Gemma Corr, 41, and her husband Paul live in North Belfast and have two children. Gemma’s sister, Patricia Metcalfe, 51, who lives nearby, has Parkinson’s disease. Patricia’s daughter Jennifer, 20, has a learning disability.

Caring Breaks - Carer Breaks Northern Ireland


I care for my neice Jennifer and she cares for her mummy, Patricia. Jennifer lives with Patricia but is also her carer. Social services come in five times daily but in between times it’s first and foremost Jennifer.Jennifer would do the washing in the house, she’d also take her mummy to the shopping centre, and make some of the meals. She can also use the hoist to get Patricia from her wheelchair into an armchair.

Patricia has been in a wheelchair now for about four years, so becauseof her condition, I have taken over a lot of the role of her mother.I see to Jennifer’s daily care. I make sure for example, that she gets showered and looks after herself and I do all her laundry. The only thing she doesn’t do is sleep here. We have always had a very close relationship since she was a baby.

I don’t see the weekly Caring Breaks outings as providing respite for me.I see Caring Breaks as providing respite for Jennifer. This is very important for me because I knowthat for those couple of hours she is doing what she wants to do.

Jennifer loves Caring Breaks - she lives for it. The rest of her life is much more planned. For her, Caring Breaks is freedom. When she goes away on a weekend break I only tell her about it on the day, or she literally wouldn’t sleep with excitement.Caring Breaks is a safety valve for Jennifer. If she didn’t have the weekly breaks I think it would have a considerable impact on her ability to look after her mother.

Caring Breaks - Disability Northern Ireland

Patricia Metcalfe, front, with her daughter Jennifer Metcalfe, back left, and Gemma Corr, back right.