Paul Caddy, a Team Leader in Leonardo’s Customer Support & Service Solutions business, joined Leonardo’s Carers Network Group after his father, David, was diagnosed with both Alzheimer’s and unspecified dementia. Not long after, he was also diagnosed with bowel cancer.
“The combination and complexity of these diagnoses was obviously challenging and upsetting,” says Paul. “Dad was a stubbornly independent man who was very angry about the loss of his wife in 2018 to breast cancer, and struggled to run a household.
“The NHS was excellent and Leonardo was really helpful with flexible working and time off to help me deal with short notice dramas and medical appointments – of which there were many! My line manager and project managers were both supportive and examined every opportunity to ensure my work-life balance was manageable.
“When dad was diagnosed with cancer, a local charity, Weldmare, got involved and did all the applications for carer allowance and associated benefits like reduced council tax, Blue badge etc. The allowance was enough to get care in two times a day to make sure he ate, took pills and had not fallen. I was then able to go over every night and cook his tea, have a chat and see what else needed doing.
“Dad was given a 12-month terminal diagnosis in April 2022. Weldmare stepped in and placed Dad on a NHS fast-track scheme, providing funding for all the care and needs of a person with less than 12 months prognosis, regardless of their financial position. This meant that the care was all paid for, and equipment and aids were all delivered to the house as Dad wanted to try and stay at home for his remaining time. Dad lasted for 10 months at home and then had a fall and went into hospital. His dementia got much worse and the cancer spread to his liver, and after a couple of weeks in hospital, the NHS fast-track team found him a care home, which they paid for entirely. Dad moved in but died five days later in March 2023.”
Reflecting on his last few years with his father, Paul is also aware of the stresses such experiences puts on carers like him.
“My own mental health took a battering over these five years, with the last year of Dad’s life being particularly difficult. There was one occasion, in an online meeting at work, where I felt angry and reacted in a way that wasn’t my usual way. I knew straight away I had reacted due to my situation outside of work, and went to my doctor for some help. Leonardo was great and able to accommodate my absence over and above the statutory two days. This flexibility helped ensure that I was able to get my head sorted at a time I really needed the support.”
The support offered by Leonardo is something that fellow Carers Network Group and Basildon Principal Components Engineer, Stuart Bean, has experienced.
“We have a very good Custom Working Policy which accommodates a good amount of flexible working as well as remote working. During my time as a carer for my partner and another family member, the support from my management team and the responsiveness to the requests I have made around flexibility in my hours and work pattern, has been exceptional.
“Requirements for occasional time off at very short notice, requests to work very different hours to accommodate my role as a carer, and requests for remote working at locations other than my home, have been swiftly accepted and supported.
“In addition to this, the Mental Health Support I have received through Leonardo has also been second to none, with a free online (app-based) CBT Course, as well as online and in-person counselling being made accessible and available.”
Paul Lord is a Principal Internal Assessor at Leonardo’s Luton office and an active member of the Carers Network Group. “Many members of our Network have similar stories. The flexibility of our Custom Working Policy really helps those that need to be there at meal times for family members or those dealing with extra duties like home schooling – one of our members has a daughter who is on 50% attendance at school.
“The other aspect of the Network Group that really helps, is being able to hear about each other’s experiences and learning about benefits or assistance for carers that might not be widely known, such as concession rates at gyms or special assistance at airports when travelling alongside someone in need of care. Then of course there is access to flu and COVID jabs that are rolled out for free and generally earlier than for the rest of the population”.
This is something that Stuart has also been able to share with other members. “A major aid to support me as a carer is the approach venues and entertainment locations take. Many locations such as RHS Gardens, sports events and theatres now waive the entrance cost for Registered Carers. This really helps many carers like me who are in a position where we are not eligible for any financial aid through the Government systems," explains Stuart.
With Carers Rights Day focused on raising awareness about the rights and challenges of unpaid family carers, we asked Paul Caddy to share what he believes would be of most importance to anyone facing the prospects of being a family carer.
“As my Dad’s dementia progressed, I took over his affairs via the Power of Attorney to try and stop any scams or cold callers getting to him, in a hope of removing some of the daily stress when he was focusing on his health. If nothing else is learned on Carers Rights Day, please understand the importance of getting a Power of Attorney for finance and health/welfare in place if you have parents over 70-75; it is a difficult conversation but worth its weight in gold.
"If I were to do a top 5, I would say:
Get your Power of Attorney in place
Register as a carer at both your doctors and with work
Make sure you get all the benefits and ask for help from local hospices, Citizens Advice Bureau and any other involved agencies
Have difficult conversations early – ensure a will is in place, discuss what your relative wants
Finally, look after yourself!”