In Mary’s words…
After my mum died about 20 years ago, Dad managed fine on his own for a long time. But a knee replacement didn’t work well and he became quite lame, and he also had heart problems, which took him down a bit. He had been a GP, loved sport and was a lot of fun to be with, so it was hard for everyone when he became more short-tempered and found it difficult to get about.
He had to go into hospital in 2013 for a week or so and we persuaded him it would be a really good idea to have a live-in carer when he came out, both because he needed more help and it would stop us worrying about him.
Paying for live-in care
Dad was really unhappy that he had to sell some bonds and shares to arrange the annuity that pays for his live-in care – because he wanted to leave the money to us. We had to persuade him that paying for this was more important.
But it worked out well, at least until one Christmas when we were looking after Dad and his medication seemed to send him a bit crazy. Poor Dad got into such a state that he couldn’t move – he had a walking frame, but when he wanted to move his leg, his brain was not sending the message. It was horrible.
So Dad went into a nursing home. But he hated it, wouldn’t socialise, and ate all of his meals in his room. Fortunately, after a few weeks he improved mentally and physically so he could get around again, and Dad was able to return home to live-in care.
Building relationships with carers
My dad is very grateful for help, but not good at showing it. He’s also a bit autocratic, and has become more short-tempered. He can be very dogmatic about how things are done, and he can get really rude – although he always apologises afterwards. And he feels cold all the time, so he has the heating on full blast (it’s unbearably hot in that house!). So Dad isn’t an easy patient.
At first, there was huge pressure for the arrangement to work, and I’d worry when the phone rang in case something terrible had happened. A good carer for my dad needs to avoid confronting him. If they put their foot down about something it sours the relationship, and if Dad doesn’t like you, he won’t have anything to do with you. So he’s had several bust-ups and he’s got through an awful lot of carers. We have a cleaner who goes in, too, and she’s really good with Dad. If he starts ranting, she says, ‘Well, if you don’t want these girls coming in to help you, you know where you’ll end up!’
The agency providing the carers is very good and I have learned to stay reasonably hands off because otherwise you get sucked into every argument.
Trusting the care agency
Anyway, the agency providing the carers is very good and I have learned to stay reasonably hands off because otherwise you get sucked into every argument. The agency keeps a file to brief the next carer and they get reports back after each stay. When I know there’s a new carer starting, I don’t call him for a few days, but I go down at the weekend to see how it’s all going.
There’s one lovely Polish carer who he really likes. She’s very gentle, a good cook and loves gardening, and the same TV programmes as him, so they can share a lot. They get on really well, and she stays there two weeks out of every month. She’s got her own life to lead and she says that’s enough.
It’s pretty tough for the other carers, though. I think some of them find it quite a trial and so does Dad. At the end of their stay I ask, ‘Would you like them to come back?’ and there are very few he says yes to.
Lucky to live independently
But actually, Dad is very lucky to be able to live independently and that he only needs one carer – if he couldn’t walk, then we’d need two for lifting and so on and we can’t afford that. Having this care in place means Dad can continue to live independently, which is good for him and for me. So, overall, it works pretty well.”
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