Good carers deserve the greatest respect. They do an amazing job. If you think their role is mainly about making cups of tea, chatting to residents and helping them get washed and dressed, then think again.
There’s much more to it than that, including tasks you’d never think about unless you’d seen it for yourself. Apart from having to juggle long, 12 hour shifts in some cases, they also have to perform some pretty gruesome tasks that frankly, I know I just couldn’t do. I witnessed this first hand on the day my mum died.
My mum had vascular dementia and spent the last two years of her life in a very good nursing home. I visited her most days and each time I was struck by the caring attitude of the staff. Most of them were nothing short of compassionate, gentle, patient and understanding with all the residents. They treated my mum with dignity and respect. They got to know her. They genuinely cared about her.
When I found out that mum was dying, I asked for her to die in the nursing home. I didn’t want her to die in hospital. I wanted her to die in her own room, with her own possessions around her, receiving care from staff who knew and cared about her. It was the right decision. I knew it was what she would have wanted.
During her final hours, on a sunny Tuesday morning last July, I sat with her and held her hand. Staff made sure she was comfortable. Two of the carers, Carla and Chrissy, were particularly attentive. ‘She’s burning up,’ said Chrissy, feeling mum’s forehead. ‘She needs sheets, not a duvet. We’ll change the bedding now.’
I left the room and the duvet was swapped for sheets in minutes. When I returned, mum was visibly more relaxed. ‘She’s as comfortable as we can possibly make her,’ Chrissy said to me gently. ‘I promise you, she’s comfortable.’
It meant a lot. Hours later when mum passed away, the same two carers came in and asked me if I wanted to choose some clothes for mum to wear for when the undertakers came to collect her. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. For the minimum wage, these two compassionate and brave ladies had to wash and dress the deceased. I was stunned. ‘I’m so sorry you have to do that,’ I told them. ‘I can’t believe anyone has to do a job like that. It must be so hard.’
Carla shook her head. ‘Not at all. We look at it this way… it’s the last thing we can do for a person we knew and cared for. The very last thing we can do to help. It means a lot.’
I choked back tears. ‘Well thank God you look at it that way,’ I told her. ‘I love my mum but I’m not sure I could do it.’
Where would we be without carers? In many cases, they work long hours, receive minimum wage, deal with stressful and frequently changing situations that frankly, I would find depressing. I admire them so much. If you find a good carer for a loved one, treat them well. Show them respect. They truly deserve it.