THIS ( CARING) LIFE
IAM 54. I chose at an early age to remain single and childless. Actually, I chose to remain childless and remaining single came about as a consequence. Now, in the years when my life should be footloose and fancy- free, independent and adventurous, I find myself in a situation of complete role reversal: caring for my 85- year- old mother, who moved into my home 12 months ago at my invitation, as well as that of my housemate ( who happens to be my sister).
Our lives have been turned around and are no longer our own. Our mother needs help with showering, dressing, medications, doctor’s visits, entertainment; the list goes on. We have become somewhat housebound and, when we do go out, we take Mother with us.
I have worked in the community aged care industry for more than 12 years and have always encouraged workers to promote client independence. Needless to say, this edict flew out the window when Mother moved into our home.
We would not allow her to do anything. We considered that she had looked after enough people in her long life and that it was time she was looked after. We wanted to spoil her, we wanted to pamper her and we wanted to comfort her. Wrong choice.
She took this as proof positive that she was no longer of any value or of any worth. This slap in the face resulted in a complete turnaround, so now, when I ask her if she wants a cup of coffee and she replies in the affirmative, I suggest she make one for both of us.
Until recently, as matriarch of the family, she considered that what she said went. And, of course, being the complacent, biddable daughter I am, I concurred with this decree. However, after some rather strenuous debating, my sister and I stood firm and reversed the trend. My sister helped me to realise that Mother had moved into our home; we were not living in hers.
This was quite enlightening and considerably empowering. Our mother is a delight to have with us and we would not have it any other way. There are times, though, when my patience wears thin and I want to stand on a rooftop and scream at the top of my voice that while this is a wonderful goody- two- shoes thing to be doing, it may not be where I want to be right now.
Still, the desire to have her with us and safe and not alone in the family home is quite overpowering. Her health and wellbeing improved within four weeks of moving in and my colleagues assured me that this was a result of three things: her medications being given to her correctly, getting three meals every day and not being alone at night.
Apparently, the same thing happens to those placed in residential aged care, but we are not prepared to let her go there.
My sister and I are in full employment. We are also full- time carers. The success we have seen in caring for our mother is a result of the two of us being in sync and supporting one another fully. We are in it together, for the long haul.
We don’t know how long she will be with us, but we do want to make her feel loved, safe, appreciated and secure in the knowledge that while she is a widow and the last of her generation here, she is not alone.
thislife@ theaustralian. com. au