Sophie has always had a caring role for her sister Angel. Angel is diognosed with Schizophrenia, but Sophie thinks this diagnosis is based on behaviour resulting from inappropriate medication of a mental disability and behavioral problems.
Sophie is 42 year old Black-Caribbean women living in Manchester with her two children. She works part-time as a Psychotherapist. She is her sister Angel’s main carer. Angel , who is two years younger than Sophie was born with a mental disability, and she also had behavioural difficulties growing up. However, she didn’t need any medication and got appropriate schooling. When she was 21, Angel went to live abroad with her mother, but returned some years later because she was not getting the services she needed.
Sophie, who at that time was leaving to live abroad herself, helped Angel into the system back home. When Sophie returned to England in 1998 after seven years away, she was shocked to find that her sister had changed dramatically both mentally and physically. During this period, Angel had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Sophie disputes this diagnosis, believing that the behaviour leading to the diagnosis was a result of the cocktail of more than 12 different drugs that Angel was now on. Sophie refers to research that show that people from BME communities are more likely to get wrong diagnosis and excessive medication. She believes people’s perceptions and stereotypes of race can sometimes lead to unequal treatment.
Sophie says she had to fight the system over a number of years so that her sister could get appropriate accommodation and care. She obtained Angel’s records, she contacted senior officers responsible for her sister’s care, and she took an active part in the everyday care of her sister. She found it very hard to get the right information about how to approach issues and who were available to help.
Health professionals have now agreed that Angel needs to be taken off her medication so they can find out more about her condition. After years of being moved from one place to another, often in unsafe or disadvantaged areas, Angel, now lives in a place which Sophie thinks is acceptable.
In addition to the issues of medication and safety, Sophie thinks Angel is not getting the personal care she needs to feel comfortable. For example, Angel’s hair and skin need different care than ‘white’ hair and skin, but this is being neglected and she doesn’t often get new clothes despite having her own money for this.
Sophie finds it sad that she and Angel are not able to enjoy what sister’s normally do together. She grieves the fact that Angel won’t be able to marry, have children and lead a normal life. While the constant worry about her sister is hard, she is concerned about what will happen when she is not around to fight for Angel.
Sophie believes she has a duty of care to her sister but that there is also a duty on Social Services, organizations and ultimately the Government to care for her. She says there should be a national carers register so that carers can be listened to and their contribution can be recognised and awarded.