‘I work, I’ve a young daughter and I cares for my poorly mum – but I don’t notice I’m exhausted until I get a break’
McKenna Telford is only 29. She has a young daughter who is not yet two.
But the Doncaster shop worker is not just a working mum. She’s also a carer for her own mother.
McKenna, from Bessacarr, has been looking after her mum Ellen French since she was diagnosed with cancer over a year ago.
As part of a family effort to look after her mum, who had complications with her surgery, which she describes as ‘abrasive’, McKenna spends two full days a week caring for her. She also cooks for her four nights a week.
But she is happy to look after her mum.
“You just do it,” she said. “Because it’s your family you just get on with it. You don’t really notice until you get a break that you’re exhausted.”
McKenna is not alone. She is one of many people who spend their time taking care of a poorly loved one who get together on Friday in a group called the Carer Support Group.
Its has previously met at various locations across Donaster, but has now moved to a single, permanent base at the Hallgate Church Community Hall, on Hallgate.
The Carers Support Group sessions are run by volunteer Rosemary Stephen, with a team of helpers, themselves carers. The idea is that they can provide support for one another. Many know what each other are going through because they have gone through similar themselves. They are able to pass on information they have found out through experience.
For people like McKenna, the group is a big help.
“It helped us find funds that we can use for mum’s care,” she said. “But it has also helped me and mum.
“At first, mum became a bit a a recluse. She had a lot of side effects and didn’t really leave the house. Coming down here helped her integrate with people gave her a social life. Coming here led me to volunteer to do make-up classes with the other carers too.
“It has given me a few hours when I can relax. There is a creche here so I know thay my little girl Avia, is safe, and mum is alright.
“I think sometimes carers are overlooked. Sometimes we need a normal-ish life.”
She is one of many who need a break every now again from the pressures of being a carer.
Neelam Maini, aged 62, from Wheatley Hall Road, is another.
She has been caring for husband Ravindar for nearly five years. Ravindar cannot walk or stand, and has heart problems.
The couple sold the shop they used to run in Barnsley in 2013 when his condition became serious.
Her husband needs help with tasks ranging from using the toilet to washing, and most of the work falls to her.
She has 40 minutes help in the morning from a carer, but the rest of the time, looking after Ravindar is down to her.
Ravindar has spent time in a hospice, and also spends time at St Mary’s Nursing Home on Thorne Road, to provide Neelan with sme respite care.
“I’m happy that I’m in a position to look after my husband. It’s my duty, They do care at St Mary’s but he misses home.
“We used to get two nice carers come came in to give me a break at home two nights a week, but there’s no funding for that now.
“I felt depressed when that stopped.
“He understands I need a break. But I still go in and see him when I’m on respite – but it is important that the respite is there.”
Doncaster Central MP Rosie Winterton visited the Hallgate Carer Support Group to mark national carers week.
She met members of the group, and offered praise for the carers who use the facility and those who run it.
Carers are estimated to make a £132 billion contribition to the economy in terms of money saved.
She said she thought it was important to celebrate what carers do.
She added: “It’s also important to able to learn from each other about what more society needs to do to support carers.
“I want to thank the people in this room, but I also also take away what the Government and local councils need to be able to do to support them.
“I’ve heard stories about people who are isolated and cannot get the help they need. I hear people saying they were trying to manage themselves, and sort things out, and then hear that people have not been able to do that. Then we become aware of the situation that people are in, people who are not here today but are perhaps feeling ever more isolated and alone.
“We need to turn out minds to learning from our experience to improve the sitation for these people.”
Angela Waite, carers strategic lead at Doncaster Council said the authority was working across the borough to identify carers and to reduce isolation.
She said: “The theme this week is to get carers connected and it’s vitally important to make sure that each carers’ voice is heard.”
Steph Johansen, regional head of operations at Making Space, runs a Doncaster carers reach-out service, which has been launched to bring carers together, and also attended the launch at Hallgate Church.
She said: “We are very proud of the Doncaster Carers’ Reach Out Service. The team are all current or former carers and they understand the physical and mental toll that caring for others can take on even the strongest of people. Events like this launch show us all that when carers get together, they are a great support for each other. It is so important for unpaid carers to have a life, aside from their caring role and we can help. Please give us a call.”
Call 01302 986900 or email at DoncasterCarers@makingspace.co.uk.