For most 12- and 13-year-olds, the biggest responsibilities they have is to clean their room and do their homework.
But Rachel and Anjeli Diack shoulder a much bigger burden which can literally mean the difference between life and death.
For the young sisters care for their mother Meiverisiska Diack, 35, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
As well as helping her to get dressed, doing household chores and looking after the family puppy Lucu, the girls are also responsible for reminding their mum to take her medication.
“If she forgets to take her medication, her brain switches off and she can become unconscious,” said dad Trevor Diack. “She can then relapse if not taken to hospital quickly enough. Remembering to take her medication really is the difference between life and death.”
Every day life for the Diacks is far from the average family routine, but thanks to support given to Rachel and Anjeli from the West Norfolk Carers (WNC) charity, they have been able to find what they call their “new normal”.
Here they talk about Meiverisiska’s illness, the difference WNC’s young carers service has made to the family and the difficult times they face ahead.
The family emigrated to Hunstanton from Indonesia in 2006 to “find peace” following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. Rachel, 12, and Anjeli, 13, were just two and three-years-old and ex RAF aircraft engineer Trevor left a job working on Typhoon aircraft build for BAE Systems for a new post in Norfolk for BAE Systems alongside the RAF.
For six years the family led a normal life; with Meiverisiska working as a carer for the elderly.
But in 2012 their life was turned upside down when Meiverisiska was diagnosed with MS, at the age of just 31.
Unfortunately the disease had advanced undetected, causing more damage to her nervous system than if it had been picked up earlier.
“She had to give up work as a carer and became seriously ill,” said Trevor. “She stopped eating and dropped to five-and-a-half stone.”
She was also rushed to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, fighting for her life three times in 18 months, as doctors tried to find the right medication to keep her alive.
The family had to move from their two-storey home in Hunstanton to a bungalow in Gaywood as Meiverisiska could no longer climb the stairs.
“It was a traumatic time for everyone, not just because of the illness,” said Trevor. “We’d lost a third of our income and we’d worry about how the girls were coping. It was hard to provide some kind of normality for them, and so difficult for them watching their mum come in and out of hospital.”
“There was no help desk, no phone a friend,” he added. “The hospital could take care of my wife, but who was going to help take care of the girls?”
The couple didn’t know where to turn to for help, until one day they were referred to WNC by a psychologist from a community neurology team.
And as the girls found themselves doing more and more for their mum over the years, the charity became a place to turn for advice and a lifeline for the girls.
“It has helped provide some normality in their lives,” said Meiverisiska.
Anjeli explained: “Dad does most of the caring for mum, but he works full time and we need to help out too.
“We help clean and tidy the house because mum can’t do things like that anymore, and look after Lucu. We also remind her to take her medication, which can be difficult to get right with all the different tablets she needs to take every day.”
The family also face tough times ahead, as Meiverisiska’s medication will have to be changed later this year.
“The medication is poisonous and can only be taken for five years,” said Trevor. “They will have to try and find a different one, which could be really dangerous for her.”
“We know it will be difficult but we will get through it with the help of WNC,” he added. “We would like thank Emma Kandjou, Jackie Taylor (WNC young carers support workers) and all the volunteers at WNC who give up their valuable time, including evenings and weekends, to take children on trips, give them a safe haven and take care of them on special events.
“We hadn’t heard of WNC before we were referred, so we are definitely one of the lucky ones. There’s still so many other families out there who need its support.”
The girls started going to WNC’s young carers groups just before Rachel’s eighth birthday.
“You’re just accepted there, and no one looks at you any differently,” said Rachel.
“I don’t see it as a young carers group any more,” added Anjeli, “it’s just a place I go to see my friends.”
Rachel, who is a keen footballer, said her favourite thing about the young carers groups were the organised trips to give them a break from caring, and special events.
Recently they have enjoyed a residential stay at a Kingswood activity centre, the London Dungeons and a trip to watch the X Factor auditions.
They also jointly won a KLFM Young Hero Award last year, hosted by KLFM’s Simon Rowe. The radio station presenter has also been a steadfast supporter of Anjeli in her ambition to become a singer, ever since she first sang live on his KLFM show four years ago.
She has also become an Internet sensation, with her YouTube singing videos having amassed more than four million views.
Anyone wanting to help support young carers like Rachel and Anjeli can do so by making a donation to the WNC and Lynn News’ Somewhere For Me appeal.
The appeal is aiming to raise £10,000 so the charity can support more young carers by expanding the number of groups on offer.
To make a donation, visit www.westnorfolkcarers.org.uk and click the ‘donate’ button at the top of the screen or fill in the coupon above.