Who Cares?

Looking after the elderly has been in the news a lot recently, with particular reference to the length of visits from carers. I think most people agree that 15 minutes is not a long enough time slot, both in order that those that have no other form of contact in a day have time to talk to someone, and so that medical matters are not overlooked in the rush to get necessary jobs done in the allotted time. I think most carers feel they are not able to do all they might wish to in that time, and end up feeling guilty about having to rush away- but what can they do with such schedules to stick to.

The matter of who cares for our elderly is one very much close to my heart currently. One of my closest friends has just lost her mother, after acting as her live in carer for many years. Her mother died when she was out. And you know what – despite giving up her own life for so long to support and care for her mother, she feels guilty that she wasn’t there. She gave up so much more than many of us would be prepared to do, and yet she still feels guilty.

Equally within my own family, we are currently coping with my 90 year old Grandfathers sudden decline in health. He has currently been in hospital for 4 weeks, and we just don’t know if he will be able to go back to living alone. And I am watching my Mum, who is doing everything she can, feeling guilty. And then I am feeling guilty that I am not doing more to support her, but living 30 miles away with 3 kids and no car limits my input.

So guilt. Guilt seems to colour our lives so much- from the moment we become parents we seem to feel guilty for something or another, and then having come out of that period of intense parenting, many of us then find guilt coming from a new direction- are we doing enough for our parents?

Where is the line between what a family should do and when outside carers should step in? I think dignity is a massive part of it. What if your parent is incontinent? Is it your place to change their nappies in an utter role reversal? Some may find it not an issue, but for others it crosses the line of parent/child relationships, and removes the dignity that the parent still has left.

And what if your parent disagrees with the level of care they need? It is very hard in a role as a respectful child to dictate what your parent does, even if you think they are making the wrong choices. Do you step in and tell them it is time to stop driving for example? Let alone that they need to give up their home for a life in residential care. I think it is even harder than parenting, because in parenting you at least nominally feel in charge, but parenting your own parent is so much more complex due to the role reversal involved.

For us the situation is really distressing at the moment. Seeing my fully compos mentis Grandfather’s sadness at his inability to undertake simple tasks without assistance is heartbreaking. He is a proud man, and put simply, he has had enough. He would be happy to go now, and openly admits he spends his time hoping he won’t wake up tomorrow. If euthanasia were an option, he would probably take it, and I wouldn’t blame him for that choice. Of course, I am still hoping they can make him better, and get him back to where he was a few short months ago- living alone, cooking, cleaning, shopping, getting out to play bridge with friends. If he cannot get that back then what does he have left to look forward to? He is too weak to even take pleasure from a visit from his great grandchildren.

For us it may well be that we end up grateful for those 15 minute visits from carers. It may be the difference between him being able to return home or entering full time care. It may be the difference between my Mum running herself ragged, and my Mum being able to remain a daughter, who loves her Father, who does a bit of shopping, and keeps him company, but doesn’t have to become his nurse, or undertake personal hygiene related jobs. We will all be there as much as we can for him, and do as much as we can, but a bit of outside care will hopefully allow him to maintain a little more dignity in the roles that matters most- Father, Grandfather, and Great-Grandfather.

All I wish for him is a little bit more joy in whatever time he has left, 

Love Miss Cisco XXX

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11 Comments

  1. Nicola Thomas
    October 14, 2013 / 8:27 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about your grandfather. It is really hard when this happens and I know that my mother on law takes on a lot of the care of her father who is housebound and she struggles so I sympathise with your mum. The question of care of the elderly is one that really needs consideration as so many people are living longer. Care in the home is good but limited and when I see the reports of people in care homes being treated like animals, it makes me so angry.

  2. Lucy Dorrington
    October 14, 2013 / 9:44 pm

    Well said, Miss Cisco. I sincerely hope your Grandfather gets the consideration and help he needs from the people that he has spent a lifetime paying taxes to provide it. I hope you all get the support you need too. xxxxxxx

  3. Tas D
    October 15, 2013 / 6:47 am

    I’m so sorry about your Grandad. 90 is an amazing age to have reached isn’t it? I completely understand the whole guilt thing. You’ve got it so spot on. I live 40 miles away from my parehts and luckily they are really healthy but I do wonder how I would be able to care for them if one suddenly got very sick. Would it right, and would it be enough? I mostly act in denial about the fact that they are getting older which is a bit daft but I do hope, when the time comes, I’m able to pull through for them.

  4. Looking for Blue Sky
    October 15, 2013 / 7:06 am

    End of life care is so rarely discussed and you’ve touched on lots of really important issues here. I’ve seen it with my Mum with dementia who wanted to die so badly, and basically starved herself which broke my heart, and my Dad, who wanted to live, but whose experience of hospitals was so poor, he decided to stay in the hospice rather than get yet another operation. It probably shortened his life but he died happy in a place where he felt comfortable and cared for xxx

  5. Adventures of a Middle-aged Matron
    October 15, 2013 / 10:16 am

    Your poor grandfather. I think often in media reports of care for the elderly the implication is that it is fully the state’s responsibility and I look at impoverished families in Asia and Africa who revere and care for their infirm relatives and feel we in the West have absolved ourselves too much from responsibility. But you’re right that there needs to be a balance of outside help and family involvement and whichever way one leans guilt will always be the spectre in the room.

  6. October 15, 2013 / 11:12 am

    My Mother in law cared for her mother in law in the last few years of her life and it was a difficult time for all. She was brought up in an age where family is everything and looking after your relatives was the done and expected thing, your duty, slightly differing to how it’s viewed these days. She refused anyone else to help her care for nan and in the process wore herself down – and ended up needing a knee replacement. Elderly people can be really heavy and family trying to lift someone from the floor is really dangerous stuff.
    Eventually fate stepped in and a chest infection meant nan had to go into hospital, where she later died.
    Hard to know whats for the best, but when it comes to a point where you have a someone risking their own health to look after a relative then it’s time for other options to be looked into x

  7. The Alexander Residence
    October 15, 2013 / 1:39 pm

    Sorry to hear about your grandfather. Nodded along with you, becoming a parent, caring for an ill parent and still feeling like a child all coincided for me. I think outside care is really important to allowing people to have that quality time, and dignity as you rightly say. I look back at my time with my own grandparents and I am glad my parents let me be really responsible and involved in keeping them company right to the end, I think it taught me a lot and helped my parents cope too.

  8. BavarianSojourn
    October 15, 2013 / 7:17 pm

    I am so sorry you are all going through this. It must be so hard for your grandfather, and for you all as his family too. I think outside care is so incredibly important, I just feel it should be for much much longer than 15 minutes. I hope he gets better soon by the way xx

  9. morethanamomma
    October 16, 2013 / 3:00 pm

    What a thought provoking post. My grandparents were lucky to have wonderful home carers who continued to visit them (in their own time) when the time came for them to enter a nursing home. They have both since passed away, but I consider them both lucky to have received wonderful care from family and medical carers. As the population stands now there are more pensioners than children in the country so it’s an issue that is going to become more and more prominent in our society. x

  10. Older Mum
    October 16, 2013 / 5:21 pm

    So sorry to hear about your grandad. The thought of Little A wiping my bottom one day fills me with horror – I would never want to her to have to do that. I just hope there’s adequate care in the future. X

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