The long goodbye

(No it’s not about death, nor is it a fictional thriller)

Carers are more than friends, but not quite family, they are professional and yet close, carers are in a group of their own. Because of this it’s very difficult when it comes time to change carers. This happens for several reasons. They may leave the agency you use; they may move, you could move or sometimes events conspire to make it impossible to continue with a carer.

Last birthday, with 3 of my carers (blurred for anonymity)

Over the years we’ve had that happen more than once. One carer became just focused on me and lost sight of the fact that she was there to support us as a couple (if a carer doesn’t support Mary they are missing a vital part of the job), yet another was only employed temporarily to cover for a carer who was long term ill, some are holiday cover, while others have moved jobs or become ill, or leave to have children, whatever the reason we have to say goodbye to a carer it is never easy. As I come up to my birthday, only one of my current carers was with me last year. Many times, we have kept in touch, although that isn’t always possible.

There is a kind of bereavement losing a carer. You become so close, even to ones that you know for a short time. I guess it’s the level of intimacy both physically and mentally that is involved in care. I blogged about this before, “Care, a strange relationship.” When you no longer see a carer regularly it’s like losing someone very close. An aside here, I keep saying ‘a carer’ which makes them seem very impersonal. That’s because I want to keep confidentiality. I would rather use their names, but that would be inappropriate. So just replace ‘a carer’ with a name of a really close friend or family member when you read that.

I really hate it when we must change carers. Being a person who dislikes change doesn’t help. But the fact I am a people person makes it very difficult. I invest time and energy in getting to know my carers. Energy is a valuable commodity for me. More valuable than money, I have very little of it. So little that it’s one of the reasons I have carers in the first place. Not only am I physically limited, unable to stand or walk. But I also have very little energy reserves. So, I must budget it for the day. If I used my energy getting washed and dressed, I wouldn’t have energy to enjoy the day. By enjoy, I don’t mean much more than be bright enough to laugh, joke and chat, watch TV, eat my food and write this blog. All these things take a colossal amount of energy.

If you have ever had a serious illness, very serious, not a cold, you will know that the smallest thing can be exhausting. My carers don’t just help me because of my physical limitations, although obviously I need that, they help me reserve my energy. So, when I then chose to expend some of that energy on getting to know them, that is an expensive choice on my part. I have allocated a part of my daily budget of energy on them. That’s a mark of how I value them, I make that choice. I enjoy their company.

When I lose a carer, I feel like I lose a big part of what makes my day and a part of what I look forward to, it’s like I lose part of me. Each carer I have is unique and has qualities that make them special. I wrote a blog all about my wife “The most amazing carer of all.” Because I recognise that Mary is my main and best carer. But my other carers are also really incredible, they have got Mary and I through difficult times. They have put themselves out, above and beyond their jobs. It is their cheeriness, strength, aid, comfort, help, encouragement, smiles, warmth, friendliness and wonderful nature’s that get us through. I know most of my carers past and present read this, that’s not why I have been positive, it’s because it’s true. Many of my carers have been kind enough to say they enjoy being with Mary and me. The reverse is true in spades. They really are the most incredible people and I value them so much.

If you are reading this and looking at going into care as a profession, know the difference you will make. You won’t always get to look after people who have mental capacity. Not everyone you look after will show appreciation. Some people can be downright rude. But often that comes from a place of pain. You will still be transforming their lives. They may not be able or choose to say it, but you will be a great blessing. Just as our carers are to us.

Every time I lose a carer it’s like a long goodbye. Painful, slow, drawn out. I want to avoid it, but I can’t. I just have to look back at the good memories of wonderful times spent with them and if we keep in touch, look forward to meeting up in the future.

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Do read my other blogs, I write factual, fiction and poetry.

Author: Mike Nevin

I decided to write about the funny side of being cared for. I am a full time wheelchair user with daily carers. It's my experiences with my carers that inspired this blog.

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