Carers Week 2020: Emma’s Story

Two women sitting outside on grass. One of the women has a little boy sitting on her lap.

This week marks Carers Week and at Sense we want to take a bit of time to celebrate young carers. These young people do an incredible job supporting siblings and families while juggling the everyday pressures of life.

The latest research for Carers Week shows that there are 4.5 million new unpaid carers since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

While Emma always helped her mum to care for her brother John, the current crisis meant that she is helping out more than ever.

Lena has spent the lockdown with shielding with the two children, 17-year-old Emma and 8-year-old John, who is supported by Sense Northern Ireland (NI). This has been a lot harder than expected. John has cerebral palsy and epilepsy which, since the lockdown started, has resulted in two trips to intensive care. While this has been a particularly challenging time, Emma has been there to support her brother and mum. Lena has nothing but amazing words for her daughter.

“After another difficult night I sit here with a clean well looked after house. No one would ever guess that her brother is a 24hr job. If it wasn’t for my daughter Emma, my house would be crumbling around me. She is like a domestic goddess cleaning, cooking, ironing doing absolutely everything round he house to leave me free to look after her brother.

Emma’s been doing this for 8 years but in this Covid crisis I feel that Emma has been put under a strain that many grown adults would struggle with – yet as usual she has stepped up with great resilience (So much so I’m almost embarrassed it’s taken me until now to realise how much pressure she has been under and is smiling through).  I know Emma is not the only one in this position, so I’d like to clap for our young carers who do so much without even realising how much they do.”

Celebrating young carers

To protect her little brother, Emma gave up her job at a local bakery. The two have a very special bond. When Emma is singing ‘Mama Mia’, John is having the time of his life. Between, supporting her mum and brother, Emma is also studying for her AS Levels and, according to Lena, baking the most amazing cakes.

Their Sense Family Support Worker, Lori, knows the difference Emma makes in John’s life. “Emma and her family have been part of the Touching Lives, Transforming Families project in the Western Trust since its inception in 2016. Emma, her Mum Lena and brother John are regular attenders at Sense NI’s family and sibling events.  At Sense NI we are always willing and eager to engage with other families and support them wherever they can.

 Emma epitomises kindness, compassion, and courage. She is her Mum’s main support in looking after John, and gives of her time and energy selflessly, and patiently. During this pandemic, Emma has shown her strength of character in being able to combine studying for her AS levels with helping to look after John. I am delighted that she is being recognised as a super sibling and wish her every success in her future.”

Lena is very aware of how much Emma does on a daily basis, and while it would be difficult to run a house without her, Lena wants Emma to fulfil all of her dreams and not think of herself as John’s carer. For Lena, the most important thing is that they always see each other as brother and sister first and foremost. Just as Emma has been there to support Lena, Lena has been there to nurture the sibling’s relationship into a close bond.

All three support each other through the best and worst times. This strong family relationship enables them to support other families in the local area and at Sense Family Days. Lena and Emma are always there to speak to other families while sharing laughter and tears.

For Emma, caring is so rooted into her DNA. Before the lockdown, she was volunteering at a local children’s hospice and hoped to go into nursing however, the current global situation has put those plans into question. In a world of uncertainty, Lena knows Emma will always be there for her brother. For Carer’s Week, we want to celebrate Emma and all the young carers out there.

Find out more how Sense is supporting families in Northern Ireland.

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