A Blog previously posted on this page by my colleague David Reaves about trying to do your best for an elderly parent brought back the memories and feelings about my own parents, in particular my dad who was the most proud, private and stubborn man you could ever wish to meet.
My parents managed to develop bowel cancer at the same time! My mum died after two years fighting the dreadful horrible disease; my dad and his formidable heart kept going whilst his cancer kept spreading. I am an only child and the responsibility (I was going to say burden but that sounded wrong) to look after him was mine and mine alone. I had a family and a job but he needed shopping, food preparing and most of all, company; a housekeeper came in once a week and the gardener kept the weeds at bay.
I know this sounds wrong but as time went on I found myself resenting the fact that I had to spend my spare time rushing around making sure he was OK and then feeling terrible guilt at feeling this way. He in turn only saw me when I was busy and so there was no real opportunity to sit and talk and just be father and daughter; I just wanted to spend some quality time with my dad. Eventually, his mobility became almost non-existent and both of us were worn out.
A few months earlier I had started working at Richmond Village in Nantwich as a Receptionist. I knew the services that were offered but had no real experience of them and did not fully understand or appreciate the care that was provided within the home itself. It was my father’s doctor who suggested that it might be best for all concerned if my father came into the Care Home; he had and continues to have very close connections with the Village. I tentatively broached the subject with dad; his response cannot be repeated! I tried again, this time with the ace card from up my sleeve “Mum made me promise to look after you and that is what I am trying to do”. He capitulated, reluctantly and agreed to go in to the home “to give you a rest” for a couple of weeks.
It was the best thing we both did. It is only when you have someone that you love dearly in the care of others that you fully appreciate the efforts that are made to ensure that that person is looked after as an individual and the amount of work and effort that goes into doing this. And it is not just the person in the Home; it is the relatives and friends too! There were many occasions when I sat with one of the carers and cried buckets at the sheer unfairness of it all and there were other occasions when it was laughter that you could hear as my dad teased someone (as he always did) or made an awful joke (which he often did too!). The laughter was the best medicine for me; he was settled and happy and the dread of going into an “Old people’s home” had disappeared as he accepted that he was safe and comfortable surrounded by new friends.
Of course the cancer caught up with him; the staff were my rock and his. He was treated with the most tender dignity and respect right through to the end and I do not have the words to thank those who helped, supported and cared for both of us during the 6 months that he ended up being in the Home. Even at his funeral in a packed church there were the familiar faces of those that had cared for him (and me) giving me strength and paying their last respects to my lovely dad.
This happened 9 years ago and today I work in the Village as the Senior Adviser, helping people just like myself who are worried about their parents and dealing with the same sheer stubbornness as my father displayed all those years ago. I always recommend coming to look around or perhaps just a short stay with us before a longer term decision is made; sometimes it takes a number of these respite stays before someone is ready to move into the Home. One thing I can say is that I understand how you (or they) are feeling because I really do!
If you are going through a similar experience and would like to discuss it then please do contact me on 01270 629080.