The storyteller shares her experiences of caring for her mum with dementia after bringing her back to the UK. The support she got from fellow Sierra Leone neighbours, the impact on her own mental wellbeing, and how she ended up in prison for claiming benfits in a time of financial difficulty.

In prison the storyteller got access to the information and advice needed to support her mum, and herself as her mums main carer. 

I love helping people. I just love doing stuff for people that makes them appreciative and happy. Anything that makes the other person happy is definitely my my goal. Thank you for sharing that and what is important to you and your family, my Children and their success in life in anything that they want to do, not what I want them to do, but what they're passionate about

I would support them in anything. I. I am really, really passionate about my Children and and their future, and I was wondering if you would share with me a bit of your journey of being becoming having been a carer

Wow, that's a long journey. And it started off. I didn't grow up with my mom

I grew up with my dad, but as a child, I have always wanted to know who my mother was. So going back to Sierra Leone in 1993 to go and look for my mother I. I originally went there for something else

My friend was getting married and I was bridesmaid, so I took the opportunity when I went to Sierra Leone to go and look for my mother as well and when I found her, she was in a really, really bad state. And I thought to myself, There's no way I'm going back to England and leaving this woman in this country. And so I packed her bags, stood her on the plane and came over to England with me being British

It was easy, But with her it wasn't because she was a British. She didn't have a British passport. And I remember the immigration officer saying to me, How long is your mom staying for? And I said forever and he said, Well, that's not possible at the moment, but we are gonna stamp out for six months and you have the opportunity to apply, um, to immigration and take it from there

And that's how my journey started with me becoming my mom's car. When we got to the GP, my mom wasn't speaking at all. When I found my mom, she couldn't speak

She was just smiling, picking food from the floor. People were throwing food at her. She was just in a bad state

So when I got here, the GP said to me, how long has she been like this? And I said I haven't got a clue. I said the only thing I know is I met her like this, but growing up as a little child in England before we went to Sierra Leone at the age of six. My mom, my mom, was fine

They took us back to Sierra Leone. We went back to Sierra Leone with my dad, but my mom stayed in England, and over the years I got to realise that she had a mental issue all along those years. That's why my dad didn't take her back to Sierra Leone with with her and they separated because of her mental, um, and issues

So, um, going back to me, bringing her to England and the GP saying, Well, we need to investigate and find out exactly what's happened, Why she is like this. She is not speaking. She was just not doing anything for herself

She needed help with virtually everything. Everything. Getting up in the morning, having her breakfast, getting the shower

I had to do all that, and at the time I was in a full time employment. But luckily for me, I found another Sierra Leone who lived close by, and she was a child minder, and luckily she said to me, I'll look after your mom while she at work. I'm not asking for anything, but whatever little you give me, I appreciate it

And that's how I started, you know, going to work At the end of the month. I would pay for her care through this woman and down the line. I got myself into some financial difficulty, and even though I was still caring for my mom and I was not paying my rent, I was walking and I became pregnant, and the child's dad left as well

So I had my pregnancy to deal with the baby to deal with when she was eventually born and my mother to deal with. So that's my key I'm gonna go with now. My mother and my daughter as a single parent and I started claiming housing benefits, so that got me into trouble

And I ended up in, um, Halloween. So I had a six month prison sentence, and at the time I was heavily pregnant with my daughter. And whilst I was in there, I met this woman

You know, we were discussing You don't look like somebody that she's been breathing. What are you in here for? You know, we had a laugh about it and, you know, I explained what was going. And then she said to me, Well, who's looking after your mother? I said, Well, she's home with my sister because I have There's five of us

But I was the one who was doing the care, you know, since I was the one who went back home and brought her back. Everybody was like saying, You've taken on a boarding that you might not be able to deal with. But when I was when I was given the custodial sentence, the lady who represented me asked me what would What should they do with my mother? They were going to give her over to social services, and I said no

My sisters would look after her. So she stayed with my sisters. And while I was in there explaining this thing to this woman, she was the one who explained it to me that the services that can help you look after your mom

You need to contact um, Oxley and I am through all this information immediately. I came out of prison I contacted the Greenwich Care Centre through the Greenwich Care Centre. They were able to support me as a carer and give me all the information I needed to get my mom the right treatment

Get my mom a psychiatric because she didn't have a psychiatrist at the moment. It's OK. Uh, so luckily, I was able to get get into Ox

She go to a psychiatrist, they kind of realised that she had paranoid schizophrenic. She was paranoid schizophrenic. She had vascular dementia, and he become became diabetic as well

But you know, luckily for me, I always say that, you know, sometimes bad things happen and good things come out of it. So Oxley is now The doctors started treating her, giving her the right medication. Yeah, they got me a care to come to the house to help me

The care coordinator. She had a PA package. And, you know, to this day, I'm grateful for all that

And, you know, she stayed with me for 39 years until I myself had a breakdown and became ill. And then I decided it was time for me to give that up to, um to now in a nursing home. But I still do the care you go because even today I had to take her for her dentist appointment

But the good thing is, at least I sleep at night because when she was home, it was hard work. You know, she gets up in the middle of the night and I didn't have a night car because the car comes in the morning. And then she used to go to a day centre, which helped as well

They gave me that respite. He would pick her up in the morning and we can get back down about four o'clock. But because of Covid, all that stopped during Covid, I had to look after her again

24 7. The carers were not coming in anymore. And this is when I had my my own mental breakdown and I was admitted to the query and, um, my care

You all had to be reduced. I, I thought to myself, I think I've done enough. It's about time I look after myself

And so she's now in a nursing home and things are getting better for me. Mm, that that's that's for you. Good to hear

It's certainly painful to hear what you're saying and I appreciate your honesty. Um, I was really struck by if I'm honest with you and I'm just gonna be really honest how open you are about going to prison. And when I'm listening to you, I was thinking, Oh, my gosh

So many people might be doing things to care for loved ones just because they don't know what to do or where to go. Yeah, Yeah, I was shocked when this woman was giving me all this information. I was like, Are you for real? Is this true? And you know, there are things out there, but people don't know about it

Even two weeks ago, I started volunteering for the Greenwich Career Centre because I want I am so passionate about people knowing what's available and being aware of all the support. They can have careers either paid or unpaid because, uh, in like, if you would have had that information at that time Oh, there's a lot I could have done. I could have saved myself so much

I could have saved myself going into the debts that I went to. I could have saved myself taking on such a huge load on my Why is it important for you to share this story? Because I just think life can be unfair unnecessarily. You know, we need to be able to be open enough to let our our our own disadvantages, for instance, be an advantage to somebody out there who in the long run might not

We hopefully won't end up the way I ended up in prison, although for me, my prison story for me personally, it's it's it's a good journey in itself because something good came out of it..

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