Nine years old and looking after mum

CASE STUDY
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The Independent Online
Looking back on the 12 years since her mother was diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis, Jenny Sebright, 19, admits her main emotion was anger as she coped with a difficult and frightening situation.

Her mother, Heather, who was divorced, became ill when Jenny was seven. She and her nine-year-old brother, Paul, cared for their mother for two years until he left for boarding school. After that Jenny, then nine, coped by herself. "I would lift mum in and out of bed, empty the bedpans, look after her generally."

Her response was human: "I was angry with mum, I was angry with her disease and I just didn't want to talk about it to anyone," she said. "It was very difficult for both of us. Our relationship was quite strained at points. I was often coping very badly as a carer."

Her greatest problem was that no one listened. "No one ever asked me what my needs were. Everyone always went on about mum and how she was and as a child I wanted to say 'what about me?'"

Compared to other young carers, Jenny says she was lucky. She did not miss any school and there was regular help once a week. Jenny left home last October to go to Trinity College, Caernarvon, in Gwynedd, to study for a BA in humanities, and her mother is now being looked after at her home by local authority carers.

Jenny stresses she does not regret the 11 years she spent caring for her mother: "I do love my mum and I wanted to care for her. But it's difficult. People have got to remember that young carers aren't 'little angels'. Each young carer should be treated as an individual who needs support themselves."

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