If you are reading this and have seen the Home Instead Take Care campaign, you may be feeling stuck like me and my family were….
To quote my mum, Joan, age 86 “COVID robbed me of my independence.”
Living with respiratory disease, lung cancer, diverticulitis and rheumatoid arthritis, mum’s baseline wasn’t terribly high, but she was still living independently in her own apartment alone, still driving her car, cooking, still going to the supermarket and doing her own shopping and still getting out to play Bridge once a week.
Being high-risk however and having to go into shielding in March 2020 changed everything for her. Unable to leave her house for months on end stole her of her mobility and her confidence. Fast forward a few months and the isolation had taken its toll in a way that couldn’t be reversed.
Life became a matter of mum sitting in her chair, watching TV in anticipation of her next visit from one of her adult children.
Her frailty accelerated without mercy and additional health complications surfaced. COVID had not been kind to her and had changed her life in such a way that she would never get back those last couple of years of independence.
Once the world unlocked somewhat and my job took me back out on the road and working from an office, I was no longer local enough to be there as responsively as I had been for the previous year.
We struggled along as a family. A few trips to Wythenshawe Hospital occurred with various broken bones following a fall and lung infections caused by her advanced emphysema. Each time Mum came out of hospital she was frailer and weaker from having laid in a hospital bed for a couple of weeks at a time without really moving.
We continued to struggle. We started to talk about care with Mum. She was totally resistant to it – why should she have to pay for care when me and my sisters could care for her? What she couldn’t really see at the time was the strain it was putting on us as a family. With teenage children also impacted by COVID, return to jobs and trying to learn new ways of working, it was like we were spinning plates. So, we plodded on until….
I had managed to get away for a holiday with my family and when I got back, Mum looked terrible. She had been suffering with an awful flair-up of diverticulitis and had lost around half a stone in the matter of days, hardly eating now weighing around 6 stone and looking emaciated. Her biggest fear was returning to hospital and mine and my sister’s biggest fear was that she couldn’t carry on much longer like the way she was.
On this particular day in August 2021, Mum accepted that she (and we as a family) were in urgent need of some help to care for her to improve her quality of life and give us help and peace of mind. The way we approached it was by talking about us as a family – the impact her ill-health and lack of independence was having on her but also on everyone else. We helped her to see that care was really, in fact, additional support, new friends who she would get to know well and look forward to seeing. Her care professionals would prepare her nutritious meals, help her get stronger and support her around her flat with moving around. They would also keep her apartment looking beautiful and clean, arrange her bed, do her washing, clean the kitchen and bathroom and water her plants.
And in a matter of a couple of weeks, this became a new way of living for her. The Home Instead Altrincham, Sale & Wythenshawe matched her with 3 lovely care professionals who visited every weekday. She put on half a stone in the first two months of them working with her and by October 2021 she even managed to drive her car again due to her new-found strength and confidence that the consistency of care was giving her. Me and my sisters started feeling like daughters again and although we still care for her, we have got into a great routine with the Home Instead team – we know when they are going to be there so we can work around that.
When Karen from the Home Instead Altrincham, Sale and Wythenshawe office came to visit, my Mum, usually extremely stoic, cried at first at the prospect of what she thought would be losing independence.
What actually happened was that Home Instead restored some of that independence and now she looks back she wishes she had listened to us and accepted the additional support sooner!
Mum’s health has deteriorated further again since she started with Home Instead, so we have put more care in place to ensure she’s living as well as possible. Home Instead also offers a Live In Care service. We have made a promised to Mum that she will never go in to a care home, so this is an option for us if and when she gets to that stage that will ensure she stays in her own home.
If you are reading this and have seen the Home Instead Take Care campaign, you may be feeling in stuck like we were. You really are not alone. It’s OK to talk about care. Please call Home Instead Altrincham, Sale & Wythenshawe on 0161 870 1136 or pop in to see their friendly team at the Parflo Building, Huxley Street, Altrincham WA14 5EL they would be happy to talk through your situation and help you to understand how they could help.