#UnsungHero Christie Michael from Essex, hasn’t left her house for three months in fear of making her mum fatally ill. Christie has looked after her mum, Maria, who was a single parent, since she was around five-years-old. When Christie was a child, her mum’s condition meant she would regularly black out, which has now developed into a severe form of epilepsy as well has suffering with acute asthma too. The mother and daughter have been shielding, meaning Christie hasn’t stepped outside of the house or even gone for a walk since the start of lockdown in March. Christie admitted that lockdown had been the most difficult time of their lives.
Christie said, “There’s no respite at all. It’s all in the same four walls. I have to hide how I’m feeling because I don’t want her to feel worse, so I’m putting on an acting role 24 hours a day and it’s exhausting.”
But during the lockdown Christie and Maria faced a different kind of problem – hunger. Supermarket delivery slots were difficult to access towards the start of lockdown so had to rely on what they already had. Christie explained, “We’ve had to clear out the cupboards for baked beans, cereal and porridge, anything we could find because we didn’t have enough money to buy lots of food.”
During the lockdown, she says the sense of being invisible and forgotten has been even more intense. Christie said, “What makes it tougher, is the lack of recognition for such carers, protecting the people they love, but spending their waking hours looking after someone and being trapped without any money…. I’ve managed to save a little while the food bank has been helping us. Once the government announces that people shielding can go outside we’ll hang back for another few weeks to make sure there’s not going to be a second wave.”
Christie and Maria’s situation is not uncommon. Research carried out by the University of Sheffield and University of Birmingham, in partnership with Carers UK, shows that more than 100,000 unpaid carers across the UK have relied on a food bank. The data, from April 2020, also reveals that almost 230,000 carers have had someone in their household go hungry during lockdown.
The study suggests that unpaid carers are twice as likely to have used food banks during the pandemic, compared to the general population. Professor Sue Yeandle of Sheffield University says this should “shock the nation…It cannot be right that carers are hidden from view, with declining mental wellbeing or face hunger or food poverty.”
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel but it’s going to be a slow recovery.” Like many Carers who look after an ailing parent or grandparent, Christie feels, “As a carer, to see the emotional problems with your parent is one of the hardest things in the world. When they look after you, you solely rely on them but the roles have now switched and it’s heartbreaking.”