Caring by Angela Caldin

I’m pleased to announce that it’s official and I’ve got it in black and white. I’ve been assessed as a full-time carer for my husband who has Alzheimer’s and I’ve got my carer support claim form to prove it. It’s not a particularly user-friendly form, but I daresay I’ll come to grips with it in the fullness of time.

The word carer doesn’t begin to cover the complexities of looking after someone who is slowly declining. Some people prefer the word caregiver and that is probably a more accurate description of what goes on, since there is a lot of giving involved in being a carer. A carer’s life is gradually taken over by the needs of the person needing care. There’s not only a need to keep on top of medical requirements: various pills, check-ups, skin care, aches and pains, prevention of constipation, dehydration and urinary tract infections, but also a need to keep the person occupied as meaningfully as possible with word games, jigsaws, some reading matter and various outings.

Thankfully, lifelines are available: there are salt of the earth women running well organised groups with various activities where you can leave your loved one for two or three hours and know they’ll be well looked after; there are walking groups where you can walk with others in a sociable way with a friendly cup of coffee at the end. A major lifeline is the carers’ support group which meets once a month and draws together people from all backgrounds and walks of life to share experiences and coping mechanisms. The hour we spend together is full of sadness but at the same time full of humour and resilience and solidarity. I always come away wiser and invigorated.

From time to time, I think of my marriage vows and the promises to stick together for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. I realise that I had only an imprecise idea of what these promises meant, but now their full significance has come into sharp focus. These times are definitely ‘for worse’ as the person needing care trundles inexorably downhill and ‘for poorer’ as we grapple with the eventual cost of a care home as well as ‘in sickness’ as the disease continues to ravage and drag us towards oblivion.

And yet there is sometimes satisfaction in getting to the end of the day without losing patience too often or giving in to anger. If we’ve completed an activity or a walk; enjoyed a chat and a coffee with others, stuck to our routine, eaten well, rested, watched something good on Acorn TV, we can go to bed content and ready to face what the next day might bring.

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