On being a Full Time Carer
I was talking with Herself the other night.
This is not that uncommon an occasion as we do talk quite regularly, though I have to confess that it’s more a case of herself talking while I listen.
Anyways the subject came around to books. I possibly mentioned Leg Iron Books and how Legiron had promised to publish my next novel on the premise that it would never get written.
“Why don’t you write a book about being a full time carer?” says she. “I have never seen one on the subject and I’m sure there are many who are landed in the position who would benefit from your vast expertise?”
“Nah!” says I. “Apart from anything else I would have to go into great graphic detail about some of the things I have to do, and that might be a bit much for public consumption.”
She said she didn’t mind what I wrote so long as I wrote it. So I thought about it and realised there is little to write about, let alone a full book. It’s just a few pointers and that’s it. In fact I could probably fit it into one post. So here goes.
To be a Full Time Carer you need a couple of attributes. Probably the most important is patience. You need endless supplies of that jf your victim is in any way incapacitated in the movement area. In the case of Herself, she had a stroke some years ago, and since then has developed degenerative arthritis in her knees and hips, and also has a degenerative problem with her spine. So a trip to the jax [about eight feet away] is very painful and veeeery slow. In fact the round trip can take anything up to fifteen minutes. A trip downstairs is a marathon affair and takes about twenty minutes to go down and half an hour to get back up again. It is a slow and very painful experience judging by the squeals and ouches and the long pauses as she catches her breath. ,
You also need to be fairly fit yourself as caring involves a ton of lifting and holding. If you’re not fit, don’t worry as you soon will be after all that lifting and running up and down stairs about twenty times a day.
If you had an active social life: forget it. Caring is indeed a full time job as you are on call twenty four hours a day. If you get a full night’s sleep then count your blessings.
On top of the above, you need to be a dab hand at washing, cleaning, cooking, doing the dishes, dealing with annoying washing machines and the consequent drying of the contents, tending to the dog and cat and many other household tasks as you are effectively on your own. The garden is lucky if it gets any attention at all.
Don’t rely too much on outside help. I have been battling with our illustrious Health Services for the best part of a year. So far we were allocated a visiting health person for one hour a week, but we decided we were better able to cope without “help” as it was more of a hindrance than anything. We have also got two frame yokes for the toilets but neither did the job so they are now taking up valuable space elsewhere. We have been promised a second handrail for the stairs and an electric chair that rises to push the victim upright, but haven’t any more about those since.
Spare cash is always handy too. So far I have bought an electric pillow lifter, a wheelchair, a walker yoke on wheels, straps and things for getting Herself into the car and a few other things, all of which were pricey and which the Health Service advised us would be of no use whatsoever, but all of which have turned out to be very useful. Then there is such stuff as special bedding and a large monthly supply of – how shall I put it? – items of an intimate nature with high liquid absorbency capacity.
I have just been summoned. She was trying to dose Herself with a pill but dropped it into the bedding. I had to go up and root around in some intimate places. I found the pill and she promptly dropped it again. As I said … you need tons of patience!
The above may sound like complaining but it isn’t. I’m not looking for either praise or sympathy but am just stating the facts and how the life of a Full Time Carer works. I don’t mind any of it at all. I was eased into it gradually over a long period so now it has just become a normal routine and I can’t imagine life any other way.
Have to go now.
She wants a cup of tea.
You must be a very nice man. I like you.
Thank you Elizabeth, but I would just see myself as a normal bloke. Now if on the other hand I just left her to fester away in the attic I would see myself as a right bastard.
I too am a full time carer and it’s bloody tough. Too think I used to complain about working when I was a teenager….
I suppose the toughest bit is the lack of a chance for a break? Maybe I should just dump her at a hospital entrance somewhere and sneak off for a week or so. I might even collect her again, eventually…
I like you, too.
I wish you – and herself – a very good new year.
Aw thanks Claudia! And a Happy New Year to you too.
How I agree about ‘help’ and how it gets in the way! . As my wife and I found out in caring for our son , who is only 12 but has Autism Spectrum Disorder, and can do very little for himself, he doesn’t speak so you’re second guessing his needs all the time. it is indeed 24 hours a day, we get absolutely no help at all, without having to involve social services ,er , no thanks. There are things out there to help but the route to getting them is shrouded in secrecy, which would make MI5 look gossipy . Like you say we aren’t complaining, we just have to get on b
My daughter is in a similar boat [there must be something in the genes?]. She has a teenage son who has Cerebral Palsy with no speech or muscle coordination. He lives either in his wheelchair or his bed. So I know something of the difficulties in bring up a disabled child. Daughter actually gets quite good help in that he goes to a day-care facility most days which gives her a good daily break.
What about a William Trevor-like approach and a series of stories inspired by the various characters who call at the door? Trevor could weave tales from moments as ordinary as someone sitting looking out of the window of cafe in a town in the Irish Midlands.
The only people who call at our door are the postman [around 8am so I never see him], the meter reader [a taciturn bloke at the bet of times] and the rare God Botherer. Friends call around to the back door. I do my best though with people down at the coffee shop in summer, though they tend to be a boring lot.
On top of the above, you need to be a dab hand at washing, cleaning, cooking, doing the dishes, dealing with annoying washing machines
And if like me you are the carer for someone with mental illness then it also helps if you can think in at least 3 realities at any one moment. Caring for someone physically is bloody hard work, keeping house likewise but caring for a paranoid psychotic is soul destroying to boot. For like it sayeth “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
God bless you, Grandad. My wife was a carer for her father for a couple of years before he died. He had a stroke too. Hemiplegia resulted. She had the patience of a saint I thought and I admired her for what she did for him.