OLDER men can find themselves like fish out of water when they start caring for their partners. When someone becomes ill or is diagnosed with a condition such as dementia, all carers are left not only adapting to this life-changing event but also taking on new roles. But men in particular may need to learn entirely new skills, such as how to cook a nutritious meal every day.

Additionally, male carers are less likely to ask for help or speak out when they’re feeling overwhelmed or lonely. Fewer male carers apply for a carers’ assessment, which can be the first step to accessing support and carer services. According to research by Age UK, men often feel they should be independent and self-reliant and struggle with the stigma of mental health difficulties.

David Walker lives in Melksham with his wife Georgina, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2012. As her condition deteriorated, David found himself having to do more and more for her – getting her showered and dressed, brushing her hair and teeth and helping her move around the house. Alongside this, he was also learning how to cook meals and use the washing machine. “This is all in addition to everything I would normally have had responsibility for - managing the finances, gardening, household maintenance etc,” says David.

David is committed to keeping his wife at home with him and the home he has created for them both is immaculate. There’s an award-winning garden with water features and a bench where Georgina can sit and enjoy listening to the trickle of water. The bathroom upstairs has been specially adapted for Georgina and a beautiful fish tank has been placed in one of the spare bedrooms alongside two comfy armchairs, in anticipation of Georgina’s worsening mobility meaning she will no longer be able to be helped down the stairs. Georgina is dressed smartly in a fitted dress.

Whenever David hears praise for what he manages, he just says: “This is how I know she would want it to be. It’s not hard work,” he adds, “but it is very tiring.”

Being a carer is socially isolating, he says, as is the condition of dementia, which many people don’t understand. A recent cookery course he attended was the first social activity he’d been on in a year. Although he has paid carers who come in to help, he doesn’t feel able to travel far from the house in case there’s a problem. He also just wants to be with Georgina. “I want to spend as much time with her as I can while I’ve still got her,” he says.

David manages by focusing on the four things he feels are vital for good mental health. “You need to be alright mentally, emotionally, physically and financially,” he says. “People ask if I’m ‘okay’ but what does that mean? I keep myself stimulated mentally and I’m physically fit. Emotionally I’m probably a wreck and financially we’ve been wiped out.”

Carer Support Wiltshire supports all carers and runs regular training courses, support groups and social activities. If you’re a new carer, or a carer already registered who needs more support than you’re currently receiving, you can contact them on 0800 181 4118.