When I saw the theme of this year’s Carers Rights Day, Caring for your future….I got my work hat on and immediately thought about how we get information and advice out to carers about such things as sorting a power of attorney, what are advance directives, information on care homes and nursing homes, benefits and Carers Assessments, how to have difficult conversations with other family members about mum and dads health for instance and in my case ‘where IS the co-op divvy book’. And I realised caring for the future often means caring for the future of the person or persons you are caring for. It is all intertwined. Like the Christmas tree lights that I shoved in a box last year…I have to untangle lots of different wires and leads and fix faulty bulbs because in my case they all lead to dad. My future and my wellbeing is so tied into his future and his wellbeing. And so as a carer, caring for my future is difficult.
Thinking about my future, means thinking about my dad’s future. And to be honest, some days my dad’s future looks pretty grim.
On a good day (and when I’ve got my positive pants on) I’m so thankful that I’ve still got him, I can still see him, hug him, make him laugh and sing the odd song together. That’s when the dementia hasn’t left him without a voice and empty far away eyes. Are they unseeing eyes? I will never have it that they are. But they are sad. On those days the future is no more than trying to get him through the next hour, through the night and to the next day.
So that’s what the future means to me now….short term stuff and surviving and trying to be sensible by eating well (is Chocolate Orange one of your five a day?) and getting rest but the future longer term means that yep…..I will have ‘freedom’ to start to live a new life, a new normal after many years of caring and it’s a bitter sweet thought because it’s hard to envisage life without dad. Is it a future I look forward to? Being honest, sometimes it is. But then to consider a future without dad (or ma) in it is a step too far.
So what does planning and caring for my future mean? Remaining optimistic and positive and it means tomorrow if all is well we’ll have a bit of Frank Sinatra, a little bit of Elvis, we can get Dads Army on YouTube and that Dad recognises me.
But the big thing that I have learned about caring for the future is its ok to talk about the end of life of someone you love, it’s not tempting fate, it is a reality of what’s ahead. Talking and planning are part of caring and I care for dads future, my mams future and my families future. None of us know what the future brings, but it is ok to talk about it. And as long as after we’ve talked about it we can put music on and listen to dad sing every word of I Did It My Way then that’s ok.
Val Hewison, Chief Executive