A PORT man who gave up his job to care for his elderly parents when lockdown hit says funding from Inverclyde Carers' Centre to buy a bike has eased the pressure of his emotionally demanding role.

Paul McArdle, 47, has been looking after his mum Patricia, 78, and his dad James, 86, since the end of March.

Patricia was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in December last year and James is registered blind.

The couple, who have been married for almost 50 years, now struggle with preparing food and remembering their medication.

Paul is determined to make life as normal as possible for them, particularly at this very uncertain time.

He said: "This is what I need to do for my mum and dad.

"You're never quite prepared for it.

"My mum did everything for me my whole life.

"This is my chance to do something in return.

"That's the positive thing in all of this."

In anticipation of his caring role, Paul gave up his job working for a whisky company in November last year and registered with the carers' centre at the start of 2020.

When lockdown hit, Paul spoke to his parents' home care team and agreed to put the visits on hold temporarily.

He moved in with Patricia and James, who live in Morar Road, and now does the shopping, prepares their meals and makes sure they take their medication.

His parents are managing personal care for themselves at the moment.

Paul is a member of the gym at Boglestone Community Centre and prior to the coronavirus outbreak, he would exercise there to help cope with the stresses and strains of life.

When the centre closed due to lockdown, Paul's only form of exercise was walking but he felt that he needed to take on something more strenuous.

In March, he saw a Facebook post about Inverclyde Carers' Centre's coronavirus emergency breaks fund and decided to apply for £150 for a bike to help him get out of the house and exercise in the mornings.

Paul said: "I couldn't believe how easy it was to apply.

"I just had to explain a bit about how the bike would help me.

"I said that I am homebound most of the time due to my responsibilities and that the bike would help me get my daily exercise.

"The team at the centre told me to pick a bike and they bought it for me and delivered it.

"It would normally take me two hours to walk to Gourock to see my kids but the bike gets me from Port Glasgow to Gourock in 35 minutes.

"The weather has been great so I wake up at 7am and go out, making sure I'm back in time for my mum and dad starting to get up and about at about 11am.

"When I am cycling into the sun I really get a 'life is good' feeling.

"I get thinking time and sort out problems and issues in my mind, and plan what I'm going to do later in the day.

"Strenuous exercise really helps to work away the stress.

"Getting out and seeing the scenery around makes a huge difference.

"I'd definitely encourage carers to apply for the funding if it will make their life a bit easier."

Paul admits that he sees a change in his parents day-to-day and says that's difficult to deal with at times.

But he's determined to help Patricia and James remain at home and provide the best care he can for them.

Paul added: "My mum spoiled me when I was younger.

"She's a kind, sweet soul and did everything for everyone.

"I was making her lunch the other day and she started to cry saying 'I don't know what I would do without you'.

"I want them to remain at home for as long as they possibly can and to have as normal a life as possible."

To find out more about the coronavirus emergency breaks fund, and about other forms of funding, visit www.inverclydecarerscentre.org.uk