Gruelling job makes normal life a memory

Unrecognised efforts left a carer feeling bitter
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The Independent Online
Molly Turley was raised by her three spinster aunts from the age of 18 months following the death of her mother. But as they grew older, the roles reversed and looking after them became a full time job. writes Rosie Waterhouse.

She never married and now, aged 66, her only life is caring for her aunt, Bridget, 95, who is dependent on her for cooking, cleaning, washing and shopping. Molly has not had a holiday for 20 years and the occasional weekend away had to stop when her auntbecame frightened of being left alone in their house in Whitehead, Co Antrim. In her youth, Molly sang opera and enjoyed dinner dances. But that life ended as her aunts became more dependent on her. Her oldest aunt, Minnie, died 16 years ago, leaving her to care almost full-time for Elizabeth, who died almost a year ago, aged 90.

Molly was an office manager in Belfast but gave that up 10 years ago when her two surviving aunts were unable to look after themselves. She says she gets no help from the social services and only won the services of extra care nurses after she threatenedto go to the papers. That was in 1993, after she had entered hospital for five days to have a cancerous lump removed from her breast. Despite a request for help from Larne Social Services, Molly had to rely on the neighbours to look after her aunts.

She is not bitter that she has had virtually no life of her own, only that her pension is taxed and that her seven-day-a-week job as a carer is not recognised. Her aunt receives a £70-a-week independent living allowance from which Molly can pay for a nurse, but she receives no payment for her own services.

"I have seen nothing of this so-called community care," Molly said. "I am being expected to provide it with no recompense. Imagine the cost to the state if I hadn't been around and my aunts had been in a nursing home."

Now Molly is crippled with arthritis and suffers from a bad back. She worries she will not be able to cope for much longer. "And who will look after me?".