A MOTHER has told of the challenges she faces whilst providing 24-hour care to her disabled son.

Abby Lewis of Marske gives her son Bobby specialist care 24 hours a day and is one of an estimated 16,000 unpaid carers in Redcar and Cleveland.

She agreed to share her caring story, in her own words, to help raise awareness of heroic carers and promote the support and help available to carers through the We Care You Care website and facebook page.

She said: “My name is Abby, I am a mum. I am a parent carer.

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“Being a mum is the most amazing experience. My unconditional love towards my two little people is what drives me every day. Their happiness is my priority and I live and breathe to provide for them and give them the best life I can. But being a carer is overlapping my experience of being a mum and I’m mindful not to confuse the two.

“My caring journey hasn’t been easy… it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. I can’t switch off after a 10-hour shift, have a soak in the bath or a meal with friends. I don’t get the privilege of a full night’s sleep or to sit and enjoy my favourite programme. My life is dedicated to being a carer. When I became a mum, I had months to plan for it. When I became a carer, it happened overnight with no opportunity to prepare and no idea of what the future looked like.

“Being a parent carer is exhausting, once the children are at school, I fit in working 16 hours a week, tidying the house, doing the washing and attending appointments. Just your usual ‘parent’ routine… only our days usually start at 2am, by the time the school run is due we are already six-hours into our day. I have dealt with multiple challenges, a meltdown, refusal to go to school and the house has been turned upside down.

“By school pick-up, I have been awake 13 hours with the prospect of a further eight hours ahead of me, during which time I need to cook tea and do the bedtime routine whilst providing constant supervision to two children. Bobby is an opportunist, even the shortest of distractions sees the bathroom getting flooded, him climbing out of a window or something getting broken… 24-hour supervision means just that he can’t leave my sight, for his own safety and that of his four-year-old sister.

The Northern Echo: Abby and BobbyAbby and Bobby

“Bobby usually crashes to sleep on the sofa around 10pm, this is my time to grab something to eat, iron the uniforms and get the school bags ready, tidy up and by midnight I can grab a quick shower knowing that it all starts again in a few short hours.

“My days are non-stop, sleep deprivation affects my emotions, my patience, and my thought process. My carer brain battles against my mothering brain. ‘How much longer can I keep this up?’ ‘What am I doing wrong?’ ‘What does our future look like?’ ‘How much sleep will I get tonight?’

“The mum in me wants to plan trips but the carer in me knows I can’t do it on my own and is feeling defeated and tired.

“Being a carer in my early years was isolating and lonely. I had no one to talk to and no one that understood how I felt. My life was consumed by hospital appointments, care meetings and trying to catch up on sleep.

“As the years passed I joined a network support pages via social media, attended parent focused groups and teaching seminars. I soon learnt that the loneliness I once felt was shared by many just like me. Having a ‘safe place’ to talk about experiences and somewhere to get advice and to be recognised changed everything for me. I learnt to accept that I was more than ‘just’ a mum and was entitled to guilt free self-care time.

“I have so many decisions to make as Bobby gets older, questions that need answering, and so much to prepare for and I’m glad that carers are now getting recognised in the community and there is now a lot more help available to us, including ‘We Care You Care’ who have given me a voice to share my experience, along with offering an array of support.”

Cllr Mary Ovens, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “Abby’s story of being a mother and carer really highlights the struggles carers face and the resilience they need to care for a loved one.

“It is really important that carers like Abby know support is available to them as well as useful information and advice which is why the Council joined forces to deliver the ‘We Care You Care’ website, facebook page and email advice service.

“Many unpaid carers don’t identify with the term ‘carer’, they are a parent, husband, daughter, grandparent looking after a loved one however it is important that they know they have somewhere to go for help and support.”

For further information visit www.wecareyoucare.info or www.facebook.com/wecareyoucarelocal To discuss ways of working together please email hello@wecareyoucare.info

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