Many families provide care for their elderly relative, often with little or no outside support. To mark Carers Week, we’re discussing the experiences shared by carers when looking after elderly relatives.
Brian’s family is an example where a number of family members share the responsibility:
‘My mother gets no outside care except from the family and we really have to work together to do it. There’s no way my mother could cope for even a day without someone going in.
We have a rota and if someone can’t make their visit, the others are flexible and fit in. We run our diaries together and we make sure we don’t go on holiday at the same time. It is fortunate for her that we’re fit enough to help!’
Organising care rotas
But carers can end up in impossible situations. Carol’s parents and aunt were in their 70s and 80s and had cared for her granny’s everyday needs for years until she became ill following a chest infection:
‘Within days she went from preparing most of her own food and going up and down stairs to having a bed in the sitting room and needing 24-hour care. I organised a rota of five people to be with her. I was phoning social services and saying my parents are in their eighties, they can’t cope with this.’
But the family still has to manage the situation even when outside carers are brought in bringing new issues. For example: Rachel’s carer was rarely on time:
‘They don’t get paid travel time between appointments, so they want to shave a bit off the end of one call to give themselves time to get to the next place. Sometimes the carer was an hour late and by that time I’d done all the tough jobs like washing or bathing my mother and helping her use the commode or toilet.’
Time demands on carers
Iris had a similar problem:
‘They’re only given 15 minutes and in that time the first girl had to get Dad up, dressed, washed, changed – and there was no time for breakfast. She had to wash him while he was sitting on the toilet because she didn’t have time to do it separately!’
Becoming a carer can also raise emotional issues. Sophie’s mother has become increasingly confused and needs help from her daughter to manage her finances. Sophie told us:
‘It is really, really hard to say, you’re not coping, particularly for a child to their parent – you are reversing the natural order of things. Ten years ago she was fine. But very gradually, she became less sharp and more forgetful. She found it horrible having someone asking all these questions about her money and to begin with it was very difficult.’
Do you care for a friend or relative? What works well for you and what do you think could be improved?