Category Archives: Carers

Groundhog Day

I arrive at my parents’ apartment yesterday and as I get to the top of the stairs I hear my Dad saying in an agitated voice “you should have handed it to Jak!”
“Well where is she?!” my Mum replies testily.
“She’s just coming up the stairs now!” my Dad is clearly in a tizzy.

I take a deep breath and slap a smile on my face ready to face whatever crisis is looming.

“What’s happening?” I ask.
My Dad is clutching the phone. “We’ve just had TalkTalk on but your mother hung up on them”.
They’ve been having problems with their phone line since January and I have had such a nightmare with TalkTalk that I complained to Ofcom this week. As my parents are vulnerable and disabled they have a legal duty to prioritize any repairs.

What my Dad doesn’t know is that I’ve made a formal complaint to TalkTalk’s head office and I told my Mum that if they rang her to simply say that my Daughter is dealing with it, please contact her and hang up. The reason being, TalkTalk have tried to keep my parents on the line for over 2 hours the last three times they’ve contacted them and it’s stressed my Mum to the point of ill health.

Just then, the phone rang again and it was TalkTalk, the upshot of which is they are sending the 5th engineer out today as a matter of priority. My Dad looks at me with tears in his eyes and says in a chocked voice “You are such an Angel. I have no idea what we’d do without you”.


My Mum, OTOH, seems very confused.com and I realize she is absolutely hammered. At 11.30am. FFS.

They sit down to their lunch, a ready meal I got them from Tesco.
“We didn’t get the meal for two” Mum slurs accusingly “we got 2 separate meals for one”. I look at the pile of food on each of their plates and don’t think they’ll starve any time soon.
“OK” I reply and change the subject.

My Dad tells me he’s been speaking to their next door neighbour who’s son had a baby yesterday. A little girl called Harper. Lovely 🙂. Within minutes of that conversation, my Mum pipes up “Lee’s wife had a baby girl yesterday. They’re calling her……………what did they say Dad?”
“Harper” he replies.
“Harper!” Mum exclaims.
“Lovely” I say.

They finish their lunch and I ask if they enjoyed it. Mum tells me “It was really nice but we didn’t get the meal for two, we got 2 separate meals for one”.
I take a deep breath and smile before replying “well, it looks like there was enough”.

Half an hour later we’re discussing plants in the garden, which inevitably turns into an argument between my parents on which of the greenery on the wall opposite the lounge is a honeysuckle. As tensions rise I try to diffuse the situation by telling them it’s not worth rowing over a bush. My Mum then announces, smiling falsely “Lee’s wife had a baby girl yesterday. They’re calling her……………what did they say Dad?”
“Harper” we both reply.
“Yes, Harper. I like it” states Mum.

My Dad clears away the plates and makes us all a brew. As I tuck in to the Celebration chocolates Mum tells me “Y’know those meatballs we like?”
“The ones I got you with your shopping yesterday?” I ask, knowing what was coming.
“Yes. We didn’t get the meal for two, we got 2 separate meals for one instead” her tone is suspicious.
“Does it matter?” I ask, unable to conceal my irritation.
“No. No. Just sayin'” she slurs.

I take the cups away to the kitchen and begin to wipe the counters down.
“Jak!” Mum shouts through at the top of her lungs, “Guess what? Lee’s wife had a baby girl yesterday! Isn’t that nice?”
I can’t resist. “Yes, I know. Harper. You’ve already told me”.
“Well I can’t remember telling you!” she shouts back, clearly narked.

6pm that night I’m lying in the bath, hair covered in shampoo, when the phone rings. It’s my Mum. “I just wanted to tell you that Joan’s son Lee had a baby yesterday!” she tells me excitedly, “isn’t that lovely?”
I know I should just let her tell me the tale, but I’m tired and hormonal and have Johnson’s Baby shampoo in my eyes which, let me tell you this for nothing, does sting and I can’t help myself “I know Mum. A little girl called Harper. You told me when I was there today. Three times.”
“Oh” she’s both disappointed I’m not excited at her news and embarrassed, which comes out as anger. “Well I’m sorry to have bothered you!” she says in a huff and puts the phone down.
Maybe if you weren’t roaring drunk every fucking day you might actually remember conversations with your precious child. I don’t say that of course. What would be the point?

