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Thursday, 29 September 2011

Caring for the carer.

Have you ever offered "to care" for someone when they don't really don't actually want it? (even if they need it)

If every time you try to help them they say "i'm not a baby" or "give it a rest" even, how long before you are no longer going to offer?Even when you do it, it will be with increased reluctance, hesitation and maybe resentment.Surely this is no good to carer or recipient?...

When looking at things from the patients point of perspective, there can be no doubt that having health issues which require support from a carer (be they family, friend or paid worker) will be, at many times, at best, tiring, and worst, darned right depressing... Seeing this through the carers' eyes shows just how undervalued, ignored and imposed a carer can be. Neither situation is perfect!

Without support, space, time or even just a friend to cry on, carers risk losing their identity, a sense of balance and place, and the ability to care. The loss of any of these is not worth thinking about.

Carers need care too.... What can you do to help?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Keep on looking..

Some of you will be aware that I gave up singing in January of this year after what effectively was 30 years of my life being involved in sacred music somehow. Indeed, having sung both in Europe and America, I had achieved some international experience as well as performing in the UK. I had reached a point where attending the church choir I had been a member of for most of my life had ceased to provide me with comfort, enjoyment and that I actually felt hypocritical going, that I couldn't identify with the texts we were singing any more. On my arrival the "prefects" were friendly and went through things but as I sat and waited for the rehearsal to commence I couldn't help one or two things which began to trouble me, although I couldn't put my finger on why at first.

So at first things started well, with some of the members introducing themselves and asking "was I new?" and then warm up, moving into the full rehearsal. Then the first niggle became obvious..... Of the 80 or so participants here, there were only 4 or 5 men, with 1 of them being oo!
Now don't get me wrong, women can sing multi-part harmony (I have frequently done so myself) but if I'd wanted to join an essentially all female choir that is what I'd have chosen - there IS one where I live. But I don't... So I didn't...
Anyway.. To continue, the rehearsal was pleasant enough, classic 60's Motown, arranged for three part harmony (!) and as I said earlier, I was happy to try more modern, lively style than my previous decades of experience, but I couldn't feed of the vibe which was being generated in the school hall by the very large number of very enthusiastic, talented singers. It was a shame really.
There are a couple more things which lead me back to the title of this post.. And how I think I shall "keep on looking"
I mean absolutely no offence here, believe me please, but I am only 35, and one thing I noticed was that on balance, a large proportion of the members were older than me and whilst this means nothing when singing I am looking for something which offers me more. The possibility of companionship, friendship, and commonalities. Someone who may understand what I have been through, am going through and what the future may hold. I felt there was none of this here. At the break, the ladies immediately fell into their obviously formed groups and this is just one of my other pet dislikes about groups of women ... Even though I am one!
Finally came the realisation that I was not offering a valued contribution, being absorbed into such a huge number of singers.
I felt like just a number, indeed, so much focus was placed on the registration fees, the financial aspect, that you could almost feel like just a sum of money... Very disappointing, especially now I'm not working and money is so desperately tight. ... It just added to the unlikliness of my returning.
I'm sorry Rock Choir, but one size does not fit all...

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Care for our community... No, just my family please.

I feel very strongly that I should discuss how inadequate the current support systems are for carers who are neither looking after someone elderly, nor who are only caring but are also still bringing up their family, or god forbid (!) working... alongside taking care of either their partner, a parent or someone else.

Through one brick wall after another I have discovered just how many services are set up with elderly care in mind, and find it really difficult to adapt to the needs of a much younger person - someone in their 30's or 40's has very different emotional and psychological requirements to those of a person in their 80's. This is a huge barrier when talking to some service providers who simply cannot seem to get it into their brains that even younger individuals might require personal support etc.
And it doesn't end there.
When asking for support needs to be looked at for the rest of the family, especially as we act as primary carers on a day to day basis, it is taking months to happen - there is nothing in place to help us, to support us, to stop us feeling isolated or stressed out. We know there are options, young carers support, regional carers organisations, but the length of time referrals take to these is painful, leaving my children without any outside support when they could probably really use it...
I understand things do take time, but I also know that I have already given up the one thing which gave our family most of its structure - my work- in order to care for my other half, but we are now reaching the time where if someone doesn't help us soon, somehow, we are going to start arguing more, finding it impossible to be in each others company and generally failing to function as a family in any way at all.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Turning in to a shell of myself

Recently someone asked me what I was doing with my time these days.... I stopped and thought for a second, about to give them a whole long list of of stuff, considering how much of my  time is being taken up with school runs, chasing hospital appointments for my other half & eldest daughter, organising time with my mum and dad, and contacting the various people now in charge of our finances. But then I realised that actually in between these things (which whilst annoying & frequent) don't necessarily take a long time (well sometimes they do - with hospital appointments at Stanmore & Harefield it can take a VERY long time!!) and I am actually left with gaps between them........

