Headlines have been filled this week with the news that thousands of families are shunning care homes to look after elderly relatives at home.
Columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote an article supporting this trend. It was a rather rosy account of her care for her mother who was living in sheltered accommodation when she died. It didn’t mentioned if she had dementia.
Alibhai-Brown describes those who put their elderly in a home as; ‘parking them out of sight and mind’. Harsh words from someone who was able to arrange for carers to come and bathe and clothe her mother when she wasn’t able to. Until you have lived and breathed being a carer 24 hours a day, year after year, I think it’s frankly idiotic to criticise those who have to take the care home route.
As a carer for almost 30 years I think I’m better qualified than most to talk on the subject.
As a teenager I began caring for my mother. I’d joined the family business after leaving school. When my mother needed a triple heart bypass operation (she also had a debilitating lung disease,) my father told me to take time off to look after her whilst she recovered from her operation. Months passed.
When I asked my father when I was to return to work, the question was always evaded. My mother’s health deteriorated further, then years passed and I found myself in the nominated role as my mother’s full-time carer, or ‘Cinderella’ as my three much older siblings called me.
Mum then developed Alzheimer’s and effectively life for me was over, or at least, that’s how it felt. Mum’s condition sometimes made her unsettled. There were times when she was convinced I was holding her prisoner in the locked house and would punch me repeatedly in the back of the head, though no one wanted to hear of such tales.
Dementia has the knack of turning those who don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis both deaf and blind, though you are much complimented for your life of wonderful service. Those on the sidelines would probably present you with a medal if possible, so grateful are they that your involvement allows them to be absolved of all responsibility, because you are ‘a carer’, you even have a job title!
Mum was cared for at home by myself and my father until she died in hospital with pneumonia. I married four months later aged 39 and my father dropped the bombshell that he wanted me to not leave and move my husband to live with us as he couldn’t bear being alone. I adored my father and luckily so did my husband, we all lived together.
Devastatingly, after having my child, my father developed Alzheimer’s, which progressed at an alarming rate.
Soon I found myself changing both my child’s nappies and my father’s. I waited for help from social services, none came. When I went on to the Stephen Nolan show to talk about being a carer I finally got assistance. Within two days of the Nolan Show’s intervention I had a social worker. She proved to be my salvation.
After I collapsed with a virus she found my father emergency respite care. For the first time in my life I experienced what it was like to not be a carer. It became impossible for me to go on looking after dad at home.
I didn’t drive and couldn’t take my father with me to get my child to school, nor could I leave him alone.
The choice of going into a care home was taken out of my hands because basically, there was no choice. I needed more help, but it wasn’t there.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown closed her article with the thought that it was only right that children should become carers to their parents, that it was the circle of life. I disagree. Caring can be a life sentence once it’s taken on. I wouldn’t want it for my son!
Caring is a task that will affect your physical and mental health, but once undertaken you will keep on going out of love and loyalty.
If I didn’t have to put my young son’s welfare before my father’s I don’t know what state I would be in now. I loved my father so much that when it came to his care my attitude was, it’s better to wear out than to run out. This is often the case with most full time carers.
If you are struggling you must get help. There’s no shame in going the care home route, if you don’t you could be facing the dilemma: who cares for the carer?
DOING THE SCHOOL RUN IN THE SUN CAUSES THE SUMMERTIME BLUES
‘Is your body bikini ready?’ screamed the woman’s magazine I was reading. I threw it down in disgust. My body hasn’t been bikini ready since 1986. I felt sick as I saw the blazing sun outside. I had to do the school run. I’m a non-driving pedestrian with a 25 minute walk up a mountain to my son’s school. I can’t tell you the wardrobe dilemmas I endue trying to dress suitably for the changeable weather each day. Sunny days are the absolute worst. I found a black, cotton tunic and paired it with black cotton trousers, this is my summer look. As I marched along to school I noticed I was getting some very appreciative looks from drivers. I was delightedly amazed. However, my bubble soon burst when I turned to cross the road and saw walking behind me an 18 year old vision dressed in a plunging vest T-Shirt, her perky backside hanging out of her shorts. Her legs were golden brown and endless. I felt instantly deflated. Every year I swear I’ll be summer slim, every year I put on more weight! Studies have revealed Summer days can make many of us feel sad. I wholeheartedly agree with this research. I certainly felt blue and decidedly flabby as I schlepped along beside the Summer Goddess, kicking myself for eating two packets of crisps for lunch and wishing gluttony was a secret vice.
I hate Summer!