Today is a new day, in which I’ll inevitably go through versions of yesterday all over again. Like a Groundhog. A fat, middle aged, tired, sick, hormonal Groundhog. I reach for the Jaffa cakes, my second packet this week. Fuck it. I’d rather be a fat but chilled Groundhog than a thin loonatic, rocking in the corner and dribbling.

A thankless task

It’s 5.15pm and I’ve just dropped my Mum off at Urgent Care in town. I’m feeling woozy and light headed, because I’m usually in bed by 4pm and my illnesses don’t take time off when crises hit. My Dad’s with her, but that’s no consolation. Lovely fella my Dad, but absolutely and utterly feckless.

Last Friday I was chatting to Mum on the phone and she says “I have something to talk to you about when you come on Monday. It might not be something you can help with and I might have to put up with it forever, but I still thought I’d talk to you about it.” What now? I think to myself, fearing the worst.
“I can come through today Mum” I tell her, “you don’t have to wait til Monday.”
“No, it’s fine” she says, then sighs.
“What’s the problem?”
“I’ll talk to you on Monday” she says cryptically, and I wonder if it’s about my Dad but she can’t tell me because he’s there.
“Well, if you’re sure” I reply, concerned.

I worry all weekend about what the issue could be. Has she found a lump? Is my Dad’s dementia worse? The possibilities are endless.

I go on Monday to do all the jobs she lines up for me each week and ask her gently “so, what is it you need to talk to me about?”
“I was wondering if you could switch the sofa and my chair round. I hate seeing all these trailing wires” she points to the cable for her electric chair, plus the cable for her lamp, the plug cable for the phone and the plug cable for the video doorbell handset “but if the sofa were in the corner where my chair is they would be behind it and you wouldn’t be able to see them.”
I’m flummoxed. “Okaaaay……..we can have a look at that in a minute” I say trying not to sound irritated, “but what did you want to talk to me about?”
“That’s it” she says, surprised.
“What’s it?”
“Hiding the cables!”
It takes my brain a few seconds to process what she’s saying. “So that’s what you wanted to talk to me about? Swapping the furniture around?”
“Yes!” she looks at me like I’m stupid.
I inwardly roll my eyes, not believing I’ve spent all weekend worrying myself sick over moving a settee. FFS.

I start sliding the sofa around on the wooden floor. It’s not difficult but I’m sweating like a hog on a spit. I glance at the thermometer which tells me it’s 27.3C. “Did you turn the heating up for some reason Mum?” I ask her “only I’m sweltered!”
“Well it was chilly last week so I turned the green button up on the radiator” she tells me.
“How high did you set it?”
“I DON’T KNOW! I can’t get down to see the dial, so I just turn it right up” she’s irritated I’m asking because she knows I know she can’t see the dial.
“Well, would you mind if I turn it down a bit?” I ask patiently “before we all die of heat exhaustion”.
She humfs and walks off.

Swapping the chair and settee around is the easy bit. The hard bit is re-sorting all the cables. I had them all in a cable tidy next to her chair and had put a 4 socket plug on the wall at chair height so that she could turn her lamp etc. off easily at the wall. Now, I have to unplug everything, pull out the massive corner unit I’d fed the extension cable round and re-plug everything in. So now, instead of all the wires being neatly in the corner of the room by her chair they are halfway across the lounge. And you can still see them. In fact, you can see them worse than before. And to make the situation worse, there is now no way she can turn her lamp on and off as she can’t reach the switch. FFS.

This morning I get a phone call. “Are you busy today?” she asks.
“No, it’s Friday – I never usually have plans on a Friday” I tell her. “Why?”
“My bell’s not working.” Bell. Bell? It takes me a while to figure out she’s referring to the doorbell.
“Ah, I wonder when I unplugged everything on Monday whether it’s upset it. I’ll come through and have a look after lunch” I tell her.

It turns out that the wireless video doorbell had turned itself off at the handset (my Mum has a tendency to keep her finger on buttons too long, and if you do that to phones it switches them off). So I turn it back on and all is well. I can’t explain what the issue was to my Mum, though, because she’s pissed as a newt and won’t even remember I’ve been today let alone any conversation we had.

