Tag Archives: parents

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.

Cared For & Caring

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.