To all those who dare criticise the carers of elderly people:
I hope you never find yourself confined to your house for days because your parent is ill and you have no one to delegate on.
I hope you don’t have to watch opportunities go by because you know you can’t afford to take them as they would mean not being able to care for that person.
I hope you never miss your children’s graduations, concerts, or plays.
I hope you never miss going for a coffee with a friend.
I hope you never know what it is for your kids to say they feel left out because you spend so much time caring for their gran that you have little time and energy left for them.
I hope you never wake at three am and cry because you know you won’t be able to sleep again easily and you have to get up to feed and clothe and clean your mom and deal with her nasty morning mood, accusing you of dragging her and belting out at you for helping her wash her face.
I hope nobody ever tells you that you’re living off your mom (when it’s her that would be literally lost without you) when she has a minuscule pension and you need it to get by financially.
I hope you never know the guilt of leaving your teenage son with your mom to go for a walk alone at a pace faster than a quarter mile an hour because you just can’t bear to stay indoors and hear the same story for the twentieth time.
I hope you never know what it is to hear your mother refer to you as her sister… or niece…or cousin and contradict you if you say anything different.
I hope you never know the vivid pain of having to keep your memories alive for both of you.
I could go on and on… Those of you who are carers know what I mean. Those of you who are not, I hope you never know it. I wouldn’t want it for anyone. You have NO idea what it is to have your life conditioned by the needs of another person and know that you will never be free until they die. Few situations cause such conflicting feelings.
Not many people know what it is to grieve a person who is alive and eats, speaks, maybe walks and talks, but who resembles the person you knew as your parent/ husband/ wife/ sibling a little bit less each day.
When, as is my case, you are taking care of your mother, it is odd to be technically the daughter but really the mother of your own mother, especially when she doesn’t know exactly who you are, just that you’re a familiar face.
The carers are all too familiar with the stress of facing unforeseen situations, dealing with someone who doesn’t remember what they did just did five seconds ago but can fake a conventional conversation so well for a few minutes that people who don’t know them will say ‘Wow! She’s got a lovely conversation! Clear head! You’re lucky! She’s so funny!’.
When you smile and say that it isn’t really the case, that if you ask her what she did today she’ll say she went to herd cows or that she’s just come back from the USA, they look at you as if you’re crazy and a liar. You can see their thoughts behind the forced smile. They think you’re lying, or at best, exaggerating.
I am only asking for respect. Nothing else. It’s all we need.
Don’t judge if you don’t want to be judged.