How is your mum doing - Part 2 (mum`s perspective)

The other week I wrote a blog about "How is your mum doing?" ... this is a second piece about the same subject.

This time we are to look at the situation from the mothers (elderly persons) point of view... how does she feel in the situation of being a much more frail version of her former self?

I have no doubt that in almost every case the person who needs to be cared for is desperately unhappy with their dependency on other other people. Pride, dignity, often a life of significance and status in their networks now reduced to incontinence, double handed plastic drinking cups, zimmer frames and having to be washed and cleaned by others.

Have heard the saying 'It takes a village to bring up a child"? ... Here's another one... "it takes a village to look after an old person"... with young children the parents have youth on their side and if they are fortunate family close by to support and assist... when it comes to old people... it seems to them... we are all far too busy.

Although elderly people need the similar levels of support as children it is not the same, they have a lifetime of memories of what was... the joy of youth, loves and lovers, family and friends, careers and contribution... many roles and responsibilities that have come and gone... They also have family that know how they used to be. They won't get better, whereas children continue to flower and become more able to handle the basics... elderly people will continue to develop increasing levels of support.

Brushing their teeth... fetching a cup of water... going to the toilet... what were simple ordinary tasks now seemingly mountains to climb each and every day. Of course this is all exacerbated many times if the old person in question is ill or has issues such as dementia or other debilitating diseases.

What would these elderly people expect of their offspring? What would they hope for?

In my own experiences thus far there is a recognition (by the elderly person) that we (their offspring) all have a life to lead, they don't want to be a burden on anyone... and anyway everyone is so very busy with lives full to the brim of different things. In low moments my own mother uses phrases such as 'No one has any time', 'I know I am just a nuisance', 'do you think I like being like this?'. Very humbling to hear such things... and to know the truth and meaning behind them.

Have I not served you well? ... have I not given... so that you had the best start in life? ... have I not continued to give... believe... support, and be there long after the legal parental duties were done? Did I not provide a haven for you to return to in times of your greatest need?

These words are rarely if ever used though. Such is 'giving without expecting return', or as I like to refer to it, Love. Too often reflections like this are observed at funerals when it is too late to show how much we appreciated what they did for us... Although care should be exercised here... often there is a lot of mind games going on. We should not be goaded or 'guilt tripped' into caring for our elderly. Actually there is huge learning in being 'in the role' of a carer especially if this has not featured amongst your roles in society thus far. To receive a smile, to brighten up what would otherwise be a tough day, to know that you have made a small difference, to have demonstrated you care... often just by being there. Time is not a commodity that elderly people have left in abundance, but ultimately that 'time' spent in the company of those they know and love is all they need.

30 years from now... I will be the age of my mother... how will I feel on the scrap heap of today's society... with all that knowledge and experience in my head that I have gained from a life of learning. Is it of no value to anyone? ... I certainly don't believe that... what of all the old people in care homes and in old family homes around the country? Who rarely see a soul let alone feel like there is any purpose left to their existence, what of them?

No answers in this blog... just a thought that aren't we missing a trick here... aren't we collectively as a society missing out on what the North American Indians of old knew? Here is a rich source of wisdom, freely available to help those who perhaps are in need of that experience and long years on the planet.

It is so easy to blame a government... a health service... the social care service... all of whom do the best they can with what resources can be mustered. But have we as community and people in society not got some responsibility for our elderly too? Do we think it acceptable to abdicate our responsibility to someone else? ... Of course there are people who have no family and are at the mercy of these publicly available services, and the support services should be there for them no question.

But it seems to me reflecting on just those situations I have observed we seem to have lost a sense of ourselves... Have we really got so self obsessed that our elderly are now 'just a nuisance'. We glibly accuse the state of not doing enough to pick up the responsibility for their care... we want the state to pay for it all... just so we minimise the inconvenience in our own lives? .... how low have we stooped.

When the baby boomer generation get to retire (it's already started) and then fall into the elderly bracket I hope we do not look for help from our offspring... we have taught them well... look after no.1 expect the state to pick up the tab... pop them on the scrap heap... perhaps the only hold we might have over the young is a promise of a tidy inheritance if they take on some of the care burden themselves, otherwise it is likely to end up in the hands of the state coffers make no mistake! Whichever way it plays out going forward, one things is guaranteed... the state won't be able to foot the bill. We are going to have to come up with alternative community based solutions.

We are also likely to have to start getting used to the idea that we are responsible for our own lives from cradle to grave. That means looking after ourselves, or face the consequences. Build a huge personal support community around you... serve others, be kind, be compassionate... be a responsible part of your community(s) such that when your time comes... there will be those that will repay you for your lifetime of service and serve you.

In this transitional period as money begins to 'fail'... as money starts to lose its lustre... we have an opportunity to bridge the divide... it is called the concept of enough. Earn what we need... take what we need to sustain ourselves... and keep our passions alive... develop a sense of frugality, gratitude and generosity. When the time comes this investment of ourselves in our communities will be the currency of our life.

How is your mum doing?

In my mums situation... from day to day there are 6 or 7 people involved in her care. Siblings, grandchildren, local community service providers (private), and an element of state provision (specialised nursing care)... the majority of her support comes from the family and the community, some can be provided only by those with the required knowledge and expertise.

It's a team effort... a community effort...


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