Contemplating live-in care
Over the past couple of years, our household has been transformed. My father’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, on top of my mother’s advanced Parkinson’s disease, meant that we could no longer cope, and, shortly before his death, live-in carers became a part of our life.
We were worried about having carers. How would it feel to share our home with strangers? To have to cater for their dietary tastes, to give up a bedroom, not to have the privacy we’d once had? What if the dog didn’t like them or they didn’t like the dog? But we had no choice, and after a flurry of furniture moving and redecorating, our first carer arrived.
Carers bring unexpected blessings
Since then, we have had many different carers come and live with us. And it’s been okay. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes a little less so, but really okay. I thought that I would feel constrained and frustrated, but what I’ve discovered is that each carer has brought something to add to our family and our experience.
Our first carer, Veronica, brought a calm professionalism into our home and at a time when we were dealing with death, was quietly there, providing food and reassurance. Then Alex came along, full of energy and laughter, noisily competent and full of good advice about equipment and how to adjust well to having a carer. And since then we’ve had a steady stream of people every few weeks.
Our family is richer for them. We’ve learned so much! New types of food for a start – Amy introduced us to quinoa and other vegetarian delights, and Maria cooked us authentic tapas and paella. I now know lots about Namibia from Mo, and Sal, a medical student, gave me a valuable insight into depression and recovery as she talked about her struggles to complete her course.
‘Our family is richer for them. We’ve learned so much! New types of food for a start.’
Marta entertained us for hours with her stories about travelling all over the world as a nurse on a cruise liner. Meg went hunting for wild garlic in the woods and transplanted it into our garden. Donna shared stories of growing up in communist Eastern Europe that made me realise how privileged I was to grow up in Britain.
The ups and downs of live-in care
Not all our experiences have been wholly positive. From Ella we learned that it’s not possible to run a café in Spain while working in the UK, and from Sarah we learned that it was really important to give our carers a lesson in driving the electric wheelchair or you end up in A&E (again!). And it turns out a very high proportion of people really can’t make proper tea.
But when we’ve hit crises – another 999 call, another overnighter in A&E, long shifts helping to care for mum at the hospital – the carers have been there, compassionate and capable.
I’ve become fond of this little community our home has become. I have my moments when I long to shut the front door and retreat into a little bubble of me, but generally I don’t crave the privacy I thought I would. This feels like old-fashioned life, where someone’s always around, help’s at hand and you never feel alone.
‘When we’ve hit crises, the carers have been there, compassionate and capable.’
Shuffle up for a richer life
As I reflect on our busy household, I wish I had invited more people into our family when my daughter was young. A wise friend at church told me something years ago that has been really helpful. She said that when God brings you a new person to join your family, you just shuffle up and make room for them.
God didn’t design us to live in our little isolated boxes. He designed us to live in community, to learn to jostle along together, share lives together and support each other. So broaden your family! Find those whom God is wanting to add to your lives, invite them round, get to know each other, invest in each other and do life together. Shuffle up and make room! Everyone will benefit and your lives will be richer.
Read Becky’s article ‘Families at prayer’
Becky is a key contributor to the library of articles supporting parents and church workers on parentingforfaith.org.
For more articles on caring for older people browse the regular blog for Anna Chaplaincy for Older People.