People often ask me 'what's it like being a carer?' This is, of course, a terrible opening line for two reasons; firstly because it's just rather flat and lame, and secondly because it's a total lie. This might be because I don't tell an awful lot of people that it is what I do. It's not in any formal sense my job, it's not what I'm paid for, and it's not how I spend the majority of my working day. When asked, I tend therefore to explain that my job is to sell expensive items that nobody needs in order to make as much money as I possibly can for people who are both greedy and mean. This is, as people are wont to observe, extremely rewarding, in the sense that 'that must be very rewarding' is usually code for 'that obviously doesn't pay very well'.
In any event, I don't always think of myself as being a carer. I tend to think of carers as people who have to push their wife/mother/son/etc... around all day in a wheelchair, or get up at four in the morning to give them their first dose of medication, or spend an hour and half preparing a specially designed meal, which they must spoon-feed into the person who, due to paralysis, has no control over their own body any more. In short, I tend to think of carers as people who put in a pretty serious shift for people who can do little or nothing for themselves. So I can't help feeling that I really don't do enough to merit calling myself a carer. I fill my wife's pill pot with whatever medication she is taking. I try to keep up with the medication so that she doesn't run out. I massage her feet, her legs, her back, her shoulders and anywhere else that is in pain. Even now I can't help thinking it's not really all that much work and perhaps, some of the time, it isn't.
So, in conclusion, I don't get asked an awful lot about caring, which is because I don't really talk about it, and I don't really talk about it because I don't really think I do it. Not really much of a problem. Well, actually, it can be a bit.
Here's the thing. Some carers get an all-of-a-sudden life-changing event like a car crash or an illness that propel them into taking care of someone previously perfectly capable. Others are sneaked into it. Okay, so all I do is massage my wife's aching limbs, but actually, I do it almost every night. Every evening after dinner, when I should be unwinding after a hard day's being commercially unscrupulous, I am easing her joint and muscle pain. I have no idea how to do it properly, so quite a lot of the time an hour's strong massaging (if that's all it takes) leaves me tired, sore and aching.
No great gripe, I know, but caring can be death by a million cuts. And that's the thing. Because it's so small, so gradual in its onset and so apparently innocuous in each development, you don't notice it. Eventually, and I shall ramble on more about that next time, the pile gets big enough for you to see it, but it takes a while to realise that the term carer covers a lot of people doing a lot of work, and that I am in fact one of them.
If you think you might be one of them, know one of them, or suspect yourself of showing symptoms of being one of them, please pop in and say hello at Carers of H2G2