We get on talking about wheelchairs and how the footrest on Mum’s keeps flopping down and hitting her leg. “I’ll take a look at it while I’m here” I tell her, going and getting it out of the boot of their car. The footrest arm is bent so I’m not surprised it’s not staying up. Plus it isn’t locking into position properly.
“It’s never been serviced since you got it Mum” I tell her “so why don’t you and Dad have a tootle through to the city next week and you can have a look round Dunelm Mill for an hour while they fix it.”
“Good idea!” she slurs, so I ring up the service centre and book it in. But they aren’t providing courtesy wheelchairs due to Covid, so I then have to ring shopmobility and book them a courtsey wheelchair from there.

By now it’s 4pm and I’m getting groggy and really tired. So I put the dog’s harness on ready to leave.
“Before you go, would you have a look at my arm?” Mum asks.
“Why? What’s wrong with it?”
“I banged into the door this morning and chipped a bit of bark off” she laughs merrily. “It’s bloody sore but”. She rolls up her sleeve to show a bruise the size of Kent and a humongous blood soaked plaster. I’ve been there for 3 hours and she waits until I’ve got my coat on to mention it.

I try to get the plaster off and it’s stuck to the wound like cement. Not only that, but her skin is so fragile it’s ripping it off as I pull. So I take a lonnng time gently prizing it off her arm and she actually screams aloud in pain when I take off the final piece. Below the plaster, nearly 2 inches of skin is rolled back to reveal bloody, raw, gaping flesh.
“Oh my God Mum!” I exclaim horrified.
She leans back in the chair and moans.
“Dad, get your car keys. She needs to go to Urgent Care to get this wound dressed. If it gets infected anything could happen, plus the skin needs to be glued back on”.
He starts flapping around in a panic and the fact Mum doesn’t argue with me about going to the hospital speaks volumes.

They tell me they’ll be fine on their own, but I go ahead of them anyway. You can’t just waltz in to A&E these days. They stop you at the door, you have to put on your mask and use hand sanitizer, then you ring a bell. The receptionist then calls you via a phone on the wall. I book Mum in (there’s no way either of my parents would have been able to hear what the receptionist was saying on the phone) and they arrive shortly after. Only then do I come home, trying not to be embarrassed about how Mum will be acting with the nurses as she’s clearly drunk.

As I’m typing this final paragraph the phone has rung. It’s Mum to say that she’s had several butterfly stitches, a sterile dressing put on the wound and her arm bandaged. She has to go back on Monday for a new dressing and to check for infection. I can relax a bit, but feel too stressed and sick now to eat any supper.

It’s just been an ordinary week as a Carer of old, frail and confused parents. There are always jobs to be done and crises to deal with. The sad part is, my Mum won’t remember a damned thing I did for her today so it’s a good thing I don’t rely on praise or thanks. Just love.

It’s a good job I care

I shop for my parents’ groceries with Tesco online and have them delivered to their house. Last month, my Mum asked me to get her some kitchen foil “but I want the long one” she told me. So I make sure I buy her the 15 metre roll, not the 5m or the 10m.

Last week, she again asked for kitchen foil “but make sure it’s the long one. I asked for it last time, but I only got the normal one”.
Weird I think to myself because I know I put the long one in her basket. Maybe it was unavailable and they substituted it with the regular one? So I make sure that, this time, I get her the longest one in the entire shop. 30 metres. That’s almost the length of my house – surely to God she won’t need more than that?!

Today, I had to go to Sainsburys for some Gaviscon (for me) and Calpol (for the dog) as they haven’t had any at my local Tesco for a month. “Oh” Mum pipes up “if you’re going to Sainsburys please will you get me some kitchen foil? I only got the normal size again from Tesco last week and I need the extra long.” She looks at me accusingly.
I know for a fact this isn’t true, so I say “Are you sure Mum, because I know I got you the longest one available?”
“Yes I’m sure!” she snaps “It’s definitely not the extra long one. It won’t cover my roasting dish and the one I used to get from Sainsburys covered it no bother”.
And then it dawns on me. She doesn’t want the extra long one, she wants the extra wide one. FFS.

During the same visit, we have a discussion about Covid-19 and the rise in cases in the north of England.
“Aye” my Dad says sagely, “this bloody corra-virus has a lot to answer for”. It makes me chuckle every time 😁.

