'Exhausted' son hiding his cancer from his 88-year-old mum appeals for help amid care crisis

Bruce Jones told ITV News how he has had to step in and help with his mum's care while going through his own cancer treatment

A cancer patient who looks after his elderly mum while privately recovering from his treatment has told ITV News the care staffing crisis has led to him feeling burnt out.

Due to the unprecedented shortage of carers in the UK, the caring responsibilities for 88-year-old Joan Jones now increasingly fall to her son Bruce Jones.

Mrs Jones, who has advanced dementia, receives care several times a day and cannot wash or dress herself.

Her son Mr Jones told ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand he was "permanently tired and exhausted" as he deals with his own illness and cares for his mum.

But he has not had the heart to tell his mum about his tonsil cancer diagnosis earlier this year, after his father died with prostate cancer a few years ago.

Mr Jones became emotional as he explained how he tries to conceal his own illness: “I tell her I’ve got a sore throat, like you do.“"And she’s said, ‘you’re not well’," he said through tears, "because mums know.”

He continued: "But with pa going through his cancer here, and we had a hospital bed down here... I can't. I can't tell her."

Mr Jones was diagnosed with tonsil cancer in February. At the end of April, he started 30 sessions of radiology and five sessions of chemotherapy.

He spoke about losing weight during that time and feeling permanently seasick with nausea. Mr Jones said there are times now when he still feels unwell and has to take codeine.

Speaking about the added responsibility of looking after his mum, he said: "I love my mum to bits but it's exhausting".

He added: "When (the carers) come, when they walk in the door, normally what I'd do is I'd go upstairs straightaway because I know mum's being looked after.

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand reports on the carers who are having to put on a brave face despite facing the worst staffing crisis ever

"I know I can just crash out, recharge the batteries and I'm usually back down for lunch."

Despite the best efforts of workers from Brunelcare in Somerset, Mrs Jones' care is regularly being disrupted due to the staffing crisis.

Mr Jones said: "The saddest times are when I want to take my mum to the coffee shop to see her friends and we just don't get there in time."

He continued: "She's very sociable. When she can't make that, she becomes more closed in because it's just her and me basically.

"And she's not very mobile. Trying to get her out for little things like shopping, you can see her light up just being outside, and just seeing people."

Mr Jones said without the carers, he would be forced to put his mum in a care home.

Joan Jones receives care several times a day due to her advanced dementia Credit: ITV News

He said: "I love my mum to pieces, but I can't shower mum. I can do a lot, but there's some things I can't do.

"She could go into a home as a last resort. But every opportunity I can have to not put her in a home is another day gained."

He pleaded with the government for help: "Mum's on the back foot, I'm on the back foot, Brunel is on the back foot.

"We could really do with some help from the government. We could really do with somebody really focusing on the issues. People, real people, need help."

One of Joan's carers, Christine Clapham, told ITV News filling in for staffing gaps means she regularly works up to 60 hours a week, and sometimes more than 90.

Ms Clapham said she had become so exhausted that she tried to resign, but the company had begged her to stay on.

"We need help," carer Christine Clapham pleads

She said: “I don’t want to do all these hours. I want a life, like everyone else has got a life. All these carers are shattered. We need help.

“The amount of times that I say ‘I’ve had enough I can’t do this no more’, and the amount of times I try to take this jacket off… has been about five times in the last month.“I’ve had (the jacket) thrown back. They’ve said ‘you can’t do this’… because they need me."

“The phone’s on six o’clock in the morning until 10 o’clock at night," she added.

ITV News conducted the largest ever survey of home care providers and found the sector is facing its worst staffing crisis in history.

Some 78% of providers who responded to the survey, carried out by ITV News in conjunction with the UK Homecare Association, said recruiting carers is the hardest it has ever been.

30% of the 843 providers surveyed said they are handing back some, or all, of their care to local authorities because they can no longer fulfill their contracts.95% said they are unable to take on all the new clients.

The government has promised to make a long-term plan to reform adult social care by the end of the year, with talk of extra funding for the sector after decades of inaction.

Responding to the survey, the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We appreciate the hard work and dedication of the social care workforce, providers and local authorities who are working together to deliver good quality adult social care through COVID-19, and beyond.

“We are working with stakeholders to ensure we have the right number of staff with the skills to deliver high quality care to meet increasing demands. This includes running national recruitment campaigns every year.”