I Couldn't Care Less: Difficult Questions

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A hypodermic needle and a vial

Difficult Questions

About a week ago I had a phone interview with a social worker for my carer's assessment review. We talked about what the demands on me were, what my wife's problems were, what support I needed and what help I was getting. To be perfectly honest, this was, in my mind, just a hoop I had to jump through because I had applied for a carer's grant. It was all going very much as I had anticipated until suddenly, out of the blue, the lady on the phone asked me about the future.

I don't know that I think about the future that much, certainly in regard to my caring role and R's health. Part of the reason for this is that I like to be able to look forward with hope and this is very difficult in the case of R's health. It won't get better, it may get worse, and we don't know what surprises it will throw at us in the meantime. The net result of this is that I don't really know what to shoot for, what to hope or aim for. Really what I end up with is that the best we can do is try to manage R's condition as it stands. So what I think about the future is fairly short term, and also fairly short termist. What I mean by that is that I have hopes and plans for how things will be in the next six months, but I don't really expect things to stay that way once we've go there. So I explained that to the lady on the phone, and then she completely flummoxed me with a supplementary question.

The question (see how I built up the tension there with a paragraph break?) was 'what might cause you to end your caring role?' Well… nothing. Alright, one thing. Okay, two things, but one of them is really unlikely. If R dies then I'm more or less done with caring. If she magically gets better then in theory I have finished caring. The truth is that it is so ingrained that I would have real difficulty not caring for her even if she no longer needed care, but the other truth is that this isn't going to happen so it's not really an issue. What brings me up short though is the obvious implicit answers. One reason I might stop caring is because I get sick of it and no longer feel I want to, and the other is simply that I am no longer capable. The first always sits uneasily in the back of my mind because I have known at least one carer who was pushed too far and more or less backed away. I am always afraid that this would, in theory, happen to me. Oddly, the second answer, the one which is far more likely, I have barely though about at all.

The fact is that eventually I'm going to get old. I've met a great many carers who are already old, caring for spouses who are old. Some of them had been in and out of hospital themselves. None of them were as fit and heathy as I am. Recently (please excuse the momentary segue) a friend of mine lost her husband. One of the things she observed in the immediate aftermath was that she simply wasn't practically prepared. This is not a new observation, but the end of life bits, the getting old and tired and ill and then eventual death, are not bits we prepare for or think about that much. I have long been aware that I whether or not I look after myself will influence which of my grandparents I end up like. But as a carer I am even more motivated to ensure I keep myself in good condition for as long as possible, and give some thought and preparation to when I no longer am. Perhaps this is why I avoid thinking about the future. Thinking about degeneration, infirmity and death are all rather morbid. What I've realised, though, is that they are all pretty important, and all pretty inevitable, so the thinking needs to be done, sooner or later.

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