My Mum got a vouchure for a manicure and pedicure for her birthday in June, so she went to the beauty Salon this week to have her nails done. Quite why someone who has severe heart, lung and kidney disease and is at the highest risk of death from Covid would want to be in a confined space and close proximity to a stranger to have nails that never see the light of day painted defies logic, but I’ve long since stopped trying to reason with her. So I asked how it had gone.
“It was lovely” she tells me. “I asked the girl what she did while the Salon was shut and she told me she had to get another job. But it was miles away in…………..oh bugger, I can’t remember where she said now. “Where was that spot we got that chest of drawers from that time?” she asks my Dad.
“Cockermouth” he replies.
“Noooo” she says, rolling her eyes.
“Well that’s where we got the chest of drawers” he tells her.
“No it’s not!”
“Well we haven’t got drawers from anywhere else!”
“Yes we did! That spot down the long twisty road. Miles away.”
“Whitehaven? Workington?”
“Nooooo!” she shouts, getting frustrated.
“Actually Mum” I interject “I don’t give toss where she was working” because to be fair knowing that isn’t exactly going to change my life.
She huffs at me and sulks.

Eventually we get on to talking about restless legs. My biological Dad had what would now be termed Periodic Limb Movement Disorder and my Mum has always had Restless Leg Syndrome, so it was fairly inevitable that I would inherit RLS. My legs have ‘jumped’ since I was a small child but as I’ve aged it’s gotten much worse and there are now some days they drive me to insanity.
“What you need is some of my Ga-pen-t-i-an” she tells me, “it’s a wonder drug. One tablet and my legs haven’t jumped since”.
“Yes, but you weren’t prescribed Gabapentin for restless legs though Mum” I remind her gently, “you’re on it for the nerve pain following your Guillain Barre and shingles”.
“I don’t get nerve pain” she looks at me like I’m stupid.
“That’s because you’re on Gabapentin”.
“No it’s not!”
“Well, why are you on Gabapentin then?” I ask her as patiently as I can.
“For my restless legs!” she’s getting irritated with me now, so I just nod OK and we leave it at that. The thought of trying to explain that Gabapentin is a highly addictive anti-seizure medication with potentially psychotic side-effects, which has largely been withdrawn from use and would never in a million years be prescribed for restless bloody legs is way more than I can handle.

“Barrow!” Mum shouts out 2 hours later, as I’m tucking into the egg buttie I’ve taken for lunch. “That’s where that girl at the Salon was working during bolt-down” she looks at me triumphantly and I smile sweetly back, while inwardly congratulating myself for not completely losing my shit.

No-one said this caring malarkey was going to be easy, and they weren’t sodding wrong 😉.

Who Cares?

I’m utterly exhausted today, can’t get out of bed and am feeling quite unwell.

Mondays are currently hard for me, as I go through to help my parents.  Prior to the pandemic, they paid for help in the house but as the people who were helping them are all mixing with society (children, supermarkets, health centres etc.) we think it’s too risky for them to come to my parents home, so I’m filling the gap.  It’s too much for me, but I can currently see no other option which doesn’t put them at risk.

In addition, I’m grocery shopping for 4 households each week: my own, my parents, plus two elderly, vulnerable friends.  Delivery slots are still really hard to come by, plus my elderly friends in the next town don’t buy enough each week to qualify for the £40 limit, so I get their groceries in with my Tesco delivery.  I then have to do a 12 mile round trip to deliver the shopping as my one friend is so disabled he can’t carry bags from his car to his kitchen.

It’s my Mum’s 80th birthday this week so I’ve been planning for that, while having no access to shops.  My cousin is making her a cake, but there is a huge shortage of icing sugar for reasons no-one can understand so I’ve spent a fortnight trying to get hold of some.  In full  PPE, I risked going to a specialist supermarket at 10am Monday morning only to find the icing sugar shelf bare.  I asked an assistant, who told me there was actually a delivery in the back storeroom but she wasn’t allowed to give me any.  However, she would be stocking the shelf at 4pm and if I came back she would make sure I got a bag.  Which meant another 14 mile round trip.  I then had to deliver it to my cousin.

In amongst all this, I’ve been dealing with the legal case against my neighbour who is blocking my driveway.  I was on the phone to the solicitor for 30 minutes this morning discussing boundaries.  It’s super stressful.

