Something completely different

Taking up something new, be it studying or any other activity, doesn’t have to be all about employment or related to your role as a carer. Doing something that’s just for you is important. Making time for yourself and doing something that you really enjoy can help you to relax, de-stress and make you feel good about yourself.

In this section you’ll hear carers talking about the benefits of choosing to do ‘something for me’.

First listen to Gillian and then read about Hedar talking about their study choices.


Gillian (54) is the training coordinator at her local carers centre. She works part time and is still very involved in caring for her family. She has three sons, two of whom have a genetic learning disability. Her first experience of returning to studying and working was with her local carers centre, where she took part in an Open University course looking at ‘make your experience count’. Completing this course gave her the confidence to apply to work at the centre. Since then she’s chosen to study something just for her – maths.

Here Gillian talks about how she chose to study something completely unrelated to her job or her caring role. Gillian talks about why she chose to study maths.

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I chose maths really because that was at school – it was like ‘nope – can’t do that – don’t want to do that – don’t understand it – don’t get it – I can add up, take away, I’ll be fine in life’. And I have been fine in life, just being able to do that. But as I’ve got older I’ve thought well actually, I’m quite a good lateral thinker, I quite like working things out, I can, I have to do many problem-solving exercises bringing up the family, juggling time, managing finances. Um, I thought, I think I would like to see, to do the studying, maths, or understanding maths. Em, because I think I do, and I think it’s about time now to prove it to myself. Also I was very conscious there was no essays needed to be written for it. Which, whilst I love English, I just felt that the format of the maths was going to be more suited to me.
This makes absolutely no difference to my job, it makes no difference to my caring role. It’s a personal achievement for myself. It’s myself that has benefited from it. Em, no the whole thing has been about me. And really in the last 26 years of caring, that’s probably the one wee thing that I’ve done that has been all about me.
At the moment I’ve taken this fur…, the studying further, it’s just not right for me at this moment in time. But it hasn’t put me off it for the future. So I’m interested to see what else the OU’s going to come up with for carers. And I wouldn’t say no the same way, and I wouldn’t say ‘oh I can’t do that’ – if you want to achieve something, you can achieve it.
I would encourage all carers, if they’re given the opportunity and an invitation to come along and hear about what OU has to offer carers, is to rise to that. Put your name down, go along. Don’t be thinking ‘oh I don’t want to sign up’ to this. It’s not about signing up. Hear what’s on offer, gather the information together and there’s every chance that the feelings you had at the beginning of going along to hear about it, your ideas have changed and it could just be it’s something that you thought wasn’t possible, and it is possible. But not to look at any invitation to you and think ‘oh that’s not for me, I haven’t studied for 20 years, I haven’t studied for 10 years, or I wouldn’t know my way round a computer’. Don’t let things be a barrier. Just go along and hear what’s on offer.
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Hedar, 45, has lived in Glasgow for five years, and cares for her father and her sister. Hedar and her family are refugees from Iraqi Kurdistan. Hedar’s father and sister have disabilities and her father also has dementia. Hedar is their full-time carer. Hedar has chosen not to make use of external caring support currently and chose distance learning as a way to create time and space for herself while caring at home.

Figure 4.4 Hedar (Library image)

Read why Hedar finds distance learning so rewarding.

I’m a person who can’t go out a lot. I don’t have the chance to attend colleges or universities and I don’t have a social life. I have lots of health problems. Sometimes I get depressed. So The Open University is the best thing for me.

I like to be busy inside the house, trying to overcome the depression, to overcome the sadness and all the things that happened to me, so I work … I do housework in the morning as much as I can and look after Dad and my sister. And then after 8 o’clock I start working on my Open University assignments.

My way of thinking is completely different than it was before. I feel I can think deeper, understand things easier. These things make me happy because I feel I’m improving myself. I’m improving my brain, doing something for my brain.

I can do everything at home. I can use the computer, I can communicate with my tutors, I can explore things easily and things are very useful with the Open University. Very rewarding … for a person like me very rewarding.

Hedar chose distance learning as a way to create time and space for herself while at home, and over the course of her study she’s gained an Open University degree.

Something for me: making my caring experience count

Choosing something completely different