Respite centre is a ‘light in my tunnel’

Mum Caroline Donnelly with Jessica and Sam
Mum Caroline Donnelly with Jessica and Sam
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A mother says she could be forced to put her disabled daughter into care if council chiefs approve plans to close a local respite centre.

Caroline Donnelly, from Grimsargh, says proposals to close some of the county’s eight centres could leave her unable to care for her 11-year-old autistic daughter Jessica, who attends the The Bungalow respite centre in Fulwood.

To highlight the plight of similar families, the 42-year-old single mum-of-two has compiled a diary of a typical day in her challenging life:


I didn’t sleep well – never do because Jessica is usually up in the night. I’m lucky to get two hours sleep. Most night’s Jessica, who is still in nappies, requires a change – even a shower to clean her and a complete bed change. In the morning, she cries constantly and throws things for an hour before school. It is difficult to know what she wants because she doesn’t speak.

I need to feed her and she’ll probably need another change. I’ve also got to get breakfast for Sam, my 13-year-old son, before he heads to school at St Cecilia’s in Longridge.


I put the house back together and get myself ready for work.


I head for work as an orthoptist at Royal Preston Hospital. It’s a relief to get out of the house. Without respite, I’d have to give up my job. It’s hard enough now but at least I know I will get one night a fortnight off which helps me cope. It’s the light in my tunnel.


I finish work, head to the supermarket and tidy up before Sam gets in from school at 3pm. I have to get Jessica’s tea on the table as soon as she gets in at 3.45pm or there will be constant crying and banging.


I feed Jessica while Sam gets on with his homework. I feel guilty I don’t get to spend enough time with him. After tea, Jessica will need another change. Then I get on with house stuff, but I’ve got to keep an eye on Jessica. I’ve also get Sam to drama and guitar lessons. Going out is a major operation.


Jessica goes to bed but she shouts for hour. 8pm is the earliest Sam and I eat, then I help Sam with his homework but I’m exhausted.


Sam heads to bed and I’m not far behind. It will be a long night.