Grief hasn’t been my friend over the last few weeks and it’s plastered all over my face for the world to see. I feel tired all the time, I could fall asleep anywhere at anytime and some days I can feel myself drowning in sadness. The bags under my eyes show the heavy weight of grief I am carrying inside me. I’m forgetting things – Isla’s extra tap lessons in preparation for her upcoming exam, Florence’s after school singing group, payments for school discos and Rainbow/Guides Pantomime trip.
Some days feel so long, almost never ending. And some days whizz by in a flash.
I try to keep myself busy – I find that being out of the house and around other people helps, but it doesn’t ‘fix’ anything.
Nothing can be fixed now and I have come to terms with that, but I need to attempt to paper over the cracks. My Lennon shaped hole will never be filled, not even slightly, however, that the outside of that gapping black hole can be made more colourful and prettier. And only I can do that…..
Last week I came to the realisation that what I am feeling is depression. I know this because I have suffered with depression since Lennon was born. Not severely, but enough to need a low dose of medication to keep my sadness suppressed.
I arranged to meet our hospice nurse and one of our continuing care nurses for coffee last week and I found talking with them about Lennon and sharing memories helped to alleviate some of the sadness. I could talk about Lennon all day everyday and I find great comfort in doing so. But there aren’t many people who still talk about Lennon. Maybe they think bringing him into the conversation will remind me of what I’ve lost and make me sad. It can’t – there are no reminders, he is forever on my mind and in my heart. Every second of every day.
We speak about Lennon everyday at home and he is still very much a part of our lives. Our house is full of reminders and happy memories. Florence often sits in his wheelchair at the table to eat dinner and Isla squeezes her size 3’s into his tiny bright Yo Gabba Gabba socks – I love hanging them on the washing line! And as Autumn changes to Winter Ian often reminisces about his long walks around the village with Lennon in the cold wind.
Lennon loved the wind.
Florence often asked where Lennon is – A question I still cannot answer as I do not know. I tell her he is sliding down rainbows somewhere, always watching and guiding us. How can I explain life after death to a 5 year old when I don’t understand it myself…..?
Lennon’s beloved respite centre Nascot Lawn is due to shut its doors next week and therefor the campaign to save it has now ended. Another chapter of Lennon’s life closed forever.
Now I’m focusing on building a legacy for Lennon. I assisted in compiling the Together for Short Lives report – End of Life Care: Strengthening Choice and I recently spoke at the Hertfordshire Rapid Response Conference, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m due to share my story with student Children’s nurse next month at Hertfordshire University and I’m looking at other ways in which I can share the up and downs of Lennon’s life in order to make a difference to children, families and professional practice. The only way in which people can be educated on life with a complex child is from parents and children who have lived experience. I want to share Lennon with the world! Plus It’s good therapy for my mental health.
It’s a way for me to keep a part Lennon alive – his story will never die.
On Sunday I sat listening to BBC5Live Investigate with tears trickling down my cheeks. I felt the pain of Hayley and Charlotte describing their lives because I have walked a similar journey.
You cannot begin to imagine that journey if you have never walked in those shoes. Trust me. Since Lennon has died I now know what a ‘typical’ life is. What it is like to get through a day on 8 hours sleep, not have to make life or death decisions on no sleep, to not feel like you are solely responsible for keeping your child alive every second of every day.
The responsibilities of living with a child who requires medical care 24/7 are immense and the weight you carry is beyond heavy. It’s unimaginable.
Lennon had always required a high level of care at home – so much so that neither Ian or could work. Our care package was always good (not brilliant) and generally we managed ok. We were lucky enough to receive 36 nights a year respite at Nascot Lawn – an NHS nurse led respite provision and that made all the difference to how we coped. We knew that we had one weekend every month when we could catch up on sleep, spend time with Isla and Florence and prepare ourselves for the month ahead.
