It's the banality of it that really gets to me. The constant, grinding, banality. It starts with the 'where are you going?', 'when will you be back?" 'how long will you be?" as though she is some sort of fanatical GPS service, a version of the 'Where Are You?" app that sits in your head and starts up for no reason at all. And ends with surreal questions such as "When you stayed at your Granny's, where was I?". Questions that can't be answered, questions that don't really need an answer, questions that just highlight a void between my life and hers....
Some many moons ago, Mum came to stay with us. She'd had a particularly difficult stay in hospital which had involved 4, yes 4, operations (this is one of her constant refrains, intended I presume, to make us feel even more sorry for her and maybe, just maybe, make her another cup of tea) and a period where it was all a bit touch and go. It was emotionally draining and very scary for everyone and involved an awful lot of soul searching before agreeing that, for a little while at least, Mum could stay with us whilst she got better.
Of course, it didn't turn out like that. The one month agreement that Mum and the rest of the family gave us morphed into two months, then three, four and five. We're currently on month eight with everything crossed for it all finishing before a year's up!
It's not that I don't love my mum, I do! It's not that she's that much of a burden - she capable of looking after herself, she mentally and physically fine. It's the constant, grinding, everyday there's someone in your house who you don't want there, that gets us all. It's the knowing that everyday I just need to check, I just need to, that she's still OK. It's the lack of a break and the fact that our house, our home isn't really ours anymore.
What it has shown me, is what we all know. Caring for someone is incredibly hard work emotionally. It means putting your life on hold and subsuming your wants, needs and ambitions for the sake of someone else. It is particularly hard on women who, if like me, they were looking forward to having their space back after their kids have left - having time for themselves, who now realise that the next period of their life will mean caring again for someone who will get more and more unable to look after themselves.
And I'd count myself as lucky! There are those who will give all this caring to people who have far greater needs than Mum and as a result they'll suffer lower pensions, little support, lack of care facilities and respite. And what about those who don't have someone to fall back on?
The increasingly elderly population will impact on all of us. The Government's response seems to be to make everyone work longer and have lower pensions when they do retire - thus stacking up the emotional costs of care and leading folks to live in poverty when they're old. Surely we can do better than this? Surely as a developed country we owe it to our elderly to create a care system that isn't dependant on whether a family member (predominantly a woman) is able and kind enough to give up their home. There will be more and more of us as we slowly get older and older. We need a comprehensive system that means that the young of today aren't burdened with caring for the previous generation and that the elderly wherever they live, are properly cared for by trained professionals - giving them dignity and independance in their old age.