This morning, I walked to work. It’s three miles and it takes 1 hour. This may not sound like a huge commute but I usually take the bus so getting myself up and ready on a Monday to do this deserves a pat on the back I think.
While walking through the park with a friend, we noticed people across the road with buckets of flowers. One man crossed the road to approach us. My instant internal reaction was “Please, don’t come and talk to me, It’s Monday, I haven’t had any coffee yet, I can’t be held responsible for how rudely I may dismiss you” I expected the man to approach me asking for money. Instead, he held a flower out and said “can I give you a flower for carer’s week?” immediately my heart melted.
I may have taken the flower awkwardly and practically ran away, not used to this kind of exchange, but I’m writing this now to show my appreciation because this has spurred me to start talking to people about it.
No one wants to think about having to take care of a loved one. Many of us assume that if something happened, help would be there and we hope that it will be adequate and of high quality. Through illness or old age, it’s a situation any of us could face at any time. And more often than not, families cannot afford the care needs of people closest to them.
There are people, a ‘silent army’ as Carers in Southampton put it, who look after loved ones who are unable to look after themselves. This strikes a particular chord with me as my Grandmother spent almost 2 years taking care of my Grandfather who had both Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
Asked only about her finances, my Nan did not get the help she wanted for them and so took care of Granddad as long as she possibly could with some help from my parents. But it was a 24/7 deal even with others around to support. There aren’t enough metaphors or similes for me to describe how incredibly strong and brave she is, nor enough flowers to show how grateful we all are to her.
Now this may be taking a very sad turn, but this is the point. No on talks about it, no one teaches you about it in School. People don’t like talking about it. The fact I keep using “it” instead of saying caring for someone demonstrates just how tricky a topic this is. And it’s not just about elderly care! There are young people who take care of parents, there are friends that take care of friends with long term conditions. Unpaid carers step in where there is no support. And they need a support network too!