25 years, 25 stories

To mark our 25th Anniversary VOCAL will be asking 25 different carers to share their stories.

Caring no more defines someone than their job, or their eye colour, but it can be much less obvious, even to the carer themselves.

By sharing these stories we hope to help more people recognise their own caring roles, or the caring roles of those around them… and to know we're here to offer carers support they need, as we have been for 25 years. 

Tam McGarva

Tam cares for his wife Kate who is living with hereditary spastic paraplegia, a degenerative condition which severely limits her mobility.

He talks to us about realising he was a carer, finding support to take a break, and how important that has been to them both.

Fiona Clark

Fiona cares for her husband who is living with a range of conditions which impair his cognitive functions and cause him pain. She also cares for her Mum who is currently being assessed for a dementia diagnosis.

Fiona talks to us about the daily demands of her caring role, its impact on her own health and wellbeing, and how helpful she finds the mindfulness techniques which she learned through VOCAL. You can listen to the coversation below.

Joan, Sandra & Mary

Joan, Sandra & Mary each care for family members who have problematic substance use. 

They talk to us over coffees about the impact of their loved ones' addictions, and about what helps them cope. You can listen to the conversation below.

Christina White

Christina is a serial carer, having had various caring roles over the course of her life. Most recently she cares for her mother-in-law who is a stroke survivor living with dementia.

Christina talks to us about the impact caring had on her health and wellbeing, and in particular how VOCAL’s health surgeries have helped.


Pete (not his real name) cares for his partner, a person with an alcohol problem.

Pete asked that we conceal his identity, but - like our other carers - wanted to share his experience to help others in similar circumstances to feel less alone. He spoke to VOCAL about the impact of his caring role, and you can listen to the conversation below. 

Patrick Friedli

Patrick is 78, he cares for his wife Claire who is living with Multiple Sclerosis which gives her significant mobility issues and various personal care needs, including incontinence. 

Press here to read Patrick’s story

Patrick first began to think of himself as a carer around 15 years ago. Feeling that he was “burning a candle at both ends” in order to care for Claire, he reached out to VOCAL for support. After some one to one support, and having accessed several training courses, life settled into a new rhythm. There now seemed to be enough hours in the day and energy for Patrick to give a little time to his own hobbies and interests again, such as cycling, as well as for caring. He even found time to volunteer for VOCAL for a while.

We hadn’t heard from Patrick for a few years when he got in touch again recently with a new query. He’d seen an article in our regular newsletter about two new Carer Support Workers joining VOCAL, workers with the specific remit to help carers to look at Self Directed Support (SDS).

Claire had been assessed by Social Work in December, with the assessment suggesting that she spend a few weeks each year in a care home to give Patrick a break. They agreed that Claire’s needs had progressed somewhat, things like the morning routine taking longer than it had before. Together they looked at a home, but felt it wasn’t the right fit. Claire found it a restricted place with “no laughter”. On reflection they were both more comfortable with the idea of someone looking after Claire in their own home.

Patrick knew about Direct Payments from some of the courses he’d attended at VOCAL and was confident this approach would offer them a suitable way forward, but he felt bewildered by the next step. With support from VOCAL they’ve navigated the various options, liaising with Social Work and Service Providers. Patrick now has a tailored structure of support facilitating occasional short breaks of 4-7 days at a time throughout the year, with support for Claire to stay at home.

For his first break Patrick visited Normandy, and is confident these short breathers will help keep his caring role sustainable for the future. Claire’s happier too now that she knows her husband’s getting some much needed down time. Staying home made it easier for friends to come and visit, and the support she had while Patrick was away was great and made her feel good.

Moving forward Patrick is once again in a position where he’s comfortable engaging with providers and shaping their support services on his own… with the knowledge that – whenever he needs us again – VOCAL is just a phone call away.


Grace McCusker

Grace cares for her husband who is living with vascular dementia and Alzheimers.

She talks to us about the journey to recognising herself as a carer, and about the impact her caring role has had on her relationship.

Ann Anderson

Ann and her husband cared for her mother-in-law and father-in-law as they lived with dementia.

20 years later Ann now cares for her husband after he was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia, indicating the onset of dementia.

Ann shared with us her unique perspective of caring now in comparison to caring 20 years ago.

Euan Kennedy

Euan volunteers for VOCAL as one of our peer mentors. He talked to us about his own caring role, the informal peer support he recieved from fellow carers at VOCAL events, and his decision to become a peer mentor. 

Nicky Gavin

Nicky volunteers for VOCAL as one of our peer mentors. She talked to us about her own caring role, the informal peer support she recieved from fellow carers at VOCAL events, and her decision to become a peer mentor. 

Wendy & Tosh White

Wendy & Tosh have two daughters, Naomi & Bethany, Naomi’s various disabilities mean that she’s still in their care aged 23.

Like an increasing number of carers they’re also caring for ageing parents. 

They talk to us about their caring roles and the impact that caring has had on their careers

Sheila & Alan Fletcher

Alan Fletcher was one of the initial group of carers who – in the early 1990s – decided to set up an organisation to support carers. The organisation which eventually became VOCAL

Alan and his wife Sheila met through their involvement with VOCAL

For the first in our 25th Anniversary carer stories series VOCAL Chief Executive Sebastian Fischer visited Alan & Sheila to talk about the charity’s beginnings.

VOCAL Edinburgh

Edinburgh Carers' Hub
60 Leith Walk
Edinburgh, EH6 5HB

0131 622 6666

Scottish Charity: SC020755  |  Company Registration: SC183050

VOCAL Midlothian

VOCAL Carers' Centre
30/1 Dalhousie Road
Dalkeith, EH22 3NX

0131 663 6869