Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Living Out of a Suitcase

Or Living Away From Home to be a Carer

Calamity Jane – or CJ as she is affectionately known as – is no stranger to illness. You only have to scroll through the archives of her blog a little to realise that she has to endure more than most, simply to stay alive. But since New Years Eve when her 73 year old father was taken into hospital suffering from Pneumonia, she has been living out of a bag at her parent’s home, to take care of her 76 year old mother who is suffering from Dementia.

Once again, services are sadly lacking, and although CJ’s mother has been referred for emergency respite, it will be a couple of days before social services will even get back to them about it. Of course, that’s a couple of days from today – the first day that CJ has even been able to contact these services – as like many other essential social services, they have been closed for the holidays. Apparently people don’t get sick or have accidents at this time of year, and elderly ones don’t need extra care despite the fact that the weather is prone to being colder, damper, and hazardously icy.

I strongly recommend that you read CJ’s account here.

Reading this account brought back many memories of when my Nan was alive. For about 4 years before she died she needed care. For most of that time she was cared for by my eldest brother. Later, it was either my Mum or one of her sisters. Whenever I went to visit my Nan I would be greeted by the sight of underwear drying on the radiator, belonging to whoever was living there out of a bag at that particular time. “Wash one, wear one” seemed to be the order of the day!

It’s incredibly unsettling for a person to live like that for any length of time. It’s no wonder holidays are listed quite highly as a stressor and yet the purpose of those is to relax! So imagine how it feels to go away from home, to live out of a bag, and to take on the responsibility of caring for a sick relative – and to not know how long for.

The carer may now be responsible for running two homes. Responsibilities at home may have to be delegated for a while. Money matters are especially difficult to deal with whilst one is away from home, and it may be necessary for the carer to return home regularly to open post and deal with other matters. But who will care for the sick one whilst they do this? And what about work? How many employers would allow a person to take indefinite leave and keep the job open for them? And what do you do for money in the meantime? Also, spouses and other family members can become neglected – my Mum had 3 teenagers still living at home, and 2 of them were still in school, when she had to leave home to care for my Nan for weeks at a time. Obviously this heightened her anxiety, but what else can you do when you have a sick parent that needs caring for?

There’s no doubt about it – as hard as being a carer can be, nothing can be harder than being a carer away from home.


Tilly said...

Thank you so much for the link to CJ's post. I went and read it - and felt (self) chastised by my own navel gazing. When things are crappy, it's a salutory lesson to remember that they are often so much crappier for so many others... Thank you again for the "heads up". It's not the first time that you have written about others and how they try to cope often with great courage and good grace.

All good wishes for a happy and stress-free 2008. Tx

Mr Mans Wife said...

Thank you Tilly, I'm glad you could see the positives in my post - I often feel that every post is about lack of care from others and lack of services - I was wondering if this blog was a bit depressing!

It's true; so many people are struggling to cope with such terrible situations, it really makes us think doesn't it? If that knowledge reminds us to count our blessings then that's a good thing, but we each have our own level of what we can cope with, so we shouldn't chastise ourselves too much.

Thank you for your good wishes for 2008. I wish you the very best for 2008 and beyond.

Robert said...

And thanks from me also for the link. I really feel for CJ and I'm glad to read that she might be having a transplant soon.

Best wishes!

Mr Mans Wife said...

That is great news isn't it?

Thanks Robert, best wishes to you too.

Calamity Jane said...

Mrs Woman,

As my workmates are so fond of saying - I'm a day late and dollar short .... I've only just discovered this post, sorry, I thought the referrals came from your blogroll on your other blog.

Thank you for writing that, you've really hit the nail on the head with how things are. I know I've made things more difficult for myself by not moving in totally with Mum but I feel I can't give in to it yet. If I move in then I think that will send the signal to my aunt that I don't need her help and I bloody well do and as she's our only other living relative apart from my brother who has rejected us all, I think she should muck in too. I also worry that if I move in properly Mum will think Dad's not coming home.

I only live a mile away so I sleep at Mum's and dash home for a shower, change my dressings, change of clothes, quick cuddle with the cats (who are most unsettled because I'm not there at night), and then pop to the shop or whatever needs popping to, and get back to Mum.

Hopefully it won't go on much longer, Dad's quite hopeful to be out on Monday. Fingers crossed everyone.

Ands thanks again for all your support.

Mr Mans Wife said...

CJ, I'm glad to hear that your Dad is feeling so much better. That is a relief.

I wouldn't say that you have made things more difficult for yourself - how could you possibly move in totally? You have a husband and a home that needs taking care of elsewhere. I think you are doing an amazing job of juggling things.

Hmm, the struggle of getting other relatives to muck in is something I intend to write about at some point. This issue has come up in the comments section before.

CJ, I hope you get to take some time out for you once you return to your usual routine.