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Are we taking care of our caretakers?

Caretakers (iStock/ ipopba)

Berkeley County deputies say Michele Baker Hayes confessed to trying to kill her adult disabled son several times.

But at bond court Thursday, the judge said her story compelled him to offer her a conditional release.

It also gave insight on the amount of stress caregivers are under, whether the person they care for has physical or mental challenges.

Michele Hayes is a mother struggling.

She is not alone.

A firsthand account from a mother who cares for her 50-year-old son explains the stress that goes into the 24/7 job.

She says he has a severe mental illness.

To protect his identity, we will not show hers, but we will share her story and how she found help.

“My son was diagnosed 27 years ago with a mental illness,” says the mother.

And for 27 years, this mother has looked after her adult son, crippled by a bipolar and personality disorder.

She paid all the bills, bought groceries, worried constantly.

“I felt a jumpiness inside every time the phone would ring, my heart would leap. What if he’s tried to take his life again? The anxiety, the anxiety is the worst for me,” she says.

She says she felt alone even though she was by her son’s side. He moved back in, she says it almost wrecked her marriage.

She says society isn’t doing enough to help the caretakers.

“People don’t know what to say to them and having not walked in the same shoes. It’s very difficult to relate. The other part is the stigma with mental illness. We haven’t educated enough people of what it is,” says the mother.

Until someone intervened.

“A nurse after seeing me cry every day for three days straight, she came up to me and said, ‘Here is a phone number, I want you to call these people,” says the mother.

These people were the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI.

For this mother, education was key.

“There was a lack of understanding, lack of information, lack of knowledge. How do slay a dragon if you don’t know what the dragon looks like?” she says.

She also says caretakers need to know when it’s just too much for them.

“If their loved ones are attending the Charleston, Dorchester or Berkeley County Mental Health, besides seeing a doctor and a therapist, they can also ask for housing help,” says the mother.

Moving your adult child out may seem impossible, but this mother who runs support groups for NAMI says there are housing solutions.

Starting March 5th, NAMI is holding a free 12-week educational course for family members and friends with mental illness at MUSC.

Call Sharon Diamond at (843) 530-0854 or email at

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