karen steadman

Marty Boyd

Faces of Caregiving – Australia

On the surface, Marty and Merran Boyd look like they have everything under control, but in reality, it’s a ‘tightly run ship’ that counts on nothing going wrong.

Marty is a public servant working in legal services and Merran is a nurse unit manager who runs a busy mental health ward at a local private hospital. However, Merran also has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and by the time she gets home, she is absolutely exhausted.

“Fatigue is Merran’s biggest enemy,” says Marty. “She gives her all to work. Home is her sanctuary and I do my best to lighten her load and make her life as comfortable as possible. She is my number one priority and I always have to be mindful of not over-taxing her.

“I try to streamline her life to allow her to concentrate on her health, so I do the housework, grocery shopping and cleaning. When our kids were little, we taught them to be self-sufficient, to keep their rooms tidy and to do their own washing.”

Besides the fatigue, Merran also finds it hard to regulate her body heat, is in constant pain and has balance and incontinence issues.

Marty says that he often feels overlooked and invisible as a caregiver.

“You put your best foot forward and it appears you have all your ducks in a row, so people find it hard to understand Merran’s limitations. For example, the idea of going out at night for a meal is really not enticing, as we know how long it will take Merran to recover from the extra exertion.

“If i had to define my caring role, I see myself as a companion, confidant, manager, personal assistant, nurse/orderly, spokesman, interpreter, comedian and most importantly, partner. But what makes me a true carer in my wife’s eyes, is that if I wasn’t able to fulfil these overlapping roles, she would be stuck in isolation at home and unable to partake in parts of modern society”

Martyn realises that the reality of Merran’s MS is that it is not going away.

Martyn’s long-term planning includes his career trajectory.

“I have chosen to be a public servant mainly for the conditions that give me not only job security, but the flexibility to take leave for caring duties and to be available when Merran needs me for appointments, etc. I have recently completed a combined law/commerce degree and am about to qualify as a solicitor. In practical terms, it means that as her health declines, I can seek greater opportunities to maintain our standard of living.

“The Embracing Carers Time Counts concept sounds like a great idea to me,” says Marty. “As a caregiver, I would love some help with gardening, vacuuming and the myriad five-minute tasks that make up your day, like emptying the dishwasher and setting the table. Every little bit helps, and I can assure you, every little thing would be most appreciated.

“Lastly, if I could sum up in one sentence my approach to being a caregiver, it is that Merran did not ask for this health issue, but together we can make the most out of every opportunity. On the odd occasion when we find ‘that moment’, nothing can compare to how we made it happen and I would not trade this role for anything,” says Marty.

“What I do today for her is going to change as her condition progresses,” he says. “Whilst we hope the marvels of modern medicine will reduce the symptoms and delay the worst, we know that there will be a decline. The changes may not be apparent day in, day out, but I have noticed a significant number of changes, mainly due to more fatigue and enhanced nerve/ neuropathic pain. It is not a question of if, but when, and I am preparing each day for what will come”

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