My life has been on hold for the last three years.

Rosanna is 64, she lives with her partner Tony and her dog Freddie. When her father died, the family home was sold and Rosanna and Tony moved house so they could care for Rosanna’s mum who is in her nineties and now lives with them. Before she became a full-time carer, Rosanna owned her own hairdressing salon.

How did you feel about giving up your job?

It wasn’t feasible to run the business any more. Yes, it’s tough. I had planned to go on working until I could draw my pension. I do miss it, but it is what it is.

Tell me about your life now

If all the carers in the country went down, I don’t know what the government would do.

Mum’s become my child. My life has been on hold for the last three years. My life revolves around mum. I’m with her from the moment she wakes. She has heart and mobility problems and suffers from anxiety which means she can’t be left alone for long.

I have four hours respite a week which Daniela [CSM Senior Support Worker] got for me.

What do you do in your respite time?

In those four hours I’ll go for a walk, I might see a friend, go to Kingston to look at the shops or get my hair and nails done.

What does a typical day look like?

I’m with my mum from moment she wakes around 7.30am, until she goes to bed at about 5.30pm

When was the last time you had a lie in?

[Laughs]

I help mum to dress and get down the stairs. We’re thinking about getting a stair lift but [going up and down the stairs] is really the only exercise mum gets.

If I can, I go out to walk the dog for 20 minutes before Tony leaves for work. Otherwise I might dash out for a few minutes just to get some fresh air.

After breakfast, I’ll settle mum down in living room. Then I’ll get on with the housework and walk the dog if haven’t done it earlier. After we’ve had lunch I’ll tidy up and then I’ll sit with mum all afternoon.  She has supper at about 4.30 and then around 5.30 she goes to bed. Then it’s my time.

My partner and I sit down at 7.30pm for a meal. Then we have three hours to ourselves before we go to bed.

I’m lucky my partner does the weekly shopping and looks after garden. He’s incredibly understanding. He has elderly parents himself. They are in their nineties. He is an only child and goes to Italy every 10 weeks to see them. They are looked after by carers. In lockdown he hasn’t been able to go.

What about your own health?

I am diabetic and now my blood sugar levels are going through the roof.

What are your hopes for the future

One day we’ll find ourselves again. We love to travel. What keeps us going is that one day we’ll get to do our own thing again. I’ll pick up where we left off. Have my life to myself again. For now, we lose ourselves in the journey.

Last year we went away for 10 days. My mum went into respite. I knew she was being well looked after and she was happy there, but I worried continuously. I phoned several times day. I constantly worry. Even a break isn’t a break

How will you celebrate Christmas?

In the past the whole family got together (10 or 11 people) but now it will just be the three of us.

What are the positives of caring?

Mum has been able to stay in the family home. She’s happy and contented and really looked after properly. That gives me great pleasure. It’s lovely that mum hasn’t had to go into a care home. I feel like I’ve done my absolute best.

My mother and father were good parents. I promised my dad, I’d look after my mum. But I don’t have a life any more.

Unless people walk in your shoes they can never understand. They say, “you’re marvellous.” I don’t talk about it anymore now. I’ve taken this role. But you see who your friends are. Some have just retreated.

What do you miss?

On Sundays when the weather’s really nice, we used to love to go the beach or a country pub and have a walk. We can’t do that anymore. I’d love to go to a hotel. My mother’s mobility is limited, we need a wheelchair. In the past we used to take mum on holiday with us. We drove to Italy. Even before Covid we couldn’t take her abroad anymore. For one thing you can’t get insurance.

I don’t have anything in my life for me.

All I want for Christmas? A few days to myself, a bit of time for me.

Carers Support Merton works on behalf of carers like Rosanna to ensure they receive all the respite to which they are entitled.

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