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.