My name is Amna, and I care for my son and my daughter. My son, who is 14, has cerebral palsy and global development delay. He is also partially blind.
When he was 9-months-old, my son had an accident resulting in a brain injury. Recovering from that was incredibly hard, our lives changed when that happened.
At home, things continue to be a challenge. I had to give up my job to become my son’s full-time carer. I care for him 24/7 and that has affected us financially and as a family. The change had an effect on my marriage, I am now a single mum. It also affected my daughter, who is now 20-years-old and struggles with an eating disorder.
My son is very social, he likes adult company, but during the Covid-19 pandemic he didn’t go to school for most of the year because we were shielding.
I had no respite from my caring duties, I’m responsible for providing everything including shopping, but I was afraid to go out in case I caught the virus. I would think ‘what could I be bringing home?’ In the end, the washing and the cleaning got on top of me – so much so that my hands started bleeding. My own mental health suffered during this time.
When my son went back to school in October 2020, I thought ‘finally a little bit of breathing space for myself’. But unfortunately, he caught Covid-19 from school, and then he was home again for three weeks.
My son tested positive, then I tested positive, and my daughter tested positive. Although he wasn’t too bad, with a temperature and a cough, my daughter and I caught it really badly. My cough was so bad I found it hard to breathe, but I had to look after my son as there was nobody to help.
I don’t know how I got through that time. I was worried sick about how to get the family shopping and medication. I look after my son’s grandparents as well, they’re elderly and were also shielding at the time. Luckily, my friend came down with some shopping, my neighbour did a shop, and they managed for a couple of weeks.
Now my son is back at school and he’s a very happy boy, but it was hard to send him back. During this time, Swindon Carers Centre rang a couple of times to check on me. I did cry over the phone, as it was so tiring I struggled to get up. It was very lonely, as there is no-one here in this country from my family to help, and it was tough for them because they wanted to be able to offer support.
Since then, we have been able to get back into a routine – which means that I’ve been able to participate in the activities programme at Swindon Carers Centre, including the Carers Cuppa and the Arts and Crafts Group.
When I got the invite to join the sessions, I decided to go for it, I thought ‘I can do it’. The day of the first Carers Cuppa, I felt so good. I got my son ready and then it was time for some ‘me time’. I thought ‘I’m going out to meet someone, to socialise’.
Just those little things make a big difference, having a friendly face to talk to. They asked how I was managing, and I was quite touched. It felt good, so I was pleased. My daughter is also registered as a young carer, because she helps to look after my son. She also finds that the young carer groups and activities help her to take a break and to socialise.
Gaining greater recognition for unpaid carers is so important. A caring role is a caring role, whether you’re someone working in a nursing home or you’re a family carer. My advice to other carers like myself is that, often, you don’t realise how strong you are – but when you’re put in certain situations you find your inner strength and it makes you stronger. So, don’t underestimate yourself.
This week is Carers Week 2021. Throughout the week, we’ll be sharing our carers’ stories. – to recognise the vital contribution they make to families and our local community. Please listen in and support our Walk A Mile event on Saturday June 12th by fundraising or donating: www.justgiving.com/campaign/SCCWalkAMile2021