THIS ( CAR­ING) LIFE

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Viewpoints - JOANNA DIASINAS

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

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