In the last few months of Lennon’s life everything changed. We spent a long period of time in hospital and when Lennon was discharged his needs increased to a point where we felt like we were drowning. Our care package was increased but that only touched the sides.
We couldn’t cope and that broke my heart. All I wanted was to be able to care for my child and look after him myself, but I needed constant help to be able to do that.
And then a bombshell was dropped onto us. We were told that Nascot Lawn was closing due to a decision made by Herts Valley CCG to withdraw funding to the service.
We instantly knew that there was no way we would be able to cope without our weekend off every month, and that frightened me. My fight the Save Nascot began.
I spent the last 6 weeks of Lennon’s life campaigning alongside other parents against this awful decision whilst still providing him with the 24/7 care he needed.
I resent that hugely. I look back and wish it hadn’t of been that way. I hate that I look back on last weeks of my beloved sons and remember the overwhelming fear that I had at that time.
And that’s why the Together for Short Lives report End of Life Care: Strengthening Choice means so much to me.
For families like mine, high quality children’s palliative care is essential. Without it, we just couldn’t have survived. We need the government to fulfil its commitment and help children and families make the most of every minute.
When you have a life limited child you should not be fighting for help. You should be spending quality time with your children making memories – you never know how long you will have them for.
Good palliative care and short breaks for life limited children should not be a postcode lottery, families should not have to rely solely on charities to enable them to survive and they should certainly not be begging for what they need.
I could not fault the care Lennon received from our local Children’s Hospice Keech, especially after he died. They were always on the end of the phone and they looked after Lennon at short notice whenever we had a major crisis’. But they are under huge pressures – Keech need to raise over £6 million every year to enable them to care for their patients and families.
We were one of the lucky ones. Most families like ours do not have out of hours support or access to regular short breaks.
The Together for Short Lives inquiry found that 46% of Clinical Commissioning Groups aren’t implementing the Governments end of life care commitmentand have no plans to do so.
Our government must take urgent steps to ensure the support that children with life-limiting conditions need is delivered so that other parents can look back on their child’s final weeks and see happiness, not resentment.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I imagined all the experiences I would have with my son. As I’m sure all expectant mothers do. Not just the first few weeks and months, but also the years ahead.
Breastfeeding, cuddles, learning to walk and ride a bike.
Trips to the park, standing on the sidelines watching him play football or rugby, and waving him off for his first day at Secondary School.
Little did I know that my life with a first born child would be so different.
Not worse, in fact sometimes better – And certainly much more interesting and fulfilling in ways only a Special Needs Parent could possibly imagine.
Tube feeding, cuddles with wires everywhere frightened you would knock something that was keeping your baby alive. Bringing your baby home for first time, aged 6 months.
Learning to walk in a frame aged 5, fundraising for an adapted wheelchair bike.
Spending endless days, weeks, months inside a tiny hospital room.
Today, in the life I imagined myself leading this time 12 years ago, Lennon would of started Secondary School. I would be straightening a wonky tie, taming messy hair, shining a pair of smart black shoes and watching an 11 year old out of the front door.
That day was never meant be.
Instead, I would of been administering a ton of medications, changing dressing, emptying stoma bags and packing medical equipment and supplies ready for the day ahead. I would of smothered my gorgeous boy with kisses and cuddles before pushing him out of the front door in his wheelchair and onto the school bus.
But I am not doing that either.
Instead I am waving off only 2 of my 3 children for their first day of the school year. Florence into year 1 and Isla into year 6.
If you told me I could have Lennon back, even for the shortest time, and I could choose between the Son I imagined all those years ago, or the Lennon we were given, I would never choose the life that I imagined and dreamt of.
I would always choose the Lennon I know and love and our extraordinary life.
There will be many Special Needs Parents sending their children off to school this morning wishing that they were on their way to a mainstream secondary school.
I’m sat here wishing my son was alive and that I was standing at my door waving him off on the school bus to his severe learning disability school, watching his beaming smile and flapping arms as the bus turns the corner at the bottom of my road.
