A lot of people ask me ‘what I do’, meaning what job do I have. In the past I’ve worked round the subject, laughing off what I do as just ‘helping Mum’ or being in a privileged position. In many ways, yes, I suppose I am, but it’s more than that. I’m a carer for my Grandma.
Cue ideas and images of a little old lady, tucked up in bed needing constant medical attention. A sweet little smile as you hold a cup to her lips, or go and sit on her bed for a chat. Leaving her for a nap while you go and read a book or get on with odd jobs. Not so. Not for me anyway. I don’t have to do the medical things, the physical things. It’s the mental things. Being in the same room to check she’s got everything she (doesn’t) need. If she falls asleep, staying nearby in case she wakes up disorientated. Trying to stay positive and chatty, maybe reading out crosswords to her, because she can’t do anything else to occupy herself. Even when she’s not chatty there has to be someone there ‘Just in Case’. This is nearly always me or my Mum.
Don’t get me wrong, we get respite. We’re not alone. Actually the support we get, especially from Crossroads, is invaluable. When you spell it out on paper, it’s easy to think it’s a lot of fuss about nothing. We get 5 hours respite on a Tuesday, 4 on a Thursday while she’s at a day centre and 4 on a Saturday. Mum gets time on Mondays and Fridays too, as she goes to volunteer at Powis Castle. Not bad really, is it? Well, it can be. It’s the getting started in the morning, the bedtimes, and the arguments.
I suppose that’s the perils of family caring isn’t it? We’re too close, too similar, and tempers get frayed. The smallest things turn into major stumbling blocks because no-one admits they’re wrong. One side reckons they’re right because they can see it, the other reckons they are right because they remember it. You’re told not to correct or disagree, but if you don’t you get it thrown back at you. You suggest something ‘nice’ and it gets dismissed. Then you get told that you pull down every idea they have. Can’t win.
So yes, I live at home. But not really. I live at my Grandma’s home. Then get told off for having my things around me. I don’t have a job. But I do really, I even get paid for it. But it’s taken a long time for anyone to accept this. I get time for all my creative projects. Yes and no. I can hardly ever do anything I really need to concentrate on because nine times out of ten, just as I start to count/read/focus a little voice pipes up. Timing is wonderful So I get bits done. But I have to have those things to stop me going completely crazy. I get to spend time with my boyfriend, but so often within the confines of my caring role. Time for just ‘us’ is precious. Sometimes Mum and I have to take it in turns to just ‘get away’. Half an hour in the garden with a book, an hour over home tidying or looking for something, a day out in Llangollen with Shaun, or in Mum’s case a week long holiday to Turkey. Everyone needs ‘me time’.
So there you have it. What I ‘do’. Things to complain about, things to enjoy, and things to appreciate. I shouldn’t complain as much as I do. I should be grateful I spend so much time with my family. I don’t have to slog at a computer or at paperwork all day. I get to make things and dance and read. Sometimes, it’s a real pleasure to see my help and company being appreciated. But, honestly, I don’t always see that. Not from the person I want it from. I do it for Mum.