In Hall’s words…
My mum was of the war generation – she was called up when she was 18 and she was a welder. She was very capable at sewing and knitting (she made clothes for us as children), and was an excellent cook. She loved music and ballroom dancing, was very sociable, even taking up badminton in her late 60s after Dad died. Although she didn’t have a career, she enjoyed life.
As she got into her 80s, she resisted old age and considered herself to be perfectly capable of looking after herself, but she slowly became more reliant on family for things such as shopping and cleaning. Her short-term memory gradually got worse, and things such as remembering how to change the TV channel became a bit of a problem. Her eyesight deteriorated as well, and she had pills for various ailments – and sometimes she’d take two a day, or none at all. It all became a bit of a worry.
Getting support at home
A social worker visited and Mum made light of everything, saying, ‘Oh yes, I do all my own shopping.’ And there’s me shaking my head behind her back to say, ‘No, she doesn’t!’
So the social worker arranged a daily visit and a weekly clean, which was a great help. I knew someone was checking on her every day and making sure she took her pills. Mum, being very independent, would say to the cleaner, ‘Leave that, dear, I can do that,’ so I found a way round that was to take Mum out for a bit of lunch before the cleaner arrived and return when the coast was clear, and that worked fine.
At the time, the carers were contracted to the local authority and that could be a problem. If I needed to report that visits were getting later or shorter, all I could do was tell social services and hope it would take it up with the care agency.
When I took over employing the carers direct, via an agency, that was much better, because I could speak directly with them.
Employing carers directly
When I took over employing the carers direct, via an agency, that was much better, because I could speak directly with them and they wanted to please me because I was the client and in the driving seat. Actually, one of the cleaners was particularly good and we ended up paying her privately to do the work because it got done properly. But you do have to be prepared to respond if the agency reports something amiss.
The thing is, you can pay for help and support for an aged relative, but you can’t really buy true care. Care is a by-product of friendship and love really, isn’t it? You need to have an emotional connection, so true care usually comes from a friend or a relative. Visiting carers are bound by time and outcomes, and that doesn’t always fit in with an older person’s needs – they can’t be rushed and sometimes they just want a chat and a bit of company.”