We all feel the pain of the last year and no matter how hard you try to forget the really bad moments, they still appear in your mind like an old fashioned showreel.
I forced myself out of bed and after a long, hard cry we ventured out of the flat to spend the day at the beach. It was a day Lennon truly would of enjoyed. The girls spent most of the day in the sea and building sand turtles fittingly named ‘Len’ and ‘Len Len’ after their brother.
In the evening we went out for a meal and sat by the harbour, eating ice creams and reminiscing about all the good times we shared in Torquay as a family of five.
As the day went on everyone’s mood slowly improved – helped somewhat by the sand, sea and sun. And the memories of the last time we were all together in Torquay – Lennon shrieking and arm flapping with delight whilst watching the fairground rides, and how thrilled he was being pushed out to sea in his dinghy. He loved the water and it seemed most appropriate that we spent the day by the sea.
We did struggle to decide what to do. People asked us what would we do on the anniversary of Lennon’s death?
To me, anniversaries mark happy days. Days to remember positive life events: a wedding anniversary for instance.
The day Lennon died is not a day to celebrate. August the 3rd will remain the saddest, most traumatic day of my life and I do not wish to celebrate the day my brave little soldier died.
If I could of slept through that day, I would of.
Ian has been amazing since we arrived. He has been cooking, making sure we are all fed and taken over the responsibility of the girls. I have barely lifted a finger.
It’s just what I needed. I don’t have enough energy or gumption to organise a p@£s up in a brewery at the moment.
Everything feels numb.
I didn’t need to ask him to take over, he simply did.
It’s hard to say whole year has passed, the words get stuck in my throat. Mainly because it doesn’t seem possible that my darling boy has been gone for 366 days now.
The fog of grief is slowly lifting, but the pain is still there. A constant reminder of the missing piece to my jigsaw.
This time last year was the toughest point of my life, it had been a 10 year plus roller coaster ride with Lennon. Some massive highs and terrible lows. But as a family we had taken it on. We always knew that Lennon would not live into adulthood. When he was in PICU at 2 years old the doctors didn’t think he was going to survive. From that moment on me and Nik dedicated our lives to him and made every moment count. Without Nik’s ability and determination we would of never have made double figures.
Since Len’s death we have had to rebuild -both emotionally and financially. It hasn’t been easy. I knew when Len died, it would be my job to lift Nik and the girls. Hopefully I have, and I’m proud of what they have achieved in a tough year.
Life will never be the same, but we will continue to make the most of it just as Len would have wanted us to.
Reading over the messages we received this time last year meant a lot. So many people I didn’t even know were following our story.
My aim was for Len to never be forgotten and touch as many peoples life’s as possible.
I have been asked a few times now to write a blog post to celebrate the NHS turning 70. If you have stumbled across my blog before you will know that without the NHS Lennon would not of survived much past his birth.
I’ve thought long and hard about which of our experiences I should write about to commemorate NHS70 – Neonatal Intensive Care, Great Ormond St, Paediatric Intensive Care, the CATS retrieval team, our local hospital and community nursing team, Nascot Lawn, Lennon’s school nursing team, the Children’s Continuing Care team….. the list goes on.
I’ve already shared some of those experiences and I wanted to chose something a little different – a side of the NHS that people maybe do not think about.
When we think about the NHS we think of peoples lives being saved, pioneering treatment, miracles. We don’t often see the other side of the NHS, but it is there and we shouldn’t ignore it.
When I think back to the care Lennon received from the NHS throughout his life, the time I think about most is the day he died. I can not fault the care and compassion that Lennon, Ian and myself received in the final few hours of Lennon’s life.
I remember the look on the consultants face as the surgeon told us that there was nothing more they could do for Lennon. I’ll never forget the tears rolling down her cheeks when she came in at 3am and removed the ventilator tube that was keeping Lennon alive. It was almost like she could feel our pain. She somehow understood exactly how much Lennon meant to us and how hard we had battled to keep him alive for so long. She knew what we had given up in order for our little soldier to live his life.