Yesterday, I met up with my bestie for a picnic lunch.  We haven’t seen each other for 3 months and I had a truly lovely day.  I needed it.  But it was still really tiring.

Tonight I have a camera club zoom meeting.  I missed last week’s as I wasn’t well enough to participate, so I really want to try to make this week’s.

Then there’s still my dog to take out.  And bills to pay.  And my car to look after.  And cooking.  And washing.  And showering.  And all the other things we all have to do each day just to survive.

I was having a conversation with my disabled friend this morning, who has rung me every single day of the pandemic because he’s isolated, bored and lonely, and he was telling me off for the millionth time for doing too much.  I kind’ve lost my cool with him.
“Which part of my day, today, then do you think I shouldn’t do?!”  I shout, exasperated.  “Your Tesco shopping, my Tesco shopping, our friends’ Tesco shopping, my parents Tesco shopping, wrapping some of my Mum’s birthday gifts, taking the dog out, my lunch, my Camera club meeting, the conversation with my solicitor or my current conversation with you?”
We agree that the only non-essential part of my day was the conversation I was having with him, but he seemed very reluctant for some reason to give that up!!

Everyone tells me I do too much.  But what is the alternative?

To give up my photography, which is the only thing that keeps me sane.

To not care for my parents?  Who would do that, then, in the midst of a killer pandemic and when the only other person who helps to look after them is having chemotherapy for cancer?  My Dad’s toenails last week had grown so long over the last 2½ months he literally couldn’t get his shoes on.  Do I tell him it’s not my job to cut them and just leave him to it?

Do I ignore my disabled friend?  After all, he’s not my responsibility.  He has 2 sons, although they live miles away.  They do nothing for him though and I can’t make them care or step up to the plate.  Do I let him starve, then?  Be totally isolated with no company or anyone to talk to? Should I not have bought him a tray of bedding plants from B&Q when I was there last week to put in the empty pots on his little patio?  Because he’s elderly, should he not want his home to be nice?

I have no children or any family that particularly care about me.  When I am old and in my friends’ or parents’ position, who will care for me?  I hope someone does, even if that is just ringing me each day for a little chat to break the solitude and isolation, or offering to get me my favourite cake from Tesco.

Whatever happened to compassion, empathy and basic humanity?  Looking after the vulnerable in society isn’t someone else’s job.  It’s our job.  ALL of our jobs.   If anyone thinks that 15 minutes of Home Care from the council each day meets the needs of our elderly they’re living in cloud cuckoo land.  It’s barely enough time to microwave a dinner.  What about shopping?  Washing?  Folding laundry and putting it away?  Cutting nails.  Getting glasses mended, or hearing aid batteries?  Paperwork, legions of it which all needs to be done online – my Mum can barely use her cordless landline phone let alone the internet.  Many local banks and post offices have shut, leaving elderly people no way of banking cheques or sorting out financial problems – my Dad is deaf and can’t hear properly on the phone.  My Mum had burned her arm this week so needed me to dress that for her.  She also wanted my advice on what to do about a sore which had developed on her skin.  My Dad had an ingrowing eyelash which needed to be plucked out, plus the velcro strap on his sandal wasn’t closing properly and he couldn’t work out why.

My parents need help in a thousand different ways, and much of the help has to be from someone they implicitly trust and who knows them intimately.  You can’t buy that, you really can’t.  Everyone tells me I need to get more help for my parents and my friend, but where on earth do they think this level of help would come from?  Who can my parents ring to say their Sky remote isn’t working?  Or the battery is beeping in their smoke alarm?  Or they’ve had a letter from the hospital that they don’t understand?  Or they’ve finished their jigsaw and can they have a new one please?

When we’re young, and in control of our lives and our bodies we are so arrogant.  We think it will always be this way and our brains will always function as they do now.  But trust me when I say, they won’t.  One day it’s more than likely we will be slow, unsure, easily confused, frustrated, vulnerable, left behind, frail, unsteady, stiff, muddled and forgetful………and that’s if we age well!

So, yes, I am exhausted and feeling unwell.   But I can sleep at night, knowing I’ve done my best. And if there is such a thing as Karma I hope this care will come back to me when I am old and in need of kindness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being a Carer

As most of you know both my parents are nearly 80 – my Mum is physically disabled and an alcoholic and my Dad has learning difficulties and mild dementia.  They both really struggle with the modern world and are clueless when it comes to technology.

