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Maryann's story

Maryann Finnegan from Belfast has been caring for her mum for almost 16 years. With her growing family including twins aged 22 months, she often has her hands full at meal times.

At the age of 42, Maryann’s mum had a brain haemorrhage and after an operation to stop the bleeding in her brain, she was brought out of recovery too soon and stopped breathing. The lack of oxygen to her brain resulted in lasting brain damage.

Drained

Caring for her mum is now a 24 hour job. Her mum is dependent on Maryann for everything, including cooking and feeding. As a result, like many carers, Maryann is often left feeling unable to take much time off for herself.

Maryann says:

“This was so hard to cope with as a carer as you have another person’s life in your hands and you become the judge of what to do for the best. To be honest I felt drained and it even seemed to be affecting my well being and mental state.”

A few years ago Maryann’s mum began to have problems with eating, which understandably caused both her and her family much distress. Maryann explored all avenues – visiting her GP, pharmacist and dietitian. However her mum’s weight continued to drop. Whilst her mum was losing weight Maryann had the added worry of the underlying impact of this lack nutrition both physically and mentally.

Challenging

Maryann comments on her struggle:

“My mum was becoming extremely withdrawn and didn’t even have enough energy to stay awake for more than an hour. I was also finding it extremely challenging to keep her fluid intake up. There was a lack of information on nutrition available and until my mum had a home visit from a dietitian, I felt very alone in this crisis. The dietitian gave me ideas of different ways that we could build her up.”

Maryann was recommended to trial different types of foods and drinks with her mother, along with specialist medical nutrition products in the form of puddings and powders to help with weight gain.

However, her mother’s eating difficulties continued and her weight dropped to only four and half stone. Things became critical, and she was admitted to hospital. Due to her mother’s extremely low body weight and poor nutritional state the doctors decided it was necessary to provide medical nutrition using a feeding tube. Thankfully, her mum soon began to put on weight and regain some strength.

Confidence

Maryann says:

“The additional nutrition mum received really helped her to be as strong as she could be. Plus, as her appetite increased, her mood became more positive. I think that I gained confidence once I managed to get mum’s body back up to a healthy stable weight. Before this I felt I wasn’t doing it right and always felt I wasn’t trying hard enough.”

Like many carers Maryann simply wants to provide her mother with the best possible quality of life and care that she can. Carers have a very important role to play in highlighting the importance of good nutritional care, but information and support are often lacking.

Reflecting on her experiences Maryann says,

“I feel when it comes to good nutrition, education and support is key. It’s given me the knowledge and confidence to look after my mum.”

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