Monday, 2 May 2011

'Keeping Mum' and the true face of caring

During my Easter holiday break, I allowed myself to take with me just one piece of work - a book called Keeping Mum: caring for someone with dementia, which I had been asked to review. With a couple of long tube journeys down the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow, plus some time waiting to board at either end, I figured I could at least read chunks of the book to enable me to write a decent review.

But this is not that sort of book - I found myself enthralled, and read it from cover to cover. The main part of the book is a series of blogs that the author, Marianne Talbot, wrote for Saga Magazine, to record her experiences caring for her mother. Marianne uses an endearing term for the cared-for person - 'piglet' - 'Person I Give Love and Endless Therapy to' courtesy of Hugh Marriott who used it in his book about caring.

Marianne gives a no-holds-barred account of life as a carer and her struggle to navigate the system whilst holding on to her career, her social life and her sanity. The struggle of her mother to comprehend what is happening to her also comes through as Marianne imagines life through her eyes.

I can remember seeing Marianne speak at the 2009 Conservative Party conference, where she was on a panel alongside the then Shadow Health Minister at a session devoted to the care of older people, which we as exhibitors managed to get into alongside our partners, Carers UK, who had made the debate happen at conference. I remember her as an excellent speaker that in person was just as engaging as she is in her blogs.

If anyone wishes to find out what it is like to care, read this book - or if you are a carer I am sure that you will read this whilst continually nodding your head to all of the experiences described. The book is witty, hilarious at times, and finally, very moving. Alongside this, there is realistic and sensible advice for others in the same situation at the end, with practical information and a list of organisations that can help you and your 'piglet' - I was pleased to see Counsel and Care included.

Marianne's account of her experiences are inspiring on so many levels, whether or not you have experienced life as a carer. She proves that with determination, so much can be achieved for both the carer and their 'piglet', and that it IS possible to continue to work and care with the right support. Far too many people (many of them female and at the height of their careers) are lost to the workforce as they have to give up work to care full time, risking falling into poverty themselves when they reach pensionable age. We need to reduce this risk (see the previous blog on Care Concerns), and this book is a huge contribution to a solution as the proportion of older people needing care is set to grow.

Carers Week takes place every year to highlight the challenges of caring and reach hidden carers. The theme of the 2011 Week is 'The true face of carers' and the campaign will seek to discover what life is really like for carers in 2011. How much information is available? How much help do carers get from government? How hard - or how easy - is life as a carer? All of these questions will be answered during the Week that takes place from 13-19 June 2011. Counsel and Care is a partner of Carers Week, and you can find out more on what is taking place at

Keeping Mum: caring for someone with dementia is authored by Marianne Talbot and is published by Hay House. Find out more at or for publicity enquiries, contact Jo Burgess on or call 020 8962 1230.

The book can also be purchased at Amazon - and the Keeping Mum website can be found at

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