Two people walking on a street Two people walking on a street

Marjorie Allen, Birmingham

Marjorie Allen

Challenge: to develop new forms of support for carers, including middle-aged and young carers

Marjorie Allen already had her work cut out running her own cleaning business and bringing up her daughter as a single parent. Then, when her daughter was ten, her mother was diagnosed with a heart condition. Soon afterwards her aunt and uncle, who both lived near Marjorie in Birmingham, also became seriously ill.

'I don’t know how I managed,' she says, 'It was such as struggle at times. At one point I was looking after four people – my mum, my aunt, uncle and daughter.'

Her aunt, who was suffering from dementia, and her uncle, who had prostate cancer, became gradually worse. The caring was relentless. 'I’d administer their medicine, give them food, do washing and cleaning at times. With my uncle, hospice nurses would come and in and wash him, and there was a nurse for my mum towards the end to give me a bit of a break.
'At the same time my daughter was at school doing her GCSEs. I would rush home, do her tea, and then rush back out again.'

'I also had the business to keep going. I was exhausted. I don’t know how I managed, or coped with the lack of sleep. I was on the go all the time – you just run on adrenalin.'

Marjorie’s mother died three years ago and her uncle and aunt both died last year. Her daughter, now aged 20, has left home and is studying at university.

Looking back, Marjorie, does not believe she was given much support from the state. She says: 'I don’t think there’s enough support – it’s up to the family to do most of the caring. I don’t think there’s enough help provided until things get really bad. And you have to fight for the help all the time.'

And has she managed to get a break? 'Oh yes,' she sighs, 'I’ve finally gone on holiday.'

Last updated: 25 May 2016