I could not fault the nurses that watched over him in his final hours, they were incredibly calm and gentle. They washed and dressed Lennon in clean pyjamas, made sure he was comfortable and kept him alive until we were ready to say our final goodbyes.
They made space in Lennon’s bed for me to get in and hold onto him.
They listened to us and made sure they knew our wishes down to the finest of details. They gave us the space and time that we needed and they understood how much that moment would stay with us for the rest our lives.
After Lennon died, the nurses helped us take foot prints, hand prints, and locks of hair. They let us stay with him as long as we needed to.
They both knew Lennon. One had looked after Lennon when he was first transferred to the children’s ward at Lister aged 6 months. It must of been so hard for her to watch him die. We bumped into her at the end of her shift. Her eyes welled up with tears as she told us she had personally taken Lennon down to the morgue and then rang around to break the news to the professionals involved in Lennon’s care. I can imagine the amount of strength she mustered to do that, just so I didn’t have to.
Sometimes the smallest of gestures have the biggest of impacts.
The staff at Addenbrookes knew I wanted Lennon to be at Keech as soon as possible. I didn’t want him to be alone. They worked tirelessly to make it happen and Lennon arrived at Keech just 12 hours after he had died.
It takes a certain kind of person to care for a dying child and their family.
In the weeks after Lennon died we received letters, cards, flowers and phone calls from all over the NHS. Consultants and surgeons from Great Ormond St and Lister, nurses who had cared for Lennon, therapists who had worked hard with him and seen him flourish and develop over the years. They all took time out from their busy lives to remind us how amazing our son was, how he fought the odds and how they would miss him dearly. None of them had to do that, but they did.
It was clear that Lennon’s death had affected many people within the NHS. We all think of doctors and nurses as life savers, and they are. But they also see a sadder side of the NHS and sometimes have to admit defeat and watch their patients die.
Our NHS saves lives, but it also grieves the lives it couldn’t save.
We must not forget the impact that has.
Thank you to the NHS for giving us 10 amazing years with our little soldier Lennon, and for being there when it mattered the most.
By the time Lennon turned 2 years old, he had spent the majority of his life in hospital – predominantly in Intensive Care. The short amounts of time we did get to spend at home were fraught with anxiety and worry.
Lennon was oxygen dependent, needed regular suction and was fed into a jejunostomy (a surgical feeding tube placed into his small bowel). His stomach contents drained out into a bag and we needed to calculate these fluid losses in order to replace the lost volumes as Lennon had stage 3 kidney failure.
He required multiple medications throughout the day and night including hormone injections.
He regularly stopped breathing and on occasion, needed me to resuscitate him at home.
Lennon had also been diagnosed as being deaf blind.
Caring for Lennon was an immense responsibility and at times I felt completely out of my depth – my head bopping continuously above and below the surface of stormy waters.
When he stopped breathing, I found my own breath stuck heavy in my chest.
The pressure was enormous and all consuming.
I love Lennon and I would do anything for him, absolutely anything – nothing was too much.
I gave up my life to look after Lennon and keep him alive. I quit my much loved career, hardly saw my friends and rarely left the house or Lennon’s hospital bed side.
Lennon was admitted to Intensive Care for the fifth time when he 2 years and 1 month old.
He was very poorly. He had a central line infection and bronchiolitis. His bowel had failed on Christmas Eve, just 2 weeks prior, and he was surviving on intravenous nutrition.
His existing diagnoses of renal failure and pan hypopituitarism made providing life support for Lennon complicated. The outlook was bleak and the doctors had asked Lennon’s father, Ian, and I to consider turning off Lennon’s support and ending his difficult and problematic life.
