Caring – “to give care: caring for the sick”
I have done a fair amount of this during my life. The first person I helped to care for was my maternal grandmother, Ada. She developed breast cancer in her seventies at a time when the standard treatment was a double mastectomy followed by radiotherapy. Ada was fortunate to have a number of cancer free years before developing secondary cancer.
I still lived at home with my parents at the time and Ada came to live with us. To say I helped care for her is probably an overstatement – I was only 19 when she died. You can’t live in the same house as a dying person and not be involved to some degree but my mother did the bulk of the caring.
My mum was one of the most unselfish people you could ever wish to meet. Having cared for her mother it was only a couple of years later that she did the same thing again with her husband, my Dad. He was also struck down by cancer, primarily in the lungs but we didn’t know that until the secondaries in his brain started showing symptoms. This was in the early eighties when treatments were still not that advanced so we had just over six months from diagnosis until his peaceful death at home. Again I helped but my mother took the brunt of it. Towards the end for both my Nan and my Dad we also had the wonderful support of MacMillan nurses.
My mum was a great example to me and a provided a lot of support both emotionally and in practical ways – she was an expert at ironing and with three children and a husband all wearing a shirt each day that skill was put to good use in my house! Unfortunately she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2005. I try not to feel guilty about not being able to care for her in the same way as she cared for others. Although she’d made it quite clear when she was lucid that she wouldn’t want me to have to look after her, that she should be placed in a care home if the need arose making that decision is still one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Circumstances dictated it. Of course I visited often and was totally involved in the decision process concerning her care but I wasn’t as hands on as I’d like to have been. Thankfully I was able to be with her through most of her final days and was with her when she passed away.
I hope that if I’m called upon to care for anyone in the future I can meet the challenge and live up to Mum’s standards. I pray that if I am unfortunate and develop Alzheimer’s that my husband and children will not feel guilty about seeking the right care for me. I pray also that if that happens some common sense may have prevailed on assisted suicide but that’s a whole different topic.