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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

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Cumbrian nine-year-old cares for mum and younger sister

While most nine-year-old boys are out kicking a football around with their friends or playing on their PlayStation after school, Liam Kerr has more pressing matters to attend to.

Liam Kerr photo
Liam Kerr with mum Nicola

Before even reaching double figures, Liam has had to step up and become the man of the house, looking after mum Nicola who has multiple sclerosis.

She was diagnosed with the debilitating condition in 2005, which took a turn for the worse in 2011.

Now Liam not only looks after mum but helps with his three-year-old sister Maisie.

If Nicola, 29, is not well enough then he has to change nappies, help her go to the toilet and get her drinks.

She said: “On my worst days I am wheelchair bound. If I am having a bad day then Liam helps with the general household stuff, bringing in the washing, bringing my sticks, going to the shop for milk, things like that.

“I have buttons around the house for emergencies and he knows to press them if I take a turn for the worse.

“Just after Christmas I had a fit so he had to call for help. It is really important he knows what to do. It is great I’ve got him but sometimes I wish he could have more of a childhood.

“He has missed out because I am unable to take him to school activities. If something is past four or five in the afternoon then I am usually in bed.”

Liam and his mum, who live in Penrith, have agreed to tell their story as part of The Cumberland News’ Give Them A Break campaign, to help get respite for carers.

He admits he gets sad when he sees his mum unwell.

“Sometimes, when she has had a fit, I am sad to see her go to hospital.

“When my friends ask to do something or come over I just have to say no because my mum isn’t very well. I am able to sometimes go and play with my friends at the local field and that is really fun.

“Sometimes when I’m there I worry about her because she might not be feeling too well and I am out. I would really like the opportunity to do some activities again. It is hard.”

With his dad not living at home with the family, Liam can also endure nights with little sleep when Maisie needs attention – as well as his mum if she is feeling ill. He often has an early start, getting up with mum and Maisie around 4.30am, something that has just become part of his daily routine.

He will also usually make breakfast for himself and his sister and then help around the house before walking to school on his own.

Nicola does have assistance from Home Help staff who attend to her hygiene but Liam must do the caring in their absence.

“I’m generally not well enough to look after them if he has friends round,” said Nicola. “If I need him at home then it is a no go area. Maisie has also started to miss out on going to birthday parties and things like that.”

The Give Them A Break appeal aims to raise enough money to send young carers like Liam from Eden, Carlisle and west Cumbria on respite breaks.

“My favourite place I have been with them is Lightwater Valley and a chocolate factory,” added Liam.

“You can see all your friends and spend time with them. It is nice to be with people who know what you are going through.”

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