Show Care for Carers

This is national ‘Carers Week’, when we are thinking about the wide range of carers that there are across the country, including those elderly couples who are looking after one another, offspring who care for their parents and those of us who have ‘children’ with special needs. I have read that the UK’s unpaid carers are seven times lonelier than the general public, which is a really sad statistic. I know when Mum was caring for my father at home , he had vascular dementia, her world shrank as she was tied to home, responding only to his needs. Finally, she got a network of paid carers in to give her some respite and  a few opportunities to go out and have a life of her own. She used to say that those carers were her window on the world. Full time time carers have my total admiration and need to be given as many opportunities as possible to be relieved of those caring duties once in a while, to give them a rest and also another perspective on life.

My situation is very different however , as Joshua goes to school during the day and I work four days a week, so I am not a full time carer – although of course, I always care. So I am fortunate to have opportunities to meet other people and to focus of something that is more predictable and something that I am good at during the day, so that I am more refreshed when I get home from work and Joshua returns from school. I want to spend time with Joshua when I get home, whereas caring 24/7 is exhausting and draining. I have the help and support of Joshua’s Dad and Yorkshire Grandma too, as well as monthly respite weekends, so caring is not my sole responsibility, so I am very fortunate in many ways. I do not suffer from loneliness, as I have friends, family, colleagues and clients even, who I confide in and social media, for me, gives me access to support from both friends and sympathetic strangers.

61% of carers have suffered from a physical injury due to their caring role. Both my husband and I have suffered with back pain, he damaged his knees and I tore my Achilles due to pushing Joshua in his wheelchair, so we are well aware of the physical risks associated with caring. The harsh reality is that as our bodies are getting older and weaker – we are both in our 50’s now – Joshua is becoming heavier and stronger. When he was younger , after a seizure, it was possible to simply scoop him up and lay him somewhere safe and comfortable. But now at over 9 stone, this is impossible, so I have adapted and now I make him comfortable on the floor where he lands, by cushioning his head, and we do not move until Joshua is able to stand up himself. So if that means we are both on the floor in the pet food aisle at Tesco, as we were recently, then so be it.

In this week, spare a thought for carers in all kinds of situations and show them some care and support.

Torn in Half

Joshua and the dogs had not seen me since Wednesday morning and so, when I arrived home on Friday evening, I received the best welcome. The dogs greeted me at the door and I struggled to get past them, with their excited bouncing, to reach Joshua in his den. Joshua’s eyes opened wide and he grinned from ear to ear as he tried to get up from  where he was lounging on the settee, to greet me. So I sat next to him and we exchanged kisses and hugs, then he started waving at Yorkshire Grandma, as if to say, you can go now, my Mum is home! As we sat talking, catching up on the last few days, Joshua kept sitting next to me for a couple of minutes, then he would stand up and squeeze himself next to her for the same duration – he simply did not know what to do with himself, he was so happy. He kept patting his chest to tell me that he loved me.

It was such a wonderful welcome home, which  was just what I had needed , as I had begun to worry more about Mum in hospital the further away that I has driven. As I was leaving her ward, I was confident that we had got her moved to the right place and onto a renal ward where they can finally help her. I had reluctantly left her in their care and I knew that her sister was only minutes away , she would be taking over the visiting and supporting role for the next two days. But it was hard to let go; as while I was there beside her bed, I had live information on what was going on and what the doctors were thinking and doing, and I could see for myself what state she was in. My Mum has a tendency to be too brave and so an email or text will often belie just how bad she is feeling, as she is never one to make a fuss. But now at a distance, I am forced to rely on updates from my Aunt, which will never be frequent or detailed enough to replicate being on the scene. Tomorrow my sister will visit and we do not have a visiting schedule for next week yet. The visiting hours are more restricted in her new ward, to just two hours in the afternoon and two in the evening, so I will work out when I can go next.

Rationally I know that she is covered this weekend with her closest family and so I will focus on matters at my home, which I have neglected this week. Thank heavens that Joshua was not an indifferent, sulky teenager who barely knew if his mother was there or not, if that had been the case, I would have probably turned around and headed right back there. But his warm, affectionate welcome, made the separation easier to tolerate. I have thought on several occasions this week, if only I could clone myself, then I could leave the daughter version at Mum’s bedside and the Mum version of myself, back at home, as I felt a strong pull in both directions. Sadly, that technology is not available to me as yet and so in the meantime, I will have to be patient until I can return to visit mum again myself and will enjoy a lazy weekend at home.