793 232585 or visit:

Or if you have a passion to care, and are interested to join our team as a Care Professional then call 01793 232585 or visit: