The hardest thing about being a carer
“It’s impossible to explain how consuming it is to be a carer for someone you love.” Hannah from PillTime opens up about how the service resonates with her on a personal level.
I used to have a fixed idea of who a carer should be. To me, this was probably someone in their sixties or seventies who looked after a grey-haired spouse. I understood that carers could be children, too. I remembered seeing a Young Carers initiative on a morning TV show.
A child myself at the time, I considered how difficult it would be to go to school and keep yourself washed and fed, whilst also doing this for a parent. As I contentedly scoffed the Coco Pops that my dad had placed in front of me, that was pretty much the extent of it, in my mind. Cooking. Cleaning. Taking care of the house. I couldn’t possibly have imagined the reality of being a carer, until I became one myself.
When I was sixteen, my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. At the time, this was simply the cause of his funny restless legs and the occasional tingles he got down his arm. We supposed that he may eventually need to walk with a stick, and that was that, really. We couldn’t have imagined the stark reality of his diagnosis.
Eight years on, I write this from the hospital café as he gets some rest in his ward upstairs. He’s suffering a bad relapse, which has left him in severe pain, and almost entirely immobilised. I could go into more laborious and upsetting detail about his weight loss, spasms and mobility, but all I really worry about is his happiness.
The emotional strain of being a carer
When someone you love is upset and in pain, it’s all you can do not to break down in tears yourself. As a carer, you don’t feel as though you can do that. You’re the person who has to keep on top of things no matter what. I’m lucky to have Dad’s girlfriend, Christine, who is extraordinary. A lot of people don’t have that person to lean on. I can’t begin to comprehend how difficult that must be.
It’s impossible to tell someone else how consuming it is to be a carer for someone you love. It’s a job that never stops. You don’t clock out at 5.30. You can’t detach yourself from that worry with a long evening commute and a glass of wine. So, how do you possibly stay functional?
Practical solutions for better care
I’m most at ease when I can provide practical solutions to my dad’s problems. I may not be able to take his pain away, but I can talk to him about the things we both love, to distract him for a while. I can’t make it so that he doesn’t need medication anymore, but I can make sure he takes it all correctly.
Working for PillTime, I encounter lots of people in my position. I feel their worry in every way possible. To them, their PillTime delivery is a small moment of relief, for at least one thing is taken care of. When I’m helping in a practical way, I find the emotional side of being a carer gets a little bit easier, too.
Being a carer, in a nutshell
If I could summarise the difficulty of caring for someone, I would describe it as everyday emotional chaos. To anyone enduring this chaos, I hope things are going okay. You’re definitely doing a better job than you think you are. If no one has told you today, this week, or in quite a while, you’re amazing.
This week is Carers’ Week. If you need support in caring for someone you love, visit the Carers’ Week website to find out what’s going on near you and how you can access support.