Liz Jones wrote a fairly frank article in the Daily Mail where she shared her experience of ‘caring’ for her bedridden mother for just one day. Of course in true Liz Jones style in her case she was supported by a her mother’s live-in carer and two ‘pop-up’ carers who came in to help lift. As you can imagine the corresponding comments were fairly opinionated ! I don’t really want to go into the rights or wrongs of caring at home/versus care homes from a moral perspective, but the article did, however, reinforce a conversation I was having with my own husband over the weekend- are family member expected to – and indeed want to – care for loved ones at home at a time of their lives when they are less physically able to do so?
Being a carer is physically demanding
Attending to someone requiring lifting and turning is physically demanding. Hospital and care home staff work in shifts – when caring for a family member at home there is often very little respite – it is a 24/7 commitment with no prior training.
I have a friend whose father is currently being cared for at home by her mother – they have had the house adapted to provide a downstairs bedroom and shower room – but her mother is exhausted. Other family members (including my friend) rally round at weekends to help. They too are finding it stressful and tiring. In the case of my friend she leaves work every Friday – takes 5 hours to travel to her parents and arrives home late on Sunday (or goes straight to work on Monday) tired and emotionally strained, as she copes with her father feeling guilty about her mother being so exhausted and her mother wanting to keep him at home for as long as possible- but finding it difficult to cope with the shift in the relationship she now has with her husband of more than 50 years, as well as the physical demands caring places on her.
With an increasingly ageing population we somehow need to bring the issues out in the open. I have to be honest and say I have no idea how I would cope with bringing a parent (or in-law) needing care to live with us. Apart from the fact that our house is totally impractical and so any caring would involve a house move to something more suitable, I ‘m not sure how I would personally cope with taking care of someone’s ongoing physical needs – if faced with the situation I assume I would cope – but I am not one of life’s ‘natural’ carers – especially never having had children. Apart of the logistics of where we would live, one of us would also have to give up work – or accommodate a live-in carer.
With family members in their 80s, it is a topic we have not broached with any of them. With one set of parents being in a different country it would compound any potential issues.
My own grandmother cared for my grandfather at home for years – she was a tiny woman, as a child it never occurred to me to wonder how she managed to lift him – but somehow she must have done and to the best of my knowledge alternatives- such as homes- were never discussed. It was just accepted that Grandad lived in the ‘front room’ and we would pop in to play cards or dominoes with him. But today we tend to see having an elderly relative cared for at home as the exception rather than the rule. Do we need to change and face up to the consequences of us all living longer might bring. Do we need to prepare ourselves better to cope with caring for our older family members ourselves without relying on external care homes?
I have no answers – just questions!