This week in our #HumansCare series we are talking to Jackie Ashley. Jackie is a former journalist and broadcaster and has recently been working with us as presenter of our BBC Radio 4 Appeal, which aired this past Sunday 7th November. Our appeal told the story of Hema, a family carer from India who cares for her husband after he suffered a series of life-altering strokes.
Jackie has direct experience of what a family carer goes through. Her husband, fellow journalist Andrew Marr, suffered a life-changing stroke in 2013, and during his recovery Jackie became his full-time carer – and so our work is close to her heart.
In this week of our appeal, we wanted to talk to Jackie a bit more about her experiences of being a carer, why she wanted to support our work at Carers Worldwide and what her message to Hema would be.
You can hear the appeal by clicking through to the BBC website and Jackie will explain how to donate if you would like to give a gift. Please be aware though, that donations made through the BBC only come to us if made in the week of the appeal, which ends on Saturday the 13th November. If you would like to give directly, you can do so through the form at the bottom of our BBC Radio 4 Appeal page, where you can also watch a video where Jackie explains more about why she wanted to support our appeal.
Hi Jackie! For those that don’t know you, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a former journalist and broadcaster and have spent more than 30 years working for the BBC, ITN, Channel 4, the New Statesman, and the Guardian among others. I recently spent three years as President of Lucy Cavendish College at the University of Cambridge and am now Chair of the National Brain Appeal and a trustee at the Carers Trust. I am also Chair of the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and chair two juries at the Royal Television Society annual awards.
When you became a carer for your husband, what was the thing you found the most difficult to adjust to?
The thing I found most difficult to adjust to was having to schedule my own timetable around somebody else. I had been used to this when my three children were young but had then got used to my independence.
When did you start to think about yourself as a carer?
Two months after my husband’s stroke he was still in hospital and I was visiting twice a day, but then we started to think about how we would manage when he came home. I realised that I would have to fulfil all the roles that were done by the brilliant hospital staff and that’s when I realised that I would be a full-time carer for a while.
What effect did becoming a carer have on you and your sense of self?
To an extent, I did lose a sense of my own identity – that was always closely bound up with my work, and I had to stop work for a year while my husband recovered.
Why did you want to support Carers Worldwide with our BBC Radio 4 appeal?
I am well aware of the difficulties of being a carer in the UK, but hadn’t thought much about what being a carer must be like in countries with less support available. Speaking to members of the Carers Worldwide team made me realise that life is so much worse for carers in places where there is no social security, no NHS and often very little employment available for carers. Carers Worldwide is a small organisation but does a brilliant job and I’d like more people to know about what they do.
What do you think needs to be done to ensure carers are supported wherever they live in the world?
Above all, I think policy makers and employers need to be aware of the demands on carers and adapt the way we work accordingly. We have, to an extent, managed to do this for parents of small children, now we need to extend this to carers.
What message would you send to Hema?
My message to Hema is well done on all you are doing. Yes it’s hard, but you are doing an amazing job and it’s great to hear that you have found some work which you can do alongside your caring responsibilities.
All of us at Carers Worldwide would like to say a huge thank you to Jackie for supporting us through this appeal. She has been brilliant and has really helped us to reach new audiences and spread the word of the vital work we are doing supporting unpaid family carers in low- and middle-income countries. Thank you Jackie!