Finding your life purpose - the carer


On the yoga blog I have been looking at dharma/ life purpose which may change at different stages of your life http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/new-beginnings-finding-your-dharmalife.html 

Here we are looking at very specific life purpose. A carer's role can be tough and the health of the carer may suffer.  
When I moved from Lancashire to Yorkshire, there was no way I was going to leave my lovely, kind, elderly mother behind.  She had fallen a couple of months before but was fully recovered, so it seemed, and was living independently.  Even so, I thought it best that I keep an eye on her so when a house with an annex became available in the area I wanted to move to, it seemed like the perfect solution.
Within a week of us arriving she was ill and spent the next six weeks in hospital with double pneumonia and heart failure.  Every day, I made the 26 mile round trip to see her in the hospital and several times thought I was on the point of losing her.  I was distraught.
When she came home she had gone from being independant to totally dependant, unable even to make a cup of tea for herself.  This took some adjusting to for both of us.  Afraid to leave her for long, I became almost a prisoner in my own home.  One minute I felt resentful, the next guilty for feeling resentful. But even this was not the worst of looking after her.  I know now that it was not mum's fault in any way, but she suffered from repeated urine infections which changed her personality and turned her against me. I used to cry and cry. Occasionally I would see my 'real' mum like when she would tell the doctors that I was 'the best daughter in the world' but these moments were few.
I was on a waiting list to get mum in day care just for a few hours, one day a week.  After six months I rang to see when it would be available and was told that people had been waiting a lot longer than me.  Next day, I rang back saying that I could not cope without a few precious hours a week respite and maybe she should be in a care home.  So she began going to day care just a few hours on one day each week but at least it gave me some freedom. It was good for her too.  The staff were lovely and it was a chance for her to meet people.
Things just got worse.  She had a really bad fall on her face and looked like she had been beaten up.  She would not eat and food became a battleground.  I begged the doctors to prescribe 'supplement drinks' which with reluctance they eventually did.  She died just two months after her fall and after just two years in her annex leaving me to grieve not only the loss of my  mother but the loss of the close relationship we used to have.  

Being a carer is tough.  Do I regret caring for her?  Not a bit.  Even when things were really bad and she said she would go in a home 'to give me my freedom',  I used to tell her that she belonged with us, in her home.  
The stress of being a carer can impact on your health.  It is a 24 hour job.  Mum had a monitor in her bed. If she did not return to her bed after visiting the bathroom in the night , I got a call from the monitoring centre telling me 'your mum must fallen'. I would go to check, dreading what I might find, to see mum fast asleep in bed.  Somehow she was managing to move the monitor so that it did not register her return.  The stress would trigger an asthma attack and I would be a long time getting back to sleep.  A  report, 'Always on call, always concerned' by The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, estimates that 70% of older carers suffer with their health as a result of their caring role.  There are six million carers in the UK so carers make a huge contribution to the economy.
Make sure you take care of your back if your role as a carer involves any kind of lifting. Also make sure you look after your own general health. Try and fit in some exercise, eat well and try relaxation techniques, such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation. It was the psychological stress that took its toll on me. I developed IBS for the first time and this has continued for a year since her death.  Stress can manifest in many illnesses (see http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/reduce-stress-increase-wellbeing.html)
If you are a carer, I would urge you to get whatever help is available in your area. You may be entitled to financial support.   Practical and emotional support may also be available. It helps to talk to others in the same situations and to know others share the same psychological stress as you. If you live in the UK as a starting point see http://www.carersuk.org/  or http://www.ageuk.org.uk/home-and-care/advice-for-carers/are-you-a-carer/ for more information. There may be other sources of help available in your local area. 

Love and hugs 
Janet x

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