I never really put pen to paper about the not so rosy parts of my life, but I decided a few weeks back that I would open up a bit, and I’ve been hovering on the publish button of this post for a while now. I want to turn people’s attention to carers and those that care for loved ones, as I am one of those people and have been since my early teens. Given my affinity to the subject, I always feel in awe of people that spend their working and personal life helping others and I especially find myself contemplating this around Christmas.
(Pips and I)
My wonderful and precious Mum has sadly been ill and disabled since my little Sister and I were young and along with my Dad, we essentially became carers when we were children. We would do anything for our Mum, but as things got tougher and Mum needed more help, so then began our relationship with carers. The familiar ‘knock knock’ and ‘Hallooo!’ as someone came through the front door when I was younger, always brought cheer into our home. It felt like a team, a team of people allowing us to live a more normal life given the circumstances. I now realise as a more worldly 30-something year old how lucky we were to have the help and that it’s not always the case for people caring for a family member.
Sometimes though, I found myself feeling annoyed and stroppy at all the people in the house. At the time, I felt so guilty for that, but now I realise that it was completely OK to have those thoughts and I shouldn’t have beaten myself up over it. I was a moody teen and it wasn’t the normal comings and goings of a home that I would see at all my friends houses. When I had friends over I would have to constantly introduce them to nurses and carers, “This is Cathy, that’s Sue… oh and that’s Karen the nurse!” The introductions would be met by my friend’s slightly confused faces, but it was normal to me.
It has been a rocky road over the years. My Mum went into hospital for 12 weeks just a few days after mine and my Husband’s wedding in 2015. After those really tough weeks, we decided that it was time for Mum to move to a care home where she would get the care she needed.
The carers and nurses at Mum’s care home are no less than wonderful. My Sister and I are always saying to each other how lucky and relieved we are that Mum is surrounded by such cheery and supportive people everyday. It takes the weight off us both. We can’t be with Mum every minute of the day, as much as we feel the pull to be with her and keep her company. Knowing she is surrounded by a tribe of caring and fun people who treat Mum as she is, a normal person with a cracking sense of humour, is a huge comfort. On the flip side, I am well aware of the struggles that families can have caring for loved ones with disabilities and I truly feel so lucky to have the support we do. It could be very different.
The care home also has a hospice at the other side of the building to where Mum is, and although ultimately it is a sad place giving end of life care, it is the carers and nurses who raise smiles on everyone’s faces and give support to those going through a really upsetting time. I go there twice a week, sometimes more if I can, and I see such heartbreaking things as I walk through to get to Mum’s side of the building. Sad people and broken families, the very elderly and ill, but there are always cheery and sympathetic faces walking around to bring a smile to your face, the carers.
Being around this hospice for two years now, reminds me frequently that you should count your blessings in life. I really have changed in the past few years, I don’t sweat the small stuff or surround myself with people that do.
My Instagram stories of me in my outfits, my travels, cat giving a weather forecast (eye-rolling stuff!), are often split up with my moments at the care home. I am very aware of what a private place it is however, so I often stick to documenting my bird feeding duties outside! Things aren’t always rosy, as much as my Instagram suggests sometimes, and I am very conscious that it’s important to break down the barrier and admit that life is hard, upsetting and unpredictable. It’s not all a bag of laughs, that’s just not life for some unfortunately. If anything, I would like to raise awareness of those who care for a family member and remind them that they are not alone!
I also just wanted to put into words how grateful I have been over the years for all the the lovely carers who have helped my family and I feel that little bit more ‘normal’ in our situation (whatever normal is).
This Christmas, my Sister and I, like the past two years, will spend our Christmas Day with our precious Mum at the care home, surrounded by people giving their Christmas Day to those in need. I will be making them all feel as special as they are, truly special and my heroes.
(Love you, Mum)