Denise's Story

Carer Denise’s involvement with the current 4SX Building Better Opportunities Project was a happy one and has helped change her life, given her confidence and allowed her to look forward to resuming a job she loves. – Everything was put on hold due to caring responsibilities.

The story of her involvement with the 4SX project is an encouraging one for anyone thinking of becoming a 4SX participant.

Denise said: “I heard about 4SX through the local free newspaper, the Southend Standard, which came through my letterbox.

“There was an article about “Essex Carers The Way to Work” and I decided to see if they could help me.

“I’m so glad I got involved as dealing with my Keyworker Olivia has helped boost my confidence. I had been a carer for so long that I had lost confidence in my abilities and skills.”

“Now that has changed,” she added.

Denise – who is 67 – originally trained in reflexology, aromatherapy and homeopathy in the 1980s, and this led her onto transcendental meditation and other alternative therapies including reiki healing.

Denise and her then husband were at the time running a successful book-binding business in Maldon, with a very busy Denise looking after the firm’s accounting and book-keeping. Life became even busier when the couple had children and Denise had even less time for the reflexology healing which she loved and was good at.

But then life began to change.

Over the next few years Denise’s caring nature meant that she began to take on an increasing number of caring roles, looking after her mother and father (who lived 40 miles away) but as the weight of looking after them increased, she began to feel the pressure.

Denise said: “I would drive to Ockendon, trying to juggle looking after them as dementia took hold.

“I was backwards and forwards the whole time, sometimes staying the night. You never knew how they would be, or what you would have to do when you arrived.

“Looking after somebody with dementia can be exhausting and quite isolating socially. In the past I had always talked about “work, rest and play”, but increasingly I was struggling because of the non-stop element of caring for my parents.

As time went on and her parents grew older so the caring role increased. Denise felt that she was losing herself, communicating became more difficult and she began to realise that the stress of being a care-giver for well over a decade had taken its toll.

In 2014 Denise’s father died. Her mum survived until December 2018. Almost all the responsibility for caring had fallen on Denise’s shoulders.

Finally – with more free time on her hands – Denise thought more about the effect caring had had upon her.

She said: “Stress and depression definitely affected my thinking. I realised that I had to get things in place and start looking after myself.

“I had been so busy caring that I had lost a lot of confidence. Because of the time gap I had also lost my public liability insurance which meant that I could not work as a reflexologist anymore. I was also coping with a thyroid problem and M.E.”

Finally, when Denise saw the piece on 4SX in the Southend Standard, she made the key decision to call the office and signed up as a Participant.

She was allocated Olivia – who was one of Carers Choices Keyworker at the time – and things began to change for her straight away.

Denise said: “Olivia was so kind and full of good advice.

“She was great at listening and did not make me feel pressurised at all.

“She put me in touch with organisations and I attended carer events and talks on subjects including Alzheimer’s.

“Communicating with other people and listening to other peoples’ problems was lovely. I realised that I was not on my own and that I could change things. I decided to do a reflexology refresher course and this would allow me to work again - and being able to earn money again was an exciting prospect.

“I have also learned that it is important that I do not overwork and keep my life in balance. I plan to generate income and now I am no longer depressed. I think that I will always be a caring type of person, but now I am looking forward to life, and to helping others through reflexology.”

4SX organised a special reflexology refresher course – and this, together with the help and suggestions from her 4SX key worker, has made a big difference to Denise’s life. The course was jointly funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and The European Social Fund.  

  • Denise’s journey started with a single telephone call after seeing a piece about 4SX in her local free newspaper. But with a presence on the internet (including a simple to navigate website, complete with easy referral button) plus presence on social media, and through posters and leaflets at many of the county’s libraries, council offices, doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies, community halls it has never been easier to engage with the 4SX project? It’s as simple as calling 01268 923912 or checking out the Project website at or to find out more about 4SX just click on