The role of a carer is not a nine to five job

Lorraine Menzies, of Laceby Acres, with her son, Robert.

Two years ago Lorraine Menzies was left “heartbroken” when she lost her job of 16 years with North East Lincolnshire Council. But almost immediately, she was thrust into the role of full-time carer, as one family member after another was struck down by illness. Simon Faulkner reports.


“YOU feel like a little hamster on a wheel. It is emotionally as well as physically draining.”

That is how Lorraine Menzies describes the life of a full-time carer.

The single mum-of-two has been a carer for her 21-year-old autistic son Robert throughout his life.

But it was only after being made redundant from her job of 16 years in September 2012 that she took on the role of full-time carer – not only for her son, but her mother, step-father and uncle, too.

Lorraine, 54, whose job involved working alongside the authority’s educational psychologists, said: “In some respects I have come out of a caring role with children and vulnerable families and straight into another with my own family.”

Soon after Lorraine was made redundant, Robert’s wellbeing deteriorated, and it became clear that he would not be able to go to university.

Born with Asperger’s syndrome, Robert struggled to cope with the transition from teenager to adult, and was therefore in need of full-time care.

Then in December 2012, Lorraine’s uncle Gordon Ashley was diagnosed with cancer.

Lorraine, of Laceby Acres, would drive to his home in Scotter to care for him and give her auntie some much-needed respite.

She said: “I had always been very close to my uncle and I’m a very caring person. I did it professionally and that’s my nature.”

When Gordon died in February 2013, Lorraine began looking for a job that she could fit around caring for Robert.

But then her step-dad David Rowe’s health deteriorated and he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

It meant Lorraine’s part-time role caring for her mum Hazel, who has mobility problems, became a full-time one.

“David started to become ill with memory loss which we thought was dementia but it was actually a brain tumour.

“He was no longer able to drive so my role then was to transport them around and to take my mother shopping.

“I have always been a carer for my mum. Every day I would go down to check that she was all right. But with David being unable to drive, my role took on a lot more responsibility.”

It is a role that she has continued since David’s death on May 8 this year. She still visits her mum on Littlefield Lane every day.

“When I think of what I do I can’t quite believe it.

“I’m always nervous. I have to have my phone on all night in case she wants me. It is full-time. I do not get a day off. You don’t work nine to five. Your role is constant.”

Lorraine says she would like to get back into paid employment, but does not want to commit to anything until she is satisfied that Robert is settled.

Lorraine, who also has a 16-year-old daughter, Laura, says getting by on a modest weekly carer’s allowance is not easy.

“I had to get rid of my car. You have to adapt according to your current income.”

As for getting off the hamster’s wheel, she says the respite provided at the Carers’ Support Service in Town Hall Square is invaluable.

“It’s an opportunity for you to share your concerns and worries with someone else who is in a similar position. There’s somebody there to offer you advice and a cup of tea. They also provide treatments, therapies and massages.

“The most important thing in all of this is that you are not alone.

“When you pick up the phone and ring you are received by nice receptionists who are only too willing to help.”