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5th Jul, 2022

Solihull single mother tells of struggle with loved one's dementia and calls for social care reform

Sarah Mason 11th Dec, 2018

THE STORY at the heart of a new BBC One drama, Care, is too often the reality for those trying to get loved ones into the social care system, just like Christine Mulgrew from Solihull.

The show, which aired on Sunday (December 9) – inspired by the real life experiences of scriptwriter Jimmy McGovern’s fellow writer Gillian Juckes – follows a single mother Jenny (Sheridan Smith), suddenly thrown into caring for her mother who develops dementia after a stroke, alongside her children, and holding down a job.

Single mother Christine, from Elmdon in Solihull, is one person who can relate to the drama, as well as the difficulty of accessing the right care packages.

Christine’s mother, Teresa, was diagnosed with dementia in 2016 aged 80 after having a stroke.

Christine struggled to get care for her mother so had to look after Teresa herself as well as raising her teenage son, Matthew, while working full time as a primary school teaching assistant.

Christine said: “Before mum was diagnosed with dementia, she was always very outgoing – she loved dancing and had lots of friends. She was very independent and would head into town to the markets or to go to church on her own.

“But in 2016, after having a stroke, mum became withdrawn.

“She stopped dancing, and she wouldn’t go anywhere further than the shops at the end of her road.”

Before her diagnosis Teresa was on hand to help out with Matthew, but then Christine found herself looking after them both as well as working.

As Teresa lived on the other side of Birmingham, Christine would get up at 6am, travel to her mum’s, make breakfast and get dressed before heading back to Elmdon and sorting her and Matthew out for school.

And after work she would drive over to her mum’s and make her tea before finally going home and getting something herself.

Christine said: “Getting care for mum has been horrendous. I was so stressed and drained that I had to be signed off work for six weeks and mum had to come and live with us.

“There were so many forms and documents to constantly fill out.

“The whole process of finding care for mum was so long winded and complicated. It just seemed like the local authorities didn’t want to know us. No one should have to go through this.”

The Alzheimer’s Society has commended the scriptwriter for casting a light on an invisible group of people sacrificing their careers, relationships, health and wellbeing to care for loved ones with dementia – as it is unavailable elsewhere.

The charity hopes the one-off TV drama will give fresh momentum to its Fix Dementia Care campaign to ensure 850,000 people with dementia and their families get the care and support they need.

McGovern, known for having a finger on the national pulse, praised Sheridan Smith for bringing so much humanity to her role as Jenny, saying: “Caring costs her her job, her personal life and this is a reality for many families affected by dementia.

“I don’t see myself as a political writer, I just put people on screen with ordinary, everyday problems.

“If British politics ever gets back to normal there needs to be a national conversation about care for older people. It’s a question that has to be addressed.”

For more on the Alzheimer’s Society visit www.alzheimers.org.uk or call 0300 222 11 22.

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