The subject matter of the early morning Sunday programme on Radio 4 Something Understood was of particular interest to me as it is for carers and care for alike. Mark Tully discusses the choices facing voluntary carers and those for whom they care. I can only attempt to capture the essence of what Mark Tully was expressing so I thoroughly recommend anyone interested to try to listen to this programme themselves.
Why do we choose to care. According to the pressure group Carers UK, three out of five people in the UK spend some time caring for someone. Some do it for love, some obeying the dictates of their conscience, and some obeying a code of ethics, humanist or religious. For some it seems a natural thing to do and in others there is no choice, sometimes there is distress or discomfort felt by someone who knew they should have cared but have now have lost the opportunity,
The obverse side of discomfort or put another way, the distress of the person who failed to care is the reward that can be rather selfish, or even self-righteous, the pleasure of feeling that one has done one’s duty or it can be the satisfaction derived from deepening love, then, to many carers there is a reward in seeing improvements in those fpr whom they are caring. Such as in the story of the film Christie’s Foot where a mother’s love and belief in her son transcended medical opinion. Carers are not always rewarded or appreciated. Observations and reflections of a carer had been encapsulated in a series of remarkable poems by the poet, Tom Gibbons one of which is called Love., written when he was caring for his wife who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. In it he describes the frustration and distress a carer might feel. It is a short poem but I cannot reproduce ir without the consent of the poet. However, in it Mr Gibbons advice to those who are cared for was to recognised that no carer is perfect amd that even love could not guarantee perfection. And his advice to carers was not to be too hard on yourself when you fail.
Sensitivity is something that a carer needs to cultivate but should be aware thar it can be insensitive to show too much sensitivity by overwhelming the patient with kindness.
To understand what caring is all about it is important to listen to both sides of the story, the carer and the cared for.
If you’re being cared for by a family member you can often feel guilty that you have become a burden and that the carers life has inevitably changed, they are no longer free to do what they would have done previously but often active caring can deepen the love between the carer and the cared for. The important thing is to live day by day as you cannot be certain that what you can do today you will be able to do tomorrow. By taking this positive approach, to a serious or terminal illness, the cared for is often said to be inspirational and an example to others but, in my case, when this is said, it gives me no pleasure , despite, of course, the comment having been made in the kindest possible way , but it gives me no pleasure because I am trying to lead as normal a life as it is possible in my condition.
Inevitably frustration boils over from time to time which leads to a little squabbling between the carer and the cared for. This is only to be expected and such squabbles should have no lasting effect on the love for each other. Suffering and sorrow felt by the carer can often deepen the bond between them and their patient; The carer must be prepared to put themselves in the other person’s shoes or put another way think to themselves this could be me
Mark Tully concludes his programme by saying that caring can be an uplifting experience for all those who choose to care. For more information about this programme you can go to the BBC information line and I would thoroughly recommend that you take note of the poems that are read out and perhaps obtain copies, as they are very much to the point.
Now for something a little more frivolous
Simply scroll down and click on the blue link below.
Finally somebody has made a movie of it!