When they first got their cordless phone it took them forever to understand that they now had to press the green button to pick up a call and the red button to finish the call – they kept forgetting to press red then nobody could get through.  It also took ages for them to get used to using the phone book and speed dial, but now they love it because they can’t remember anyone’s phone numbers in any event (can any of us?!).

My Dad now also has a mobile phone on which he can make and receive calls although texting is beyond him, however at least he can ring 999 on it if needed and more importantly we can ring him to check he’s OK when he’s out and about.

I live 6 miles from my parents, but there’s currently masses of roadworks and diversions and I have to drive 9 miles to see them making an 18 mile round trip.  As you know, I was out all day yesterday plus have been feeling rubbish all week so today I’m exhausted but I always ring my parents every morning to check they’re OK…………..and this morning the phone rang and rang and rang and not only did no-one pick up the answer phone didn’t kick in.  Summat was up (as we say in the north).  I eventually got through on my Dad’s mobile, though, so at least knew they were both fine but there was clearly an issue with the landline.

So after I took Bertie out this afternoon I drove the 9 miles into town to discover the base wasn’t working on their cordless phone so neither of the handsets could make or receive a call.  I tried everything Google told me to do and eventually concluded the base had become faulty and would have to go back to Amazon (luckily it’s under warranty).  However, this left them without a landline, vital for Mum should Dad be out and have taken his mobile with him.

So I drove the 9 miles home, picked up an old corded landline phone I keep in case of power cuts, and drove the 9 miles back into town with it.  I plugged it in, rang my mobile on it to make sure it was working, showed mum how to use it and drove the 9 miles back home again.  By this time it was 4.30pm and, as I’m usually in bed by then, I was feeling pretty ropey.

I was just about to get into my pjs when my mobile rang – it was my Mum, using my Dad’s mobile to ring me to say that she’d tried to use the corded phone to ring me but it said ‘number not recognized’.  So I patiently, again, went through how to ring out on the corded phone (“don’t press any other buttons than the numbers” I tell her, “there’s no green or red buttons like on the other phone”).  I asked my Mum to try it again and ring me back.  Nothing.  So I rang the mobile back only to get a voice telling me the call could not be made.  So I tried ringing the landline, only of course it was engaged as my Mum was trying to ring me.  *sigh*.

Eventually Mum gave up trying to ring me so I could then ring her. “What’s happening?” I ask.
“The stupid bloody phone still won’t work” she replies testily and now your Dad’s mobile is saying “sim not recognized”.  I have no fucking clue what they’d done but were effectively now without a phone to ring the emergency services if needed.  I told her to put my Dad on the line, asked him to turn his mobile off and back on again, and he said he had but it still said “sim not recognized”.  FFS.  I couldn’t leave them like that all night, so in my slippers I bundle Bertie back in the car and drive the 9 mile back to town.

I tried ringing my mobile from the corded landline phone and it worked a treat.  I also called my home phone and it worked a treat.  “Well it wasn’t working when I did it!” my Mum shouted at me, obviously embarrassed that the phone was clearly fine she had just pressed something she shouldn’t.  So, using every ounce of patience I possess, I went through yet again how to dial out on the phone when what I actually wanted to say was “well if you weren’t bloody drunk all the time you might manage better!”

I then turned my Dad’s mobile off and back on again and it, too, was working perfectly.

I got back in the car and drove the 9 miles home.  I now feel too sick with tiredness to even contemplate eating my dinner and the much needed bath I was going to have has gone out the window as I no longer have the energy.

Things like this happen week in week out, month in month out, year in year out.  Caring for elderly and confused relatives isn’t just about hospital appointments or putting the bins out – it’s about the million and one little things which frazzle your nerves, test your patience and drain you of energy.  And it’s all doubly difficult when you’re ill yourself and have no-one caring for you.

Thank you for listening to my little rant – I have no-one else to tell y’see and it always helps the frustration to put it down on paper.  The shitty part is I know my Mum still can’t use the corded phone and neither could my Dad if needed, so basically it’s all been a great big waste of time and energy.  I’m off to order a replacement cordless phone with next day delivery on Amazon and to arrange to send the faulty one back.