It's not easy looking after a vulnerable parent. North Down shop manager Claire knows how terribly distressing it can be, after her mum had a close shave with death last year.
She was under immense stress, juggling a demanding full-time job and looking after her 70-year-old mother, before she finally contacted Age NI.
“Mum is an insulin-dependent diabetic and she fell so ill overnight that I actually thought I was going to lose her,” said the 42-year-old.
“When she was discharged from hospital she had lost all her confidence and self-medication became a problem, even though she is a former nurse.
“I had to help her with her injections and that meant getting up four times during the night.
“After nine months I was |totally exhausted and as my partner works away a lot I ended up feeling so unhappy and so alone.”
Claire, an only child, said she was reticent about asking for help because her mother, with whom she shares a home, is a very private person.
“Mum didn’t want people running in and out of the house, so I had to find a balance between getting help and giving her the care she needed,” she said.
“Nobody in our family had ever had a benefit before and I didn’t even consider it as an option until I saw an advert for Age NI on television. I felt guilty abut phoning to check if it applied to us, but I knew I couldn’t go on any longer. I was on the verge of quitting my job and I had to do something.
“When the advisor told me my mum was entitled to £75 a week it meant that I could keep on working and pay for someone to come in when I’m not at home.”
She added: “Mum and I are really close and I was frightened I was going to lose her. But the money has made an amazing difference. It means that I can keep my job.
“And it has improved mum’s health, both physically and mentally, and given her back her confidence.”