Who cares for mum or dad?

PUBLISHED: 16:12 29 March 2018

Pip Henderson. Picture: Danann Breathnach

Pip Henderson. Picture: Danann Breathnach

Danann Breathnach

Pip Henderson is the latest recruit to the Bad Daughters Club, launched by Age Space, for women trying their best to care for elderly parents

Job opportunity; low/no pay.

Must be able to cook, clean, launder, administer medication and make tea that is neither too hot, too cold, too weak or too strong.

Must have experience as (or willingness to play the part of) a chauffeur, personal shopper, administrator, hygienist, foot masseur and back scratcher.

Must be physically and emotionally strong, have the patience of a saint, the constitution of an ox, thick skin, strong back bone and be able to demonstrate the ability to answer the same question over and over again with grace and enthusiasm.

Must be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, even if you are technically on holiday,

Must be prepared to work long (frequently unsociable) hours and occasionally live in.

Sense of humour an absolute must.

If you were looking for a job and saw this position advertised would you apply, let alone take it? No, of course you wouldn’t. But I’m guessing that if you’re reading this then you or someone close to you, like me, fulfils this job description on a daily basis. And we are not alone. As our elderly population grows and the funding for our social services diminishes, the job of caring for an ageing parent or relative, increasingly falls to family members, generally (although I must stress, not exclusively) women.

My name is Pip, I’ll be 50 this year, I’m self employed and childless (in other words, perfectly qualified) and although there are many words you could use to describe me and what I do with my life, the two that currently define me more than any others are ‘daughter’and ‘carer. My mother is 83, not in the best of health and while she currently, mercifully, retains most of her faculties, she is definitely in decline.

A year ago she was living in Norfolk, where she had been a full-time carer for my step dad. After he passed away it seemed the best decision was for mum to move closer to me.

And that was when everything changed.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother dearly and despite the fact that we haven’t always had the easiest of relationships I am so glad that she is now only 10 minutes from home. On the rare occasions when I can be with her as a daughter and not a carer I generally, genuinely enjoy her company. I really don’t miss the frantic dashes that I endured for nearly 15 years as she and Brian careered from one medical disaster to another, but I wasn’t expecting her arrival to result in me taking on an additional full time job. Suddenly it seems that my life is no longer my own.

When it comes to caring there is always a choice, or so I am told, generally by other members of my family or people who don’t have parents who need such a high level of support in their declining years. And no, I don’t have to take on this (regularly onerous and frequently thankless) task, but in order to ensure that my mum retains her independence and is safe and happy, it seems that my options are pretty limited. And the problem is that I, like you, do care.

So, if you’re about to sign the contract, or you’re already locked in, then buckle up, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. But if you fancy a little company, I’m travelling in your direction.

Age Space is a one stop online resource, sharing information and advice on all things to do with elderly care. If you would like to talk to people going through a similar caring experience, the online forum is a great place to get support

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