Many, many years ago I started my caring duties while starting to establish my mobile dog grooming business. I had moved back to Hampshire after the split with my husband and a brief spell running a grooming parlour in Sussex. I had decided to set up a mobile business but obviously in the early days I needed a second job. I had no home any more in Hampshire so lodged with friends. To supplement my income I took a job in a retirement home three nights a week. I had no experience in nursing, caring or anything similar and certainly no training. There were about 14 residents of varying degrees of health and mental capacity. I remember a delightful couple who were blind and they were so interesting to talk to. They were widely travelled and had many stories to tell. I was responsible for all the residents during the night on my own, there was supposed to be a second person but in all the time I was there nobody turned up, even back then it was against the law.
Not once did I lose my temper or treat them roughly even if they were ill, sleepless or unable to settle and I am appalled by yet another report today of a care home having to suspend staff. Surely this is the fault of the managers, when you interview someone for such a position don’t they take particular care on the nature of these applicants and follow it up with many background checks. If they are abusing people now and have been employed in a similar position before it must have happened before.
In recent years by default I have cared for an elderly (doubly incontinent)lady and two ladies who have subsequently passed both from cancer, whilst sometimes very tired and stressed I never took it out on my responsibilities. I now care for my mother which I may add is twice as difficult than someone else’s mother, and frequently I am tired and suffering from cabin fever as I am not able to just jump in the car and disappear for a few hours.
Pay is very good for caring but it should reflect the quality of care given and I mention again what interview process do these carers have to go through, because whatever it is it isn’t working in some place.
We are born and we die, two sure things in life, when the later happens we have no idea. For some it comes all too soon and for others it drags on while there is a fight with failing health and faculties. For those who have lead an active life this is a tough experience, dare I say a learning curve. There is no text book that tells us how we cope with old age or failing health, we just have to battle on as best we can. Dignity has to be preserved and from what is written in the newspapers this seems pretty low on some peoples list, until it comes to them (maybe!).
Although not a nurse but many other things so far in this short life, through no fault of my own I have been destined over the last few years to care for others in declining health. All along I have thought this puts me in a good position to look after my own when the time comes. Well the time has come and I can assure you it is easier looking after someone else’s family than it is your own.
We can imagine what it is like to be frail and hanging on but this is the key word imagine. Its very easy to say I know how it must feel but you can’t unless you have experienced it. My heart goes out to families with children who are suffering from incurable problems this must be so hard. An old friend of mine used to work at Treloar’s looking after the children there, I always said to her I couldn’t do that, I don’t mind looking after people who have lead a good life even if shorter than it should have been, but children with no future, no.
I remember vividly when I first lost someone I knew. It wasn’t a family member and it wasn’t anyone I knew really well but it stays with me to this day. Back in my late teens I used to frequent a country club (night club really) where we danced to live bands, played bar billiards and drank too much. I remember the records were being played while the band was having a break and it was the Beatles ‘all you need is love’ and ‘Hey Jude’. There was a scuffle at the door and someone rushed in to say a young couple who were regulars had gone off the road at the end of the lane the car had gone into the ditch and as it was going so fast the low branches had sliced the roof off, it was obvious there were no survivors. Now if these records come on the radio I have to turn them off as it takes me back to that night and those vivid memories.
I wonder where my life’s journey will take me in the future and will I be treated with care and dignity when the time comes. Perhaps I shall never know.