“I had to fight for my mum” – Marianne's story


Marianne’s mother has been in a severe depressive episode for the past two years, leading to a coma, major organ failure and admission to a care home. For Carers Week, she shares the impact ageist stigma had on her mum’s treatment and what it’s like to be a carer without external support.

My story is a long and painful one, still a daily challenge with no end in sight. People are very quick to call someone ‘mental’, to mock the way someone is acting or thinking. However, I hope most people never have to actually experience dealing with a loved one suffering with mental illness.

For the past 20 months, my mother has been very poorly, suffering with severe depression. She was 74 when this episode began and had been well on a combination of mental health medications for 11 years. To me she was just Mum. Yes, getting older, struggling with some of modern technology and not as physically fit as before, but she didn’t seem old and we had no other concerns about her health.

She was encouraged to stop taking one of her medications, and unfortunately stopped abruptly. What followed was weeks and months of telephone calls and appointments to see doctors and the Community Mental Health Team. I’m a single mum working full-time, and was trying to juggle looking after my own family whilst looking after my mum and my dad (who we suspect has early-onset dementia, now that my mother is unwell).

  • I do not want to give up on her.

It was exhausting mentally and physically. I felt like I spent hours trying to call professionals to get help and appointments. I was doing their housework, her personal care, sorting out the medication, physically feeding her at times and helping to sort out all their finances. I felt that I had nobody to actually turn to. Everything was always passed from one team to another, or waiting times are weeks long for an appointment.

14 months later - one cardiac arrest due to hypoglycaemic antidepressant-induced diabetes, a coma, major organ failure, being told she was brain dead. Then recovery at home with daily carers, five mental health medication changes, two more periods in general hospital, admitted to psychiatric hospital 40 miles away. The doctors had her stable, but not improving so they suggested we move her to a care home to see if she can recover in a better environment.

It felt like because of her age, professionals didn’t seem to have any urgency to help her. Her being so far away was especially hard for my dad, as we could only manage to visit twice a week. The hospital is the only one for elderly patients for the whole of North Norfolk. It is a very inadequate service in my opinion. Beds are very limited, so waiting times are long, with patients being left in standard hospital beds without the mental health team on hand 24/7.

  • Because of her age, professionals didn’t seem to have any urgency to help her.

People would ask me how I did it, how am I so strong? I wasn’t. I had to fight for my mum as she had no voice to. I had to make the calls and chase the appointments. I do not want to give up on her. She has been in a care home for five months now, still unable to do anything, barely talks, totally incontinent, just very sad. It breaks my heart to see her like this.

She says she wants to get better, but again, the mental health doctors keep referring to her age, saying we have to wait longer to see if there’s any more improvement. Many people in the home assume she has dementia, and although its hard for anyone to do a capacity test, I know she doesn’t.

I’m still having to chase professionals; social services have basically said because she’s safe in the home, she’s not a priority and haven’t assessed her at all. I google help and advice all the time, using groups like Rethink Mental Illness to find ways of getting support or suggesting medications to try. I’m still hopeful my mum can get better and return home. My dad misses her terribly and I want her to enjoy life again.

If you are a carer for someone living with mental illness, it can feel difficult to support your loved one or to get the answers you might need. This section has all you need to know about looking after your loved one.

You may also be interested in