My mother was a busy person. Her generation went through the war and she knew what it was like to experience air raids over Leeds.  Bringing up four children she had to be a bit feisty, but her grandchildren gave her a new lease of life – she mellowed. 

Mam lived very near me, so I often visited her. As she became unwell I helped every day with meals, washing and dressing, watching tv together and keeping her company. I tried to go home in the evening, or sometimes at lunchtime, because other family members (and the cats) needed me.  In the end I stayed with her most nights. 

She didn’t want paid carers in the house. Thankfully I’d already retired from work. I tried to be there for her, and in those years I knew there was no room for anything else. She was so grateful for what I could do. And spending this time with her was a comfort to me also. 

Caring for Mam developed our bond. It was intense – we shared a lot and I got to know her really well.  I found out things I wouldn’t have known otherwise. She had good friends, she liked clothes and jewellery. We went on holiday together, and she loved sitting down with me to watch Dickinson’s Real Deal. 

Mam lived in the same home for 62 years, and was desperate to stay there, but she spent her last three months in hospital. It was not a good time, and so many things were done badly. She was moved ten times between different wards; her property went missing, which she found really upsetting. I visited her every day.  I‘d been a nurse, so I knew what should be done, even so,  there were some very difficult times. Thankfully the evening of her death was a very peaceful one, and I’m glad I was with her.   

While she was in hospital I got in touch with Carers Leeds. It was a relief to talk with someone who understood.  Afterwards, the support worker told me our experience had been a difficult one.  Hearing that acknowledgement made a big difference to me.

The months after her death were a wasteland, and I felt lost. I was put in touch with the bereavement team – I had to wait quite a while for counselling but it was incredibly helpful when it came. 

Looking back I think my anxiety had been growing during my mother’s last years, but the hospital experience had a big impact.  The anxiety means that now there are places I can’t go, and people I can’t see. I miss them, but it’s too much some of the time. 

Even though I thought I was a strong person, being a carer has affected my wellbeing. I’m naturally a loyal person, and I’m determined, like my mother.  It’s been a hard experience at times, and sadly the hospital systems made it more difficult.  But I wouldn’t have done anything differently for her; that’s me. 

My Carers Story is an ongoing project by Carers Leeds to capture the stories of unpaid carers across our city. If you are interested in taking part, please email Juliet.