In February my 89 year old Dad died suddenly after a few days of illness. He went into hospital on a Sunday. By Monday morning he was diagnosed with leukemia. By midday he had died of a bleed to the brain. After a lifetime of good health it was characteristic that he took a ‘no faffing’ approach to leaving us.
He was the main carer for his wife, my Mum who has dementia. They both always resisted our help though it was becoming evident that standards were slipping and their home was getting grubby. Dad also wasn’t a natural carer despite half a lifetime teaching first aid (you know how it goes. Up there with hairdressers with appalling hair, unhealthy doctors and teachers unwilling to learn new skills).
So it was a bit of a shock as to how much was not being done for
Mum. I can’t blame Dad. He was 89. He learned to cook, to a fashion, at age 85 but on the whole he left Mum alone for hours and didn’t really check her state of cleanliness. Nobody is perfect. We all do the best we can. In addition I may not have realised quite how much Mum had declined in recent months.
So, since February my old non-life was suspended and I became her carer. It’s been a steep learning curve. We were left a mess financially. We have no lasting power of attorney. We haven’t even started processing Dad’s will (and despite decades telling us that all details were in his wardrobe and who the solicitor was, both turned out to not be up to date information).
Add to this a very violent disagreement with my sibling over caring for Mum and as many carers have found, the complete evaporation of family and partner support in caring for an aged parent with care needs. Add my own battles with mental health issues and worries that despite doing better than I would have imagine, it is very early days and I could be quacking like a duck by Christmas.
It’s a reversal of roles. I am the sudden responsible adult whist the former responsible adult is like a confused, frightened child who has no idea who I am or my relationship to her. Tears, tantrums, humour, pathos and a broken, underfunded care system.
It’s all been like an ongoing soap opera. As life often is.
And it’s ongoing.
So forgive me if I think outloud here in future.