When Do We Want It?
Last week was the day of the Carers' Virtual Strike. Aside from registering your name and the number of hours you typically did during a caring day (that is to say: every day) the idea was that you should get involved on social media, tweeting pictures and messages and talking about what you were doing that day. Sadly not many had signed up for the strike last time I looked, although enough still to make the point. The cost, according to a Guardian Blog of carers amounts to over £100m a year. I imagine most of them were too busy to tweet about the strike, or don't use social media, or simply didn't know the strike was on at all. I was too busy to get online much during the day, so here, now, for you lovely people, is my strike day.
The first thing I guess is to reiterate that I didn't actually stop doing what I was doing as a carer, that would be counterproductive. For more detail you can see my earlier ranting on the subject which will also link you to some more coherent explanations. In the mean-time, I had R to look after. Physically she didn't need too much help but emotionally she needed a lot, which is tougher than it might sound. R was abused as a child, something she wrote about a couple of years ago in The Post. This leaves some nasty psychological scars, not least of which is a crippling sense of self-doubt and worthlessness common to survivors. For R this becomes particularly problematic as her birthday approaches. This is a 'trigger'1 for her but also a painful annual reminder that she is still alive and that life, in her eyes at least, is no better than it was.
So on these occasions my job is, I don't know, to sort of keep her moving. I've learned that trying to talk her out of her deeply entrenched opinion is not something I will manage, or at least not easily. What I have to do is get past the particular consequences that bubble up from time to time. 'I don't want to do anything today'.
I'm fed up' ‘I'm bored', 'I hate my life'. All of these entirely genuine thought processes can affect how R, and doubtless many others like her, decides what to do during the day. Each has to be engaged with and, if possible, undermined and countered and worked through slowly and methodically. It requires patience, concentration and the most speedily constructed and watertight arguments I can muster to persuade R to change her course. It would, I am honestly sure, tax a professional. And I'm not a professional. Like the rest of us, I'm winging it and making it up as I go along.
The next big cornerstone of our day is a visit to a friend of ours who lives in care home. Upon arrival our immediate challenge was to deal with the fact that he wanted to go out, to go to the bank. Between R and I and one of the nurses working in the home it took us 20 minutes to change his mind. His health is not good at the moment and there was no demonstrable need for him to go out on what might have been a completely futile errand. Having solved that problem we spent two hours in his company listening to him telling us about his forthcoming wedding which, it perhaps goes without saying, he has completely imagined. As the life he narrates exists more and more in his head it is nice to see that he is happy but an exercise in concentration and initiative for both of us to respond appropriately and keep up with the confused imaginings we're listening to. At the end of all this we go home and have dinner. Then I go off to work for the next four hours. For that at least I get paid.