This is the first day of the rest of my life. My suitcases are unpacked and stowed away for a few months; I’m back from the season’s traveling. I feel rather guilty, because visiting my mum is such a short-lived contribution to her care, and then I just return to my normal life. (This is certainly one of the drawbacks of a having a widely scattered family!)
Poor soul, she has gone from independent to assisted living, and now to be being utterly dependent, all in the last 15 months. It’s so hard for everyone, particularly for mum and my sister, who lives nearby. Mum can no longer stand on her feet and the prospects of recovering any mobility are looking pretty slim. I cannot imagine what it feels like to lose hope. I know that she is far from alone in this predicament, and it is a fate that awaits a large number of us. Care for a dependent person is a major challenge. The extended-care home she is in is doing the best possible job it can, I do believe. But it is tough for both the carer and the caree. Many of the staff are wonderfully young and empathetic, yet it is impossible for them to imagine what it must be like to make this transition to total loss of control.
Those being cared for can only release their irritations in verbal recounting of their discomforts and frustrations, which makes the situation even tougher for the caregiver. Who amongst us hasn’t requested permission of our friends for a 5 minute rant now and again? Having little to distract one from the frustrations and pain makes the situation far worse, not to mention that the total lack of physical movement just adds to the discomfort and unease.
After the initial challenge of each daily visit, during which I acted as mum’s arms and legs to show her what was in her cupboards and drawers and to adjust them more to her taste (she was moved to a new more accessible room during her hospital stay), I would then read out loud from a copy of Pam Ayres’ poetry, which we both enjoyed; this would often set off a stream of family reminiscences in which we both felt more like our regular selves.
I find it very difficult to put myself in another’s shoes. I just don’t see things that others do, and I’m sure it is the same for the staff. It makes me wonder if training for care-givers should include a compulsory day, from bed and being dressed, to in a chair with feet up (including a diaper), to being prepared for bed at night, all at the tender mercies and convenience of others. It’s a sobering thought.
Sitting around all day sounds pretty good to a knitter, but what happens when you need more yarn?