My mum has not been well this week. She needed another dose of antibiotics. She has been very tired and lethargic and I am having to help her more in the mornings now to wash and get dressed.
This development made me think about all the paid carers out there, who must be at a particular house, at a certain time. They get someone up; washed and dressed and possibly breakfast too; all in about a fifteen minute or, if you are lucky, a thirty-minute call. It is impossible.
It is impossible if you are trying to maintain someone’s independence. Giving them some autonomy over their life, their day. It is impossible to ensure someone’s dignity in the process too.
Let me explain.
My mum was tired she really did not want to get out of bed at her usual time about eight-thirty. She at 84 has a right to choose when and whether she gets up in my mind. Yes, I know she needs to get up and eat and move around to be healthy, but if on the odd occasion she doesn’t feel like it, why should she? Would the carers make her get up? Would they be able to come back later?
I left her for a little while longer, after I had given her a drink. I then helped her to have a wash in the small bathroom. I let her do as much for herself as she could and wanted to do but of course this took longer and she was breathless so needed to sit down and take it slow. I helped her to dress too. Knowing what she usually wears and how she likes to wear her undergarments is essential. Do the carers who come in know these small but important aspects of dignity. Especially if it is a different carer every day?
Once dressed we moved downstairs for breakfast. My mum has a range of breakfast cereals and rotates them each day. But she will say if she fancies a different one. I warm the hot milk she likes and make her a cup of tea. By now she is tired again and says she needs to sleep again. Breakfast sometimes takes a long time. If you as a paid carer are needing to be off to your next call, it must be very hard to give choice and give time. What must happen if they have to actually feed the person?
I am very lucky. I can give my mum all the time she needs. I try and work with her so that she is doing what she wants to do. Don’t misunderstand me I do get frustrated if I am going out to work and things are going a little slow. I do get annoyed when I make a meal and she sits and looks at it as if I have given her green worms to eat.
I get tired doing all the washing ironing and cleaning. No less than every housewife in history. I have become a housewife!!! I have never been a housewife. But there are more sheets now and of course she complains “are you washing again!!!”.
But I love my mum. She can be really funny. I am sure those pop-in carers would not appreciate the humorous moments we have. I am glad I am free to care for my mum and have a flexible enough job to cope for now.