In October, we made a life-changing decision and bought a new, much bigger house and took my dad from the Care Home where he had spent the last ten years and brought him here to live with us. Before doing this, we had thought it through, discussed what we thought would be the positives and negatives and discussed hypothetical issues with dad too.
I have to say that there have really been very few issues in the months since then. First of all, I must praise the various organisations that have offered support during this time. Hartlepool Carers have been brilliant, as have my local doctor’s surgery and the physiotherapy team. There were financial benefits that I hadn’t even realised existed – reduced Council Tax, Carer’s Allowance – and we have applied for a Blue Badge so that we can take him out a lot more.
He has settled into his new environment well and seems happy and comfortable. He is eating more and putting on weight (he was losing weight terribly in the Care Home) and has stopped talking about wanting to die and now has a more positive attitude generally. He says I spoil him – and that makes me very happy. Most of the time he stays in his room even though we have a stair lift and expected he would want to be downstairs with us. This is his choice. He has a bedroom and en-suite and we got him Sky TV for Christmas. He is perfectly happy watching TV and having the occasional nap, interspersed with tablets and good food.
Of course there have been ‘issues’ but we work through them together and talk about things openly. One of the things I worried most about was personal care but it is amazing how quickly it becomes just routine and really wasn’t worth worrying about.
I think one of the biggest problems would be the fact that being a carer is very tying. We can never go out together any more as I worry that with his reduced vision and lack of balance, if there were an emergency while we were out, he wouldn’t be able to get to safety. So, we hoped to go and see Les Miserables together but so far this has not happened.
This morning, dad and I were talking about the fact that we have a very expensive motorhome on the drive which doesn’t go anywhere. He asked if we were going to sell it. We tend to use it as a second car at the moment – but even this is a bit odd as we don’t tend to both go out at the same time. However, if I’m out in the car with dad it means that my other half has a vehicle. He is always free to go off on a fishing holiday with the dog too. We use the motorhome with dad for days out as it is easy for him to get into and we can cook a lunch, he has the toilet and can always have a stretch out on the bed if he wants. This chat then opened the door to a conversation about the fact that we would need a holiday at some stage and that we would have to consider the options for his care at that time. I know that he would hate to go back into a Care Home but he doesn’t want to tie us down either. It’s a problem – but one that we will talk about and work out together. At least we could laugh about it and I told him I would ‘put him in the kennels’ while we went away.
There will always be little problems to work through and as he gets older and even more frail, there might be bigger issues to face. But we can do this. It is about caring for someone you love but also about making sure that you don’t close the door on caring for yourself, keeping your marriage happy and keeping in touch with friends. Being a carer has been a learning journey at a time of life when we thought we would be driving off into the sunset and touring Europe and beyond. But I’ve learned that life doesn’t always go as planned and you must appreciate the positives of what you have here and now.