So, you wake up, and see the future. It’s the same – everyday. Not that it’s a bad thing to have powers of deduction when you are caring for someone, it’s just that when the ‘everyday’ gets punctured by an unknown gremlin called catastrophe, the world you are living in wobbles – a lot! My world has been very wobbly over the past couple of years. Like most people, Covid crawled into the corners of my vision, accompanied by an unexpected poison called Putin and THE COST OF LIVING CRISIS! While all this was happening, I lost four members of my family. Granted, they were elderly and ill, but that didn’t lessen the shock, which was a bit like being hit in the mouth with a cricket ball – it left me speechless. Then, the icing on the cake was losing my special friend, Charlie. Here he is:
He was old and sick; fifteen years and suffering from doggy dementia, but still able to wag that tail and lick your hand. His demise was, strangely enough, the hardest to cope with because when you are caring, and get no respite, you need a soft, furry thing to snuggle up to, and I don’t mean a toyboy.
Caring is hard work and in the UK, there are millions of us out there, all looking after someone, quietly getting the job done without fuss, carrying on, until we collapse under the strain. Successive governments have paid lip service to the idea that unpaid, informal carers are the backbone of society, but that’s about it. I have received flowery thank you letters from important people, praising my unselfish, devotion to my husband in his ongoing hours of need. While I am flattered that they put fingers to keyboard, it seems a little disingenuous. Of course, I am extremely grateful for the help I do get, for the charities that try so hard but are strapped for cash and staff, for the kindness of friends, family and strangers, but the constant ranting by the media about the cost of social care, the attitude of this government, and their subtle avoidance of caring issues as a priority can be daunting when you are at the coal face.
I hear you ask, where does the ‘magic’ come in? You see, caring is a sort of conjuring trick. In my case, life jogged on, full of the usual ups and downs, Children needed care but grew into adults and left, the mirror told me my best years were done, and I started to accept the inevitable downward slope of ageing, determined to embrace retirement like the lady in the TV ads, with her glossy grey bob and handsome husband with the Cary Grant looks. I started to believe that was the future; full to the brim with cruises to exotic places, a move to a smart new apartment in a gated community, becoming a selective granny – only babysitting when it suited me – and taking up all sorts of thrilling hobbies, like windsurfing or cold water swimming. Never a knitting needle in sight! The magic bit came when life turned into something else. It was as if a magician came along with his wand and did this trick, turning me into a carer overnight.
This is my first post on this blog. I am writing it because I need to. That may sound selfish, but those of you who are carers and are reading this will get the point. All the feelings and emotions sweeping over you in those moments of darkness at three in the morning, have to go somewhere. Counselling helps, but you have to be careful to avoid that sneaky little spook called guilt doesn’t pop up during your talk therapy session and you start worrying about the impact your woes will have on the lovely empathetic soul forced to listen to them. Another pitfall is family sympathy. When your spouse of what feels like a hundred years of marriage has a stroke, well-meaning relatives struggle to find the right words. It’s not a funeral so they can’t get away with a wreath and a sympathy card. It’s not a terminal illness, so telling you they’ve asked the vicar to say a few prayers on Sunday just doesn’t hack it. And how busy they have all become? Is there no-one who can come and sit with granddad for a couple of hours so granny can have her hair done? I’m one of the lucky ones. I do have adult children who step up when needed, and I value their involvement. It’s precious. But there are carers out there who have no help and who are too frightened or lacking in an understanding of the mirage of signposts you have to access to get support.
In this blog, I want to share with my readers my everyday preoccupations, thoughts and black moments, along with the joys and laughter, all seasoned with a good dose of humour. Do come back soon and read the next chapter! Thank you for being out there and doing what you do.