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60 Stories - Jeanette Kelly

Photo of Jeanette KellyJeanette Kelly
Throughout October, the nation celebrates Make a Difference Month.
In recognition, ENABLE Scotland highlights the achievements of two plucky friends: Jeanette Kelly and Madge Clarke, who insisted that the challenges faced by older carers are heard
Here is their story… 
When Jeanette Kelly and Madge Clarke approached officials to highlight the issues affected by older carers, they were met with a shocking response they could not have predicted: “What can two old women do?”
Back in 2003, Jeanette and Madge decided to set up a group which would champion the rights of older carers, provide information and run a club night for people who have learning disabilities.
Since the formation of the Murray Owen Older Carers’ Group, it has tripled in size.  Joint Convenor, Jeanette Kelly, isn’t afraid of a challenge and has even addressed the Scottish Parliament in a bid to highlight the group’s cause.
She says: “I told parliament: in every one of your constituencies you have older carers.  I don’t care whether it’s the Green Party, the Blue Party or the Raging Such Party which is in power; you are all in it together.”
Jeanette is a prolific campaigner who believes in tackling problems face on.
“I don’t believe in, ‘you can’t’.  I believe in ‘you can’,” says Jeanette. 
With that kind of positive attitude, Jeanette has helped the group to flourish and retain a high profile.
It does not shy away from confronting difficult subjects. In the past they have dealt with abuse, bullying, health concerns and even issues such as the menopause.  They also help to ease the isolation felt by many older carers by providing a support network.
Every Thursday evening, the group runs a club for people who have learning disabilities to give their carers time to themselves.  The group also liaise with Age Concern so they can share information and ideas.  Jeanette and Madge received an award from Age Concern in recognition of the work they have done and still continue to do for older carers.
Older carers often face very particular kinds of challenges.  Last year Jeanette, along with Ann McKinnon, attended the Carer’s Parliament to highlight worries about Alzheimer’s disease.
Jeanette explains: “Our carers are still doing the same job they’ve done for 50 odd years.  Only it’s harder now because our carers experience health problems as they get older.  Their sons and daughters are also becoming middle aged people with their own challenges.”
The Murray Owen Older Carers Group tries to ease these worries by providing advice and information so carers know what their rights are and who they can contact for help.  The group also fundraises and hosts discos in the St Andrews Lodge for Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween.  
Jeanette has been involved with many voluntary organisations over the years.  She volunteered for a small local group in East Kilbride in the late 1970s which supported children with learning disabilities.  She was also the chairperson of the East Kilbride ENABLE Scotland branch for nine years in the 1980s. 
Jeanette and Madge are both passionate about helping older carers like themselves.  Jeanette remembers how different life once was for parents who had children with learning disabilities.  When her daughter Vanessa was born, Jeanette was told by her doctor to put her in an institution and forget about her.
Jeanette refused and has cared for Vanessa at home ever since.
“It was then I realised I was a tigress.  I knew nothing, but I wasn’t going to have my daughter taken from me and labelled,” she insisted.
Jeanette, Madge and many other members of the group continue to fight for the rights of older carers and make sure they are not forgotten.  In recent years many local services have been cut, which greatly concerns the women.
“We need services. You can’t ask a person of 70 or 80 years of age to start looking for carers on their own.  There should be people who can step in and assist.  Carers are entitled to some sort of life too.”
Whilst there are still many other battles to be fought and won, Jeanette has seen how far things have progressed since Vanessa was born.  Vanessa and Jeanette prove that with a ‘can do’ attitude to life, almost anything can be achieved.
“My daughter gives me the greatest joy imaginable. She’s a happy girl and we have a great relationship.  I am so proud of her.”
So what can two old women do?  Their tremendous achievements speak volumes.

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