I am an unpaid carer

When my Mum forgets who she is and sometimes even me, I hope that is where her mind has gone, when her body’s home with me.


The following piece was awarded First Prize in the OU Students Association Wellbeing Writing Competition for Freshers Fortnight 2021. The author, Gemma, is from Portland, Dorset, and is studying English Literature. 

Gemma dedicates this poem to her mum. 

I am writing this to tell the world, in the hope you’ll understand,

how hard it is to care for a loved one, who used to hold your hand.

I chose to leave my life behind and place my dreams on hold,

It is hard to give up who you are at 21 years old.

A cup of tea and a quiet space in a garden by the sea,

is calming and medicinal it always works for me.

When my Mum forgets who she is and sometimes even me,

I hope that is where her mind has gone, when her body’s home with me.

When I get time and respite breaks, I hike to somewhere new,

I enjoy cooking on my scout Trangia with a cup of tea or two!

I take my partner Martin, but I ask Molly our cat to stay,

To protect the one, I love in exchange for feathers we find on the way.

On Wednesday nights I greet the group of scouts where I assist

They cheer me up, without a doubt a session rarely missed.

The virus did not stop us, we’re still scouting, just online,

Looking forward to our face to face but virtual for now is fine.

No matter how low, I always know my closest friends are there

I count on them to make me smile and to chase away despair.

They remind me of the times we’ve laughed so hard we could not stand

I stick photos of us to my smile board when life is not so grand.

At any opportunity and in all types of weathers,

I beachcomb all the pretty shells, driftwood, stones and feathers.

I take them home and clean them up and create a work of art.

It helps me focus on something else when my world is torn apart.

A book is the door to my escape, I can leave my world behind,

eyes skip keenly over words, from the depths of the author’s mind.

I am the skipper of my home; I try to keep afloat,

But its hard to bail and steer my Mum in a slowly sinking boat.

It’s hard to care make no mistake, but the decision to stop is too,

It’s not a choice for anyone who knows what their heart must do.

So I’ll wake and take a breath to face each challenge in my day,

I know that if my mum were well, she would not live this way.

I tune my ears to the only thing that keeps my smile on tight,

When I am on my knees, dog tired, from this never-ending fight.

Briefly her dementia clears and thanks me for all I do,

That’s when I say, “I love you Mum” and she says, “I Love you too”.


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