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Leah - Interview 28

Age at interview: 62
Brief Outline: Leah has been caring for her son Albert with schizophrenia for 17 years.
Background: Leah came to the UK from Hong Kong in 1969. She works in a restaurant and has four grown up children. She became a carer at age 46. Ethnic background: Chinese.

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Leah came to the UK from Hong Kong in 1969. Her life was busy, having four children and working in a restaurant. When her son, Albert, was around 20 years old, Leah noticed that his behaviour was changing. He claimed he was being followed and that pictures were taken of him. Leah and another of her sons kept a record of Albert's behaviour and took that with them when they brought him to the GP. The GP immediately referred Albert to a psychiatric hospital.

After the first hospitalisation Albert was able to control his condition with medication, and for the next five years things were stable. He was, however suffering from side effects, and he stopped taking his medicine. Soon after, Leah again recognised the symptoms and immediately contacted the hospital. This situation has continued ever since' Albert stops taking the medication, his symptoms return and Leah needs to contact the hospital, the police or the social services to protect him and others. She is trying to convince her son that he needs to take his medication in order to control his condition, but he makes his own decisions. Over the last few months, Albert has been relatively stable and has taken his medicine.

Leah says that one of the things that helped was when she pulled back a little from taking on too much responsibility and let him do more things for himself. She is still there for him and very much involved -for example, she rings him up to remind him to take his medication- but she now encourages him to become more independent. She was supported in this decision by her family and friends.

Leah says that her employers have been very supportive throughout, and that she is given the flexibility she needs to care for her son. She also got involved in a carers' support group through a hospital, and more recently she has become very active in the activities of the Chinese Mental Health Association, which she says has been very helpful.

Brought up as a Buddhist, Leah has converted to Christianity and she says feeling the presence of God has helped her in difficult times. She thinks Albert has been given good medical care, and that she trusts the professional decisions of his doctors. Although her son sometimes complains about how the hospital nurses have been treating him, Leah says this might be his illness talking and that she has a great deal of sympathy for the nurses. She emphasises that it is important that Albert works together with the medical staff if he wants to get better.

Leah is grateful for what the health professionals are doing and for what the government provides for her and her family. She sees her volunteering work as a way of giving something back. This includes regularly visiting older people who live alone, and she helps with interpretation for others who are not able to speak English. She finds this work very rewarding.

When Leah first came to England, there were not very many services aimed at Chinese people. Today, however, she finds that much more is available, and also that there is less discrimination than before.

 

Leah was told to ring the police because no one was there to give her son his injection ...

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I remember once, many years ago and I am not sure which year, he was getting to have injection but it happened… On Friday, I phoned the health centre to make an appointment for him to have the injection, but the health centre said the nurse was not there. I said to the receptionist that my son must be taken care of, if there is delay he would relapse. But on Friday it was said there was not people for the injection. I called on Thursday, and on Friday they said no people were there. My son could not receive the injection so on Saturday night he became emotionally very unstable, spoke chaotically. So I immediately phoned the hospital to seek help, and hospital asked me to call police. I said… So I listened to them and I called the police, but the police said if he has not destroyed anything or hurt anyone, they will not handle this. I then said to the police, if they were waited to collect him until he hurts people it would be too late. I said to the police “if anything happens then it is not my fault”. The police said “I know, I know”. Then I called the hospital again, the hospital gave me the social work, the social worker, the emergency social work's phone number. I called, on Saturday night, I called the social worker and I told the social worker the whole situation. At that time he lived separately. Living separately sometimes I found him speaking chaotically. He spoke chaotically on the phone and when I went to see him he was chaotically so I urgently contacted the social worker. The social worker told me to wait for him at his door on Sunday morning 10 o'clock, and wait for the social worker to ask him to open the door.

 

Leah is happy with her son's consultant and trusts her (recording in Chinese).

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When her arrived the hospital, the doctor saw him and asked him to stay in the hospital, give him 3 months to 6 months. The doctor said to me in the period of time if he gets well earlier, he could be discharged at any time. I could also sign to discharge him. But I reckon I should let the doctor to decide, because I am not a professional. If I sign to discharge him, who owns the responsibility if something is wrong? Therefore, I -fortunately the consultant, the chief doctor was very good. She is kind-hearted, is a female doctor. I do not bother what race she is, she is white but I do not bother what race she is, the most important thing is she is good. And when he was ill in the hospital, he could not control his emotions, could not control. So the doctor, since he was in the hospital the doctors have their ways. If he cannot control, they will give him injection or medication. I talked to the doctor, I said now let us do not bother, I said to the doctors and the nurses, let us do not bother who is wrong and who is right, he has illness. We hope, I hope, as I am the mother, to cooperate with the doctors and nurses to make him recover soon. My mind is like this.

 

Leah likes to help other Chinese people with translations when they go to the doctor (recording...

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Since 1969 until now, if I knew friends or some people, if there is general illness like high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, heart disease or moodiness, I will provide interpreting for them when they go to see their GP. From 1969 until now, -I have always been doing this. My English is not very good, but I am not shy to speak English. This isn't said by myself but other people, 'Your English is not very good but you are brave enough.' Although I don't know the exact medical term, I will try to give examples to explain by telling them the symptom and feeling of the patient. I would tell the doctor some examples and then the doctor would understand. I was lucky those doctors were nice. Once I went with my friend, at that time, 20ish years ago, my friend's daughter is now in her twenties, at the time my friend's daughter was 3. I bought them, I bought the mother and the daughter and I interpret for them. The GP said why the girl didn't speak English. I said to the doctor, “She is only 3 years old, she hasn't gone to school yet” Then the doctor lost his word.

 

Her son complains about the nurses, but she is grateful to the medical staff (recording in Chinese).

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The consultant and the psychiatric nurses are very nice. He always said to me, he said the nurses scolded him or what, but I did not listen to him. Because he was ill but he did not realize and he could not control himself. Someone told me, he said, “your son was not cooperative with the doctor. He was reluctant to take tablets and was not cooperative with the doctor.” I would not get angry and I explained to him. I said, “If he could be cooperative with doctors, he did not need to stay in the hospital.” So that person said, “yes that is right, that is right.” Sometimes I was very grateful, when he was discharged I sent a card, I was very grateful to the doctors and nurses.

 

Leah has started to tell her son how to do things instead of doing them for him, but she still...

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Sometimes, it is like, before I used to do everything he needed for him but now I am not. I tell him how to do and let him do it by himself. I phone him, take care of him less frequently, I phoned him, but, now he is also, I often call to remind him to take medicine. I call him at night to remind him to take medicine. I asked him, sometimes when it is 10 o'clock, he takes medicine at 9 o'clock and sometimes when it is 10ish o'clock I called him and asked if he had medicine, he said no and I asked him to take medicine quickly and he would take. That is, he is like, he, without experiencing he would not believe, let him bump against the wall, bump the nails, from time to time when he learns a lesson he will then have the experience. Everyone is like that, when the thing has happened and he does not have the experience, the feeling is different. That is why people say, “Not feeling the pain until getting needled”.

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