Tuesday 2 June 2009

Caring isn't easy

Mum came home at the weekend. She has been in a nursing home for the past three weeks after she broke her wrist. She is still in plaster and will be for another week at least and she still can't get around by herself.

So, I have become a full-time carer, at least for now.

My mum is elderly, a bit forgetful and even before she broke her wrist she wasn't particularly mobile. She needed two sticks or a Zimmer frame to walk. I used to do her shopping and housework, check she was OK once or twice a day, make sure bills got paid, drive her to appointments and generally help out when necessary. It seemed like I was doing quite a lot - but it wasn't really.

Mum could still look after herself most of the time. She could get herself washed and dressed, get to the loo and back by herself, make herself cups of tea and cook simple meals. Now, she can't do any of that.

At the moment, I am on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it is tough. I have given her a wire-free doorbell to press if she needs help, and I carry about the part that rings so I can go to help her when she needs it - even if that means waking up several times in the night to help her to the loo. I can't go out at all.

But I do realise I still have it relatively easy. I'm only going to be doing this until mum gets her mobility back. I also have the support of my partner, who is happy to do things like the shopping or fetch a take-away pizza if I am too tired to cook.

I very much hope life will return to normal within a couple of weeks. I am also arranging for mum to go to a lovely day centre run by Age Concern later this week, which will give me a day off.

Some people care for relatives with far greater disabilities than my mum has, they not only care for them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but also 365 days a year. And many of them, like me, don't do this because they feel they have a vocation to be a carer, they just do it because they have to.

One book that has helped me cope with being a carer is The Selfish Pig's Guide to Caring by Hugh Marriott. Written by a man who cared for his wife who suffered from Huntington's Disease, it is about the psychology of being a carer. It points out that most carers don't really enjoy it, they came to caring reluctantly and don't feel they have the right training or aptitude for it. Most of all, they feel they must be selfish pigs because they would really rather be leading their own life.

The book points out that these feelings are perfectly normal, and that it is just as important for carers to look after themselves as to look after the people they are caring for.

If you are a carer, or thinking of becoming one, I would definitely recommend The Selfish Pig's Guide to Caring. It is available through Amazon for £6.74.

The Selfish Pig's Guide to Caring


Catty said...

Thank you for posting this. I hope mum gets well soon and I hope it's as easy on you as possible.
I'm going to send that book to my mum, who has become a carer for my father.

I don't suppose there's a book for people who should become carers but it would involve stopping their entire lives and decamping to another country to do it. Is there?

Badwitch said...

Catty - That sounds like a difficult dilemma. I don't know of any books that particularly cover that issue - I would recommend talking to a charity such as Age Concern to get advice and information. They are very helpful.