Category Archives: Carers

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.