Caring for your elderly parents at home – there is no right or wrong

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Updated 23rd March 2017 – For Maybeth, Maureen and Mary with love

For those of you who haven’t read the Stroke Diaries, my mother had a stroke 5 years ago.  She spent around 3 months in hospital.  I was there for her every step of the way,  but it was when she came home that our troubles really began.  She staunchly resisted going into a nursing home but finding and keeping carers to look after her at home was an expensive nightmare.

I am sure some people are happy or have no choice other than to care for their parents. I couldn’t do it.  Living and working in Jersey made it difficult for me to be with her as often as I would have have liked anyway and when I was, I got frustrated by my own shortcomings.  My mother would have told you I made a rotten carer anyway.

It is funny how quickly I always managed to bond with new carers. I was grovelling grateful, humble, sincere, fighting back the tears and it is all true. I was so relieved that they were there to tend to my mother’s every need. Dressing, feeding, washing and ablutions. The things I tried to do for her, but was hopeless trying to cope with it all, especially emotionally.  After all … once upon a time … she had pandered to my every need.

Keeping carers was extremely difficult. My mother was very depressed. She was always grumpy, often rude and hurtful to those around her.  She was terrified about going to bed. Maybe because she was frightened that she wasn’t going to wake up?  Consequently she would be awake most of the night and calling for the carers on the hour, every hour.  For the short periods when she did drift off to sleep she would wake up screaming and crying.  She was seeing people in her room who, of course, had vanished by the time the carer or I got there.

A round the the clock carer deprived of sleep, meant that there was a very quick turnover of carers   One in particular, rang me after only one night.  So there was no continuity.  Carers weren’t staying long enough to bond with my mother and vice versa.  Frankly, she wasn’t giving them a chance, until we found Maybeth, Maureen and Mary.

Maybeth in particular stuck it out for the long haul.  Working all hours pandering to my mothers demands and needs.  Doing all the shopping, running the household and walking the dog for 6 months at a time.  Either Maureen and Mary stepped in when nobody else would, to allow Maybeth a decent break at her home in South Africa.

I could never have done what these ladies managed to do.  Does this make me a bad person? Does it make me cold and uncaring? Does it make you feel inadequate?  It should not.

Maybeth stayed with us until my mother was finally admitted into a nursing home after 3 falls in one day.  Maybeth had become like family and it was really sad to see her go.  I stayed with my mother for three weeks after Maybeth left and was with her when she died.

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Your parent has always been the strong one in your relationship. Someone who has guided you through life and sometimes has even sent you in the right direction.  When they become dependent on you to make decisions on their behalf, that is what you need to focus on.  Doing what is the best for them.   It does not make you a bad person if you feel you cannot be personally responsible for their day-to-day care so, in some cases, it is best to leave the care to the professionals.

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