I had already started to realise that I was not fulfilling my true self any more, I've long since given up my long held hobbies of singing, playing the viola (anything to do with music except listening) and now that I've stopped working I no long have the companionship of my colleagues, clients or even just the routine of getting up & going to work to help with providing a sense of identity. Not only this but as I've already mentioned, being part of a couple, I am unable to claim anything in my own right - I've been added to my "Partner" .... what a great way of helping to stomp out any chance of improving my self-esteem as a woman. Yet again I feel like I belong to someone - in this case my "Partner" (through no fault of his), but even when it comes to other things, I am So & So's Mum..... once again never just Clare.

I have been very aware that at the beginning of 2010 I was on the verge of going to my GP to admit to feeling depressed, and that whilst I am nowhere near that level now, if I do not find an outlet, some way of being just me, very soon, I am going to become just a shell of myself - which is NOT what I want to do, is no use to either my OH, or my children - I just could not care for any of them in that state. My family need me to be fit and capable, they rely on my ability to help them and I be able to rise to the challenge!

However - and this is now my major problem....

Where once I could ask for help from others - friends to look after the children for a couple of hours so I could go out - I can not do so any more. Our family are either too widespread and unable to help (much as they would wish to) or for whatever reason just don't. There have always been excuses as to why they have been unavailable to babysit - I just don't ask any more.
Ultimately what this translates to is that I either rely on my eldest daughter to look after everyone while I go out (including her father) which considering she herself is out 4 nights a week with Army cadets & choir leaves few spare evenings for her to do so, or entrust the care of my OH in my sons hands, and he is only 15 (almost) and I'm not sure that is fair to do on any regular basis, just so I get an evening out!

So where does that leave things?

Nowhere... really...
Trying to fit something in during the day will not work while we have so many appointments to attend and school runs to do (especially as I have to do them by bus and we ALL know how reliable public transport is) Evenings are out - except in rare occasions - as my family are apparently not good enough to spend time with.

As usual, it's up to me to find some way of holding myself together.... It won't surprise me if I turn to books, my camera & oh yes, writing more..... sorry about that but you have been warned!!

Monday, 12 September 2011

It's been a while...

And I still don't really feel like doing this, but thought I'd better. As many of you now know, several weeks ago my OH suffered a real set-back health wise, and after a no-brainer (considering all the hospital appointments I'm still organising) the decision was taken for me to leave work in order to look after him, the children and out home.
After being back at work full-time for the past 18 months this has been a real wrench, I am going to be completely honest.
Whilst caring for people is now second nature to me - indeed before I returned to work last February that is exactly what I had been doing for the proceeding 10 years, and really even longer than that as my previous work experience was bitty, and only part-time. My oldest child is heading towards 17 now so I'll leave you to do the maths....
Anyway, as I said, the caring bit is not the problem really, what is getting to me is the complete lack of acknowledgement of me.... me as a person, in any way shape or form in my own right.....
I'm back to being someone's mother, wife, carer and nurse again. I'm not me, not just me .... and this has happened in the blink of an eye.... I was shocked - and disappointed.

I don't feature in respect of the government - because I am married to someone who has an existing claim for benefits (disability benefits as unable to work) I cannot claim in my own right - I have to be added on as a |"Dependent" of his....
I am the "Partner" of the claimant when it comes to sorting out our housing/council tax benefits - believe it or now because my name come after his in the alphabet!

All these things combine with the fact that people who once spoke to me (whilst I was working of course) now ignore me, and just build up to increase my sense of insecurity once more. I will not hide from the fact that I was unsure of exactly who I was (even whilst I was employed) at least people did not shun me, blank me, and generally treat me like a second class citizen, such as they do now. As a full-time carer I fill a huge blank in the employment market, saving hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, and yet, I have been ignored, given the cold shoulder by my peers and quite simply treated as if I am no longer worth wasting the time speaking to.

Thank you world.
When you need me at some point in the future, I might just not be there for you.