Over the past few years, Richard and Ollie have become much more to each other than just carer and client. Ollie has become a valuable source of support in Richard’s struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and compulsive hoarding. For Ollie, Richard has become a friend who has taught her more than she could have expected.
I’ve never liked receiving help from others. It’s hard for me because I like to do things in my own way, so it’s difficult to hand control over to someone else.
I know that hasn’t always worked for me, though. When I was living in my parents’ home in Georges Hall after they passed away, things had gotten out of hand. I knew I had made a mess of the place but I wasn’t comfortable with letting anyone else help me fix the problem. I wasn’t doing much to fix it myself, either.
I first became involved with HammondCare about 14 years ago when they cared for my parents in their final years. While caring for my parents at home and moving them into full time care, someone from HammondCare suggested it might be a good idea for someone to visit me from time to time, to provide company and support.
I agreed to that and I met Robert. He was an interesting person and I enjoyed his company. He helped me with the shopping at times, but that was about it. I didn’t like the idea of him helping with cleaning or housework, though he certainly wanted to.
Soon afterward I hit hard times, financially, and had to sell my parents’ house. That was a terrible time for me. Ollie helped me move out of my home. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do but having Ollie around made it a little bit easier.
Since then, Ollie usually visits twice a week and I enjoy the time we spend together. She has helped me get more involved in the community and become more social, which is something I really enjoy. We go out, do the shopping, have a coffee or go for a walk. We’ve become good friends.
Ollie recently helped me move house again, and I feel like I’ve come a long way now. I feel like I can trust Ollie enough to ask for her help with things like this. I even let her help with the cleaning and the housework! That seems like it’s important to her, but I’m not sure – it’s just a bit of cleaning.
It’s hard to explain how far Richard has come. He might not think much of it, but to me, it’s miraculous.
When I first met Richard, I knew things weren’t always going to be easy. The house at Georges Hall presented some real challenges at first. There were endless boxes of cassette tapes piled up, stacks of newspapers, out-of-date food and empty tins all over the place. Richard wouldn’t let anyone help with cleaning or housework; he needed to feel in control of that.
Moving out of that house was a long and difficult process. Richard had collected so many things over the years, and sorting through it all was almost impossible. It was heartbreaking and traumatising for Richard to move out of his family home. I could only do my best to understand and support him.
Richard’s condition can make working with him frustrating at times, but there has never been a time I thought about giving up on him. I remind myself that he doesn’t choose to be the way he is. Getting to know Richard as a person and as a friend and understanding his needs has been the key to caring for him.
I have learnt so much from Richard, and it’s wonderful to see the progress he’s made. Going through boxes of things he has built up over the years and helping him decide what to keep and what to throw away was a huge step forward. It’s always his choice and I would never make that decision for him, but it’s wonderful to see the changes in him.
Moving house for the second time was a big example of that. He was so much calmer and more comfortable letting me pack things away.
Richard might never completely conquer his condition, but that’s all right. It’s not my job to cure him or tell him how to live his life. I’m just glad to be able to help him manage his day-to-day life, and to see him make such amazing progress. It’s not about one big change – it’s about the countless little victories along the way.
As told to Christian Berechree
This ‘You & I’ profile first appeared in the January 2015 Community Care Review