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Melrick

Caring

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When I was younger, I thought being someone's carer must be an easy, perhaps even a lazy, job. That's if I even thought of it at all. When I got older I realised that it wasn't that simple, that it was a job that must surely have it's difficult moments. I never realised just how wildly off the mark I was.

Watching my dad die of lung cancer was horrific beyond words. Seeing a once vigorous, virile, man that looked at least a decade younger than his mid 80's go from that to a skinny, weak, destroyed human being was devastating. I'd never once seen him cry in all my life, and there I was, watching him sob like a child. It destroyed a part of me that can never be fixed. I helped mum look after him, but it was mum that did the most, as you'd expect. When he died, her health began to slip as well. She'd never been the healthy, virile specimen that dad had been, but it got worse.

Hearing the sound of your mother's body hit the floor, and then seeing her lying face down, motionless, is a sight I'll never be able to dig from my brain. It got worse, though; holding her in my arms as she passed out and then died… that's something that'll haunt me for the rest of my days. She came back, though, in the utterly distressed, confused and extremely weak state that was normal after these attacks. But that was the first time that I truly appreciated that she actually died during each of these horrific attacks. Our phone lines were also down that night, just to add to the woe. I called the ambulance on my mobile phone, and she had two more attacks while they were here; their machines registering that she did indeed die each time, for about 30 seconds.

The consequence of all that is that she got a pace maker installed. Unlike what people tell you, though, it doesn't make a new person out of you. All it did was to ensure her attacks didn't get to the stage where she passed out and died. That's terrific, don't get me wrong, but it would have been nice if what we'd been told was true.

It's not at all unusual for me to check in her room with a torch to make sure she's still alive. Every morning I wonder if I'm going to wake up to a living or dead mother. Every sound I hear I worry if it's her and I have to check. Her high blood pressure is such that she needs to take some pretty high dosages of tablets, which cause dizziness and makes her feel unstable on her feet. Just about every time I see her shuffle along I worry when I see her wobble a bit or get light headed. As I type this, she's been struggling to get over an illness. She can't afford to be ill for extended periods like this.

I thought I knew what it was like to be the full-time carer of a loved one, but I had no idea whatsoever. Not even close. No one can understand unless they've been in that position. It can be horrifically stressful. Actually, it's never anything less than stressful, it's only the depth that varies. De-stressing totally is an impossibility, but playing games and fiddling about on the 'net helps. That's why my computer is so utterly, vitally important to me. Writing stories used to be a big help, but my muse has well and truly dried up. My girlfriend doesn't live here so she can't truly offer the mental and physical support like she'd wish. Having friends that popped around for a visit would be good.

But I see taking care of her as a privilege. She looked after me for years and so it's only right that I return the favour in her metaphorical hour of need. I know she feels guilty that my life has been put on hold, but I don't care; she comes first and always will.

I do have a message for you all. If you happen to know someone that is a full-time carer, please be understanding. It's often a massively stressful job, because a job is what it most certainly is, and usually an unpaid one. They need love and support, more than most. Sure, it can be a pain for you since it's often difficult for them to get away, even for a coffee, so you tend to stop asking, but stick with them. Don't forget to ring them for a chat, or pop around for a visit, even if it means lending a hand. They'll be immensely grateful, even if they don't say so. But most of all, I want you to try and understand the difficult, often thankless, life a full-time carer has.

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While I've not experienced this aspect of life for myself, my hubby has with both his mother and brother. Mostly his brother. Yes, it is horribly stressful for any of you who have to experience this. There were many, many things I overlooked BECAUSE of the stress he was dealing with at the time. After all, his first and only priority at that time should have been his ailing family members. When he felt guilty about it, mini and I reminded him to not, because it's not like any of them asked for this. His brother didn't ask for cancer, and his mother didn't ask for leukemia. To ease his mother's burdens, he took on all the care of his brother. You're right. It's a thankless job. Know that the person you're caring for, though, even if he or she doesn't mention it, DOES appreciate it.

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I have to agree with both Melrick and DG. I have my mother living with us, and I deal daily with her myriad health issues, doctors' appointments, medications, insurance issues, and the like. I also had the unfortunate experience of watching my father die of cancer, and it was compounded by his having moved 2,000 miles away for the last three years of his life. I got almost 8 weeks at the very end, and it still hurts to this day.

Those we care for do appreciate what we do, and for all of us who care for a loved one, please know that we appreciate what you do.

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Melrick, I remember when that happened, and I so wanted to hug you. I'm glad that things are a little easier now, but I know what it's like to be vigilant too, so I'm hoping you get to relax for a bit now and then.

I cared for my Nan before she died of blood cancer, quite a few years ago now. She didn't linger, which was probably kinder as she was really terribly ill. She couldn't do her favourite thing anymore, which was a simple visit to the shops, not even in a wheelchair. I did that for a few months, and among other things I was surprised by how it reordered our relationship. I have no idea how demanding it must be to do it long term.

For the record I think you and Bronx are amazing, and it's things like this that make me realise that however bad the news is, or whatever else is happening 'out there'... people care for each other, everywhere, in a billion different ways. These are the real stories. You are heroes.

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