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Stronger together: Damian’s Be Well journey

“I’d hit rock bottom before I got to Be Well. I didn’t know where to turn. I’d had no help caring for my mum. No one wanted to know.”

Four years ago Damian Shaw had a good job as a cherry picker driver and his own home in Oldham.

But for his mum, living in Manchester, life had got progressively harder as Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia took over her life.

“It had got so bad she couldn’t cope on her own. So I gave up my job and home and moved in with mum to care for her full time,” said Damian.

The next four years became a constant battle to keep their heads above water.

“My mum owns the house and she had some money in the bank but because of the Vascular Dementia they wouldn’t allow me to take money out for her. Benefits were the same. It’s only been in the last year and a half that I’ve been able to get her pension for her.

“When the bank stopped paying mum’s direct debits for fuel bills thousands of pounds of debt built up. The house had not been maintained for 15 years after my dad passed away, so it was falling apart around us.

“I used up all my savings to try and keep things going. But it all mounts up and once the shopping and bills are done there is nothing left. We were without central heating for three months the winter before last when the boiler broke down.”

“So I’d hit rock bottom before I got to Be Well. I didn’t know where to turn. I’d had no help caring for my mum. No one wanted to know.”

Damian’s GP had given him Be Well’s number and Employment Coach Bernadette Chapman, based with YES Manchester, started to see him regularly.

With Bernadette’s help Damian went back to the social and got many of the things he needed replacing to take some of the strain out of caring like a fridge, freezer, microwave, washing machine, beds, waterproof mattress and bedding.

“The dryer is a massive help. I need to wash and dry bedding twice a day. Sometimes I need to change my mum three times a day.”

She put him in touch with Age Concern who are helping him deal with the fuel debts. Through Bernadette, Care and Repair helped him replace a broken toilet and fit a radiator in the living room so they didn’t have to live upstairs in winter. Manchester Council and Manchester Carers helped him get a £350 carers payment.

There is still plenty to sort out though: it’s been hard getting benefit claims sorted out during the pandemic; he’s still battling to get fuel debts wiped out; and he’s waiting to get an assessment for a new bath that’s easier for his mum to use.

But he talks to Bernadette every two to three weeks and they work out how to move forward.

“I feel a lot better now I’ve got Bernadette in my corner. She’s like a second mum to be honest. She really fights my corner for me. If it wasn’t for her, I probably would have crumbled by now to be honest. She’s made it that bit more bearable with just little things like a dryer.”

To find out more about Be Well…