Before my mum’s diagnosis in 2011, I was a daughter and a sister. I had friends and a social life. After my mum’s diagnosis my role changed, and it never really went back to normal. The changes were minimal at first. I began taking on more and more responsibilities at home in order to look after my mum after her operation or treatments. For example, in the beginning, I would just have to make sure Mum didn’t make her own cup of tea because she wasn’t allowed to lift anything over a certain weight due to increased risk of lymphedema. But that didn’t matter, everybody makes a cup of tea for their Mum. I also had to help out in the kitchen more often than usual, I didn’t mind though, I liked helping.
In the thick of Mum’s treatments, she had many bad days when she was often too tired to get out of bed. These “bad days” were becoming more and more often and, soon, making the odd cup of tea turned into making dinner for my mum and younger sister most nights too. My mum and I were extremely close, I’d do anything for her to support her while she was so fragile and vulnerable. I was her emotional confidant and she was mine. But I was only young and I couldn’t juggle it all. Eventually, I started missing classes to go to Mum’s hospital appointments and my college work was suffering. Often, I was too tired to get up in the morning because I couldn’t handle all of the pressures that I was confronted with in my life. But I didn’t care much about that because at least my mum and my sister were being taken care of.
Now, looking back and writing this post I can easily identify the period in which I became my Mum’s carer. That isn’t to say that I was no longer my Mum’s daughter or a sister, but I had more responsibilities than most people my age and didn’t know anyone who was in the same position as me, and no one to talk to other than my mum.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that I was a carer until September 2018, when my younger sister got in contact with Bright Futures.
It didn’t make sense at first. How could I have been a carer for such a long period without having realised? I think this is the case for many people. Like I said, the changes were minimal at first, and you really don’t mind because you’d do anything for your family.
When my sister and I registered ourselves as carers we realised that there was a lot more support available to us than we previously thought. We underwent a simple over-the-phone evaluation, where by we described our situation to someone who was able to tell us what kind of support was available to us.
- A transition worker, who is still a huge support today!
- a carer’s card to alert anyone that someone is at home waiting for us should anything happen.
- counselling through Counselling for Carers
- financial support towards a swim pass so we could keep exercising! (Evee also received a carer’s allowance which she will write a post about!)
- money towards a weekend away!
- a bursary from my university to help with travel expenses.
- contact with Balloons– a charity that provide Pre and Post bereavement support.
- A message in a bottle that you keep in the fridge with all of the details of the person that you care for. Should anything happen, emergency services will look in the fridge for these details and know exactly what is needed.
Looking back now, I can’t help but feel sorry for 16 year old me when I think of how much I struggled silently throughout college and university whilst trying to juggle home-life responsibilities as well. I loved my Mum and I was good at looking after her, but being a carer for seven years changed me, I lost a lot of confidence, and my identity suffered. Had I known to register as a carer sooner, I would have been able to receive the support that I desperately needed.
I would have been able to stay younger for longer, and I would have been able to enjoy being my Mum’s daughter, that’s enjoyed being the most. If you think you might be a carer, I have left some useful links below which talks about your rights as a carer because you are still a person, a son, a daughter, a sister, a brother, a parent, you.