Picture from http://www.southlakeland.gov.uk/
Last year, I wrote a short piece on carers during Carer's Week. The theme for the 2006 week was 'Anyone, Anytime', meaning that becoming a carer can be totally unexpected.
Well, this is what has happened to me this week. Last weekend, my mother-in-law had a very bad fall. Until recently, I always had to struggle to keep up with her when we walked to pick my daughter up from school. The past few months, the situation seemed to reverse with her having increasing muscle weakness and trouble walking. Quite worrying but it was under investigation. Then came the fall. With both legs injured and one sutured, she couldn't walk at all so we bought her home with us. Then we found out she had fractured her leg and took her in to get plastered. At that appointment, they re-read the xray report and found she had also fractured her patella. Today we see an orthopedic surgeon.
My once amazingly active mother-in-law is suddenly extremely frail and very dependent. She's a wonderful woman and, while we wish this hadn't happened, we are very happy to be able to be able to repay some of the kindness and support she has given us over the years. This may be a temporary situation (talking months), it could have longer implications. I hope for the former situation because I can see she is struggling with being dependent.
We're all struggling in fact. The routines that we rely on in our house to get things done is out the window, we're halfway through renovating one room so stuff is everywhere, there's suddenly all these medical appointments to meet and additional tasks to do as she's unable to even wash or go to the bathroom unaided. Time was stretched before, now there's just not enough time to get everything done.
I sound rather selfish. For sure, things will settle, we'll adapt and build a new routine. We'll handle things better. What this week has done has made me think a little harder about the real carers, the people who care for others day in, day out, often with little or no respite.
I overlooked Carer's Week this year (October). I'm ashamed of that. Please take time to visit the Carer's Week 2007 website or reread the original post which has some useful tips for lending support to caregivers. It's important to remember that the caring role is not only limited to looking after individuals with physical illnesses but can also extend to individuals with mental illness. On this note, I draw your attention to beyondblue, who have launched an initiative for the carers of people with depression.
There are many people in our community performing this invaluable role. What can we each do to help?