How have the last 6 months been for you as a sibling?
The last 6 months have been immeasurably better and easier than the first 3-4 months of the pandemic. The company providing my brother, Jonathan, with care & support have been fantastic. They had a recruitment round over the summer, which means he’s now back to having full, round-the-clock support from a team who really understand him and his needs. He – like everyone – is still frustrated and bored with lockdown and having no activities, and I’m never fully sure of the extent to which he understands why he can’t live his usual life. That said, he has been taking it in his stride and we have worked together with his support team to create a kind of structure to his day. In the initial lockdown, I stayed in London – separately from my partner, who is in Oxford – in order help with Jonathan’s care, while my sister Esther moved in with our parents to help look after our mum. As we described at the time, that was a huge challenge for us both. Since the introduction of support bubbles, Esther (who is currently living alone) has been able to move back to her flat but form a bubble with my parents, while I have been able to move to Oxford as Jonathan’s support needs are now fully met by his team. The fact that, for now at least, people can meet up with someone outside their household on a one-on-one basis for exercise also means that Jonathan will be able to see other members of the family, and won’t be completely isolated as was the case first time round.
What has been hardest?
For me, the hardest thing has been managing Jonathan’s expectations when nobody knows the answers to the questions he’s asking. Despite the amazing work of everyone supporting him, he’s increasingly bored and frustrated. Although it was fantastic that he was able to start going to some of his activities, see more of family and other people and visit places like London Zoo during the summer, I’m concerned that having all that given and then taken away again will be hard for him to handle. I do feel a sense of guilt at having gone to Oxford when the rest of my family’s in London, meaning that I’m no longer able to provide that care – although of course if it’s needed again, I would come back at the drop of a hat. I wish I didn’t have to choose between my partner and my family, but I’m also aware that I’m in a hugely fortunate position right now.
What has helped you the most?
I’ve felt particularly close to my family over the past few months, and although we bicker like any family, I’ve been so grateful to be near them.
What are your thoughts for the year ahead?
I’m cautiously optimistic. I am nervous for the next 2-3 months – both about the risk of infection to those I care about, and about the impacts of lockdown – but I hope that, having coped for over 9 months already, we are now entering the final push before things can start to slowly return to normal.
Judith wrote this for Sibs in December 2020. We are pleased to report that Judith’s parents and brother have now had the coronavirus vaccine.