We were both horrified at the very thought of life without our little soldier. I wanted so much more for him. I yearned for him to experience life – joy, excitement and happiness. And I wanted others to experience the elation that came along with Lennon’s achievements, and for him to leave a footprint on the lives of other, just as he had on our lives.
Of course, we said No – Lennon would be one to decide when he no longer had the energy to survive.
And in the moment the word No left my mouth, I made a vow to Lennon, and myself, that his life would be as rich and fulfilled as possible.
Lennon slowly improved and eventually came home – still with a complex and time consuming medical routine. It was then that we were referred to Palliative Care at our nearest children’s hospice, Keech hospice in Luton. Keech’s holistic approach enabled us to care for Lennon at home and keep him there.
I spent the next 8 years researching, planning and booking the most amazing experiences for Lennon, and memories for our family. Yes, he was life limited, in a wheelchair, was deaf blind and had a profound and multiple learning disabilities – but why should that be a reason to stop someone from experiencing a full rainbow of life? Why should he miss out?
We took Lennon swimming at Keech Hospice as much as we possibly could – this was always a mammoth task. Changing Lennon’s dressings, keeping an eye on his dropping blood sugars, and keeping him warm was difficult but his excitement and enthusiasm to be in the water made all the stress of the situation melt away.
We went Ice skating as a family every year on Lennon’s Birthday in December, it became a family tradition. Lennon loved ice skating and the faster the better. One year Ian went so fast he managed to fall over and tip Lennon’s wheelchair backwards into the ice – I was totally horrified and I’m sure my heart missed a beat. Lennon on the other hand, thought the whole experience was hilarious and seemed to be asking Ian to repeat the whole scenario!
Disney on Ice became a twice yearly event. When it came to Lennon, you couldn’t go wrong with ice skating and Disney together in one venue – two of his most favorite things!
We fundraised and purchased a walking frame and a special bike.
Lennon spent hours toddling around in his walking frame when he was well, and in the summer, we used to stand his walking frame in a paddling pool and he would splash away with such delight.
The bike was incredible – it was a life changer for Lennon. He was a real thrill seeker and was enraptured by speed. Ian would take him for long bike rides, speeding through long, windy country lanes. Lennon flapping his arms and screaming with delight!
I found a company who provided ski lessons to people with a disability. This was a little trickier and took a lot of planning. Lennon’s pan hypopituitarism meant his body disagreed with cold temperatures. But we found ways to work around that. Skiing became a favorite activity for Lennon – the buzz of sweeping down the slopes enraptured him. His face exuded excitement and happiness.
We also took him down the mini slope in a donut ring!
Neither Ian nor I have ever skied, yet our disabled son has.
We desperately wanted to take Lennon to Euro Disney – we knew he would love it! But the professionals had forbidden us to leave the country without trained medical support.
Year after year we applied to The Caudwell Children’s yearly trip to Disney Land, Florida – ‘Destination Dreams’. Every year they take 25 children and their families plus a team of 12 doctors and nurses. It solved our problem of needing to travel with medical support. And in 2015 we were selected!
Destination Dreams was the trip of a lifetime. It took months of planning and we travelled with almost 50kg of medical supplies, a file jam packed with medical notes, letters from doctors and emergency plans. But it was oh so worth it!
We stayed in Give Kids the World and visited the parks. I was shocked that so many of the rides had adapted carts for wheelchair users and ecstatic that for one week Lennon did not have to be excluded from anything. My little thrill seeker absolutely loved the rides! The fast and higher, the more he delighted he was. He adored the characters and was mesmerized when we Mickey Mouse in Magic Kingdom. I think the Electric Parade at Magic Kingdom was his highlight. His permanent beaming face on that trip will remain imprinted in my memory forever.
