As most of you know I care for my elderly parents, both nearly 80. We think as younger adults that we’ll never get old, vulnerable, deaf and doddery but the truth is most of us will. In particular my parents find the modern world confusing. They don’t use computers, my mum doesn’t even have a mobile phone as she has no need for one, and they still can’t get their heads around the fact they can now record one telly programme while watching another or pause live TV to go for a pee 😉 We all laugh about the things they get wrong but actually it’s heart breaking to watch the patriarchs of a family gradually become bewildered, confused and unsure.
It’s important things, like not understanding a word the doctor tells them or not even bothering to ask why they’ve been requested to go for an urgent blood sample, to the little things. For example, yesterday my Mum said that despite putting the cleaning rod through her hearing aid tube several times it still had a big lump of wax in it, so I had a look and straight away could see the wax was on the outside of the tube, not the inside! I scraped it off with my finger and all was well, but my Mum had been faffing on with it for ages.
Caring for my parents has been the one and only time I’ve ever been grateful for being ill myself. I know what it feels like to no longer be able to do the things you once used to, I know what it’s like to feel mentally confused and forgetful and I know what it’s like to just feel so rubbish that every day tasks overwhelm you, and because of that I can put myself in their shoes. I also know what it’s like for Carers to come into your home and take over, doing stuff they way they want to do it and not the way you’d like it done, so I do try to consciously remember that when I’m helping them out but it’s not always easy when you know your way is better, quicker and more efficient but you still have to do things the hard way.
Luckily, I love my parents and have nothing but their best interests at heart. However, you do have to wonder what it’s like for parents who have to rely on children who are less……….how do I put this…………scrupulous. I am now a signatory on my parents’ bank account which is accessible online and do all their online shopping using their bank cards – the ease with which I could rob them is staggering. They also take my word on everything, so I could get them to sign just about any document by convincing them it was the best thing to do. Caring for elderly parents can place you in a position of huge power and the only thing stopping you from taking advantage of that is your own moral compass.
I have absolutely no-one to care for me when I am their age, a situation I find utterly terrifying. Will I end up living like a tramp because I can no longer take care of my home yet be unable to afford to pay for help, and if I do pay for help how do I know I won’t be robbed or taken advantage of (my parents were the victims of a burglar alarm scam a few years ago because they signed up for it without telling me)? How will I keep track of my complex medical notes? What happens when my boiler breaks down? Who will manage my finances? Who will bring me decent food and clean undies if I’m in hospital? Will I even be able to work out how to turn the telly of the future on? 😉
Most of us go about our lives without giving the elderly any real thought, forgetting that one day that will be us.