Snoopey

Snoopey
Age at interview
23
Age at start of caregiving activities
16

Snoopey is 23 years old and started caring for her mother at age 16. Snoopey’s mother has a number of chronic physical problems that started with severe back problems and she is now largely confined to the couch in the living room. Snoopey provides 24/7 care for her mother at home, helping her with baths, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and other household chores. 

Snoopey is an only child and lives in an apartment with her mother. Her mother has been sick off and on since Snoopey was very young, but when Snoopey was 16, she started to need full-time care at home. Snoopey looks after all the household chores and her mother’s personal care, except paying the bills and handing out medication, which her mother can do herself, although Snoopey delivers the rent checks and picks up medications from the pharmacy.

Snoopey’s mother takes several medications for constant pain and other illnesses, and spends most of her days and nights on a lazy-boy type chair as she is unable to fully lie down. She can move around their apartment, but it is very difficult for her to walk and they very rarely go outside together – once every three months or so to see the doctor. Snoopey’s typical day begins around 3pm when she gets up and organizes breakfast for herself and her mom. They spend the day mostly watching television with Snoopey doing jobs here and there until the early hours of the morning when they eventually go to bed. Her mother is able to be on her own for a few hours at a time so Snoopey can go out to go to the store. 

Snoopey and her mother have not had many positive experiences with the healthcare system. For several years, her mother was in and out of hospital every few months with multiple and different chronic problems, but she has managed at home out of hospital for the last year. They don’t receive any help from family as relationships are not very positive and with the exception of one neighbour who sometimes helps, Snoopey manages everything on her own. When Snoopey was three years old, her father left them, in part Snoopey thinks because he was unhappy and wanted a son. 

Snoopey is not able to work or go to school because of her caregiving responsibilities and is sometimes lonely. Her day-to-day life is not very typical of a young person her age so she finds it difficult to find friends that understand her situation. She has found the youth caregivers group in her neighbourhood to be very helpful – they discuss experiences, feelings, helpful resources, and here she met her best friend who is also a young caregiver. She wishes that she and her mom had more money to make their lives a little easier, such as buying healthy foods and decent clothes. Snoopey was told that she has a limited IQ and that it is unlikely she would ever be able to live on her own and look after herself, but at the same time she knows that she is managing rather well and doing a very good job looking after her mom. 

She left her mom once to go on a trip with her caregiving group but this was so difficult for both of them that Snoopey vows never to leave her again. Snoopey feels frustrated by her situation sometimes although caregiving has brought her closer to her mom and they have a very good relationship. She also feels that being a caregiver has made her more aware of her surroundings and she is more ready to offer a helping hand to others in need. Snoopey would like the world to know that ‘gerbils – her favourite animal - rule’!

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Luckily, I live close to pretty much everything so I can just walk, but it is hard. My rent is, for where I live, it’s worth it for the security, but it is very expensive because you have to pay your own hot water and heat, and just my rent alone is $950/month. So at the end of the month after all the bills are paid, we maybe have $200 a month, $200 to live on for a month. And it varies between paydays. Some are 23 days apart; some are over a month, so…

And what sort of resources, if you could paint an ideal picture of resources that you could have at your hands, what would that be? Like about information or help or that kind of thing. What would you want?

More financial aid. That would be a huge help.

For, can you give me an example of things that you would…?

For more food. I mean if I could, […] I try and eat healthy as much as I can, but if we had the money, I wouldn’t be munching on chips and junk food all the time. Because my mom mostly just eats, has a meat portion, potatoes, and some kind of vegetable, and that’s what she eats. And that gets tiring all the time. And I wish I could have more fruits and vegetables, and salad, but we just don’t have the money.

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There was this one time up at the hospital, my mom was very sick. She came in; the doctor sent her home. A few hours later she came back. The doctor thought she was faking it and just shoved her aside like 6-8 hours until the next person came on. There was another time, maybe a few months later, we went and we were, she was in the 2nd floor and she’d been moved, and there was money in the table tray—the thing that goes over that has a little pocket. There was an important piece of mail I brought up for her. And when I realized she’d moved I said, “Oh no, there’s money. I have to go get it.” There was nothing. The cleaning ladies literally stole $20 and change and chucked our mail in the garbage. And they would not tell me who it was. And I told them, “If you don’t tell me and we don’t get that back, I’m going to call the cops and whoever, you are going to be charged.”  

Did anybody at the hospital help you?

We got our mail back and like $3. That was just ridiculous. Whoever was…you’re supposed to put the change and whatever and the mail in like a zip lock and put someone’s name and it’s supposed to go with them. You don’t steal it.

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A lot of people look at me and my mom and they think “Oh, she’s obese because she doesn’t get out much,” and “there’s something wrong with her.” But it’s not her fault. She can’t walk. I mean, she goes like maybe 15 feet to the bathroom and she’s already huffing and puffing when she comes back, and so. 

If they see me on the street and I’m picking up pop tins, it’s not because I want to; it’s because I need the extra cash. I get harassed by teenagers for doing so. Normally, I just wear sweatpants, baggy sweatpants, and my top here, and they say “Oh, you don’t have nice clothing. You should wear nice clothing.” Well, I don’t have the money for that. And what’s the point of going out when you’re just going to the store and wear something nice and it gets dirty or stained. And if you see me on the street, just smile and wave. Don’t harass me, and come after me because I’m pulling a cart behind me.

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On my dad’s side, he’s not in the picture. He wanted nothing to do with me throughout my life up till I was three years. And then he got remarried, and then he had something to do with me. He wanted a boy. He was there for the labour, and then after the birth, and then after he found out that it was a girl, he took off. That was it. He didn’t take care of me whatsoever.

I have a neighbour; she’s actually on holiday right now. She understands and she helps out a bit. And my friends don’t really understand. They think, “Oh you know, you care for your mom,” but they don’t understand the whole situation.