Lennon sadly died on 3rd August 2017, in the same Intensive Care Unit that had asked us to turn off his life support eight and a half years earlier. It was Lennon’s time – his exhausted little body had run out of fight. We had been luck enough to of been under palliative care for over 8 years, and therefore we had talked about the final stages of Lennon’s life many times. Palliative care gave us the knowledge to enable us to make educated decisions over time and not have to make quick decisions during the hardest time of our lives. We had always wanted Lennon to die at Keech Hospice, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. The team at Addenbrookes and the lovely staff at Keech worked hard planning, and Lennon made his final journey to the hospice less than 12 hours after he died. He stayed there until his funeral.
We will be eternally grateful for those extra eight and a half years. Eight and half years packed full of joy, excitement and happiness.
And yes, Lennon did make an immeasurable impact on the lives of everyone he came into contact with. He is remembered by many as ‘The boy with the Midas touch’.
Lennon’s fun packed life proves that palliative care is not about giving up, there are always ways to live your life – in the capacity and time that you have – to the maximum.
So far, I have found this to be statement untrue. As yet the pain has not decreased at all, in fact it feels like it has increased. With each day that passes I miss Lennon more and more, and it hurts. The gapping hole in our lives feels like it is slowly growing.
I’ve gone from sleeping like a log to sleeping badly. I’ve never struggled to sleep before. I toss and turn in bed, trying to turn my complex thoughts into some form of sense.
Recently Lennon appears frequently in my dreams – sometimes he is alive, others he is dead. And despite waking up some nights sobbing, struggling to catch my breath, I do get great comfort from seeing him. I find myself feeling upset when I don’t dream about him.
Every morning I get up to yet another day without Lennon.
There are days when I have to force myself out of bed. Grief is exhausting – it seems to steal my energy leaving my head foggy. If it wasn’t for my girls I don’t think I would make the effort to get up and dressed every day.
Florence has been struggling with her grief. Her behaviour has been awful for over a month now. Granted, she has never been an ‘easy’ child (anyone who’s spent time with her will know that!) but even school have noticed that she is talking about Lennon more so than usual.
She regularly asks where Lennon has gone and it’s so hard for us to explain. Lennon is dead, but I have no idea ‘where’ he is….
My little girl needs bereavement support – support that I cannot give her.
Florence is a strong, stubborn child and doesn’t like to ‘talk’ or explain how she feels. She is a complex character and even I, as her mother, find her difficult to understand.
Isla however is the opposite. She is an outwardly sensitive child who wears her heart on her sleeve. She is much easier to read and will always approach someone when her feelings overwhelm her.
Isla has fantastic support at school, which is good as she doesn’t like to get upset in front of Ian and I. School is her safe place to grieve. She struggles in the holidays – there is no where for her to hide her grief from us and the Lennon shaped hole in our home is so much more apparent in the school holidays.
Isla misses her brother and is struggling to coming to terms with the fact that she will never see her big brother again.
Watching my children grieve for their brother is as painful as my own grief.
I have been having flashbacks. My mind wanders back to that day. I replay moments minute by minute. I remember the last time he was at home, in his bed. I see Ian carrying him out to the ambulance.
I find myself back in the Intensive care unit, signing the consent form for Lennon to go to theatre. Lying next to him in bed while the doctors turns of his life support.
I try my hardest to override those thoughts with happy memories – Lennon’s bright, beaming smile and his clicking noises.
Life without Lennon is still so difficult to comprehend.
I cannot imagine life without grief and pain and I cannot imagine the pain getting easier with time.
On the 3rd February 2018 it was 6 months since our darling boy departed life.
6 months without hearing his loud clicking noises or his cheeky belly laugh.
6 months without seeing his big glassy blue eyes or his arms flapping wildly.
6 months of not climbing into my little soldiers bed every night to squeeze him tightly and kiss him goodnight.
The pain of living my life without Lennon increases everyday. I miss him. I miss my old life. I miss being Lennon’s Mummy. It hurts. It is still a deep, heavy pain that I cannot describe.
I’m beginning to realise that grief doesn’t leave you – It becomes a permanent fixture in your life. You have to learn to co-exist with grief.
