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Carers’ stories

Carers share their stories about help and supports available.
Emma’s story

Emma and GeorgeEmma McDowell cares for her son George and is a founder member of the British Foundation for Conductive Education.

My name is Emma McDowell. For anyone who speaks Hungarian, my maiden name is Aldobolyi Nagi Emma. When I was 21 years old, I moved to Belfast and married Robert McDowell.

I was 25 years old when our first son George was born. Before he reached his first birthday, we knew he had cerebral palsy. He is in his 40s now and lives at home with us. He has a job, but needs a lot of support to stay employed, which is very important to him and us.

After George’s diagnosis, my main challenge was to enable him to reach his full potential. I discovered conductive education and found it the most suitable therapeutic and educational method. We visited the Peto Institute in Budapest when he was one year old and spent many months there under their direct care and guidance.

I learned to be a conductor at home so George was brought up in a conductive family atmosphere. It is called education because of the constant extra learning that is required to bring about (if at all possible) such things as walking, talking and self-care in a child who otherwise couldn’t manage these things.

Spending so much time away from home was not easy. My husband was working in Belfast, which meant long periods of separation. I was a trained German teacher, but I went part-time to care for George conductively.

I became active in organisations that recognise the needs of carers too, because we all redouble ourselves when we become carers. We live our own life and the life of the one we care for, and most of us would not put our own life first.

I was a founder member of the British Foundation for Conductive Education and when George got his degree and job, I recognised myself as a carer. After I joined Carers UK about 23 years ago, I became very active there, raising awareness of our cause and promoting our need. Doing this gives you a great feeling of empowerment and lifts you out of the isolation every carer feels at one time or another.

Because of these organisations, the work of family carers is much more recognised and appreciated nowadays, to the extent that we receive actual support ourselves.

I have been working as an interpreter for the past 13 years and have opportunities to meet Hungarians who are carers and settled here in Northern Ireland. I try my best to support them using our own language, which is already a help.

During my 40 odd years as a carer, I have experienced plenty of difficulties accessing the many services and agencies. You have to get used to the bureaucracy.

For people who do not speak English as a first language, this system must seem like a minefield. I appreciate the support provided by ethnic carers groups to these carers and their families. Although I spoke English when I came to Northern Ireland, it took me a long time to get used to a different culture. And I never stopped missing my own family and the Hungarian climate!

Colin’s story

Colin shares his story in relation to the impact of caring and how counselling has supported him.


Click here to hear from carers on the help and support provided by Carer Support Plans (Carer Assessments).