A few nights ago I had a vivid dream about Lennon. So intense and lifelike that for the first few seconds upon waking, I thought it was true.
I dreamt that Lennon had returned to life. I didn’t know how, but he was back with us, where he belongs.
I thought how lucky it was that we had kept his wheelchair – we could take him outside.
Lennon loved to be outside.
I was pushing Lennon in his chair up a steep hill, but he was too heavy and we couldn’t reach the peak.
Then he was back in his bedroom, lying in his beloved fishbowl bed. I had forgotten to administer his medications. I was angry and disappointed with myself that I had forgotten my strict, daily routine and worried that he would become poorly because of a stupid mistake I had made.
I subsequently moved Lennon’s large medication unit into his bedroom to help me remember.
It was all a dream. When the cold, unwanted truth hit me, I sobbed.
I was crest fallen that he wasn’t back, he is gone. Gone forever.
I was also saddened by the thought that I have lost my skills. Skills that I had proudly built up over 10 years. Procedures that I will never carry out again. Replacing a surgical jejunostomy tube, passing a nasal gastric tube, deep throat suctioning, replacing a gastrostomy button, putting on an ileostomy bag, accessing a port-a-Cath and taking blood.
All that expertise built up over so many years. I was proud of the responsibility I had bestowed upon me – yes, the pressure of it was immense and overwhelming, but being competent in all the procedures Lennon needed to enable him to stay at home with his family and away from hospitals was incredibly gratifying.
Keeping Lennon at home was very important to me.
Life has changed so much.
It is becoming more and more apparent to me that I am no longer a part of the ‘Special kids mums’ club. I am no longer living an extraordinary life.
I am a bereaved mother.
I can’t go back – no matter how much I wish that I could.
I had never thought of my daughters, Isla age 9 and Florence age 5, as being young carers and I had never identified them to Carers in Herts (our local charity supporting carers), although their school did know about Lennon and that their home life was not ‘normal’.
It had taken me a long time to realise that I was a Carer myself. In my eyes we were a just ordinary family with an extraordinary member!
What is a young carer?
I thought you could only be a young carer if you were a child caring for their parent.
I was wrong.
The Carers Trust defines a young carer as ‘someone under 18 who helps look after someone in their family, or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol’.
My girls helped me look after Lennon, their brother.
‘A young carer might help out with practical tasks, such as housework or preparing meals. They may provide help with personal care such as getting washed and dressed. They might help out with looking after their siblings’.
Isla and Florence helped to get Lennon washed and dressed, they made their own breakfast in the morning. Isla would help make Florence’s packed lunch and help her to get dressed for school.
How did I not realise that my daughters were young carers?!
Maybe because they were born into their life, and they had never known any different.
They were born into their caring role.
After Lennon died I met Jodie Deards, the Carers Lead for East and North Herts NHS trust at Lister Hospital and winner of the ‘Commitment to Carers’ award at the RCNi Nurse Awards 2017.
Since meeting Jodie I have become much more aware of what defines a young carer and the impact caring has on their lives whilst they are growing up.
At a time when they should be out having fun with their friends, doing homework and worrying about what clothes they should wear, young carers are busy helping out with cooking, cleaning and laundry, and providing both emotional support and physical care.
The facts shocked me –
There are roughly 700,000 young carers in the UK – that equates to 1 in every 12 secondary school age children.
And 1 in every 12 of those young carers is likely to be caring for more than 15 hours every week.
The Family Action report ‘Be Bothered’ written in 2012 and based on young carers and their education, found that most young carers are not known to be caring by school staff – Being a young carer can be a hidden cause of poor attendance, underachievement and bullying, and many young carers drop out of school or achieve no qualifications.
This in turn will have a huge impact on the rest of their lives.
Young Carers have dreams, ambitions and aspirations for the future just like every other young person and we should be making sure that they get the support and help that they deserve to achieve those dreams, ambitions and aspirations.