Family caregivers, who dedicate themselves to caring for loved ones, can often feel forgotten and invisible. The assumption that a family member – often a daughter – will naturally assume the role of ‘caring for Mum‘ significantly affects their personal lives and the well-being of their immediate family. With the best will in the world, loved ones are not always the best equipped to look after a family member in their hours and years of need – emotionally, physically, geographically, and financially.

The invisible people

Take Janet and the care she had to consider for her Mum, Elizabeth. When Janet faced the gut-wrenching decision to seek help and a different kind of support for her Mum, she found it incredibly difficult to deal with initially.

Elizabeth was in her mid-80s and was experiencing a slow but consistent deterioration of her health. She lived in a detached bungalow in South Chester and was proudly independent, a lover of her garden and still a driver and active member of her local community. She was sound of mind, and although she was becoming increasingly forgetful, she knew her routine (medical or otherwise) and could get herself from A to B with relative ease.

Until she couldn’t. And when that happened, everything became much more unpredictable.

Janet, Elizabeth’s daughter, lives over an hours’ drive away from Elizabeth. She works full-time. She has two boys in the process of moving into further education, with one still living at home attending a local college. Janet’s partner Phil is often away as he works offshore, and although he’s a huge help where he can be, it just isn’t practical for Phil to jump into care duties as soon as he gets home.

As time progressed, Elizabeth found doing things more of a burden daily. Her legs were weak, and she needed a stick to keep her balance. She had a combination of medical challenges like hypothyroidism and diabetes and had a mini stroke 12 months earlier. Initially, the stroke had no significant impact, but Elizabeth had become more forgetful. She also hadn’t been eating brilliantly at home because it’s too much faff – although she always looked forward to going out for lunch in her local community centre each Thursday.

She initially needed practical help with the house and the garden (which Janet helped with at weekends), and although she had a cleaner who came around every week, the mess that built up between cleans became too much because Elizabeth couldn’t keep up with things as well as she could before. It was impractical for Janet to get to her Mum’s during the week to help stay on top of things.

Janet felt incredibly guilty about looking at care for her Mum, and Mum refused point blank to look into supported accommodation, even though there were some fantastic places locally. Elizabeth wanted to hang on to her home and independence as much as possible. She used to be a nurse, so she didn’t suffer fools gladly, and whenever Janet brought the subject up about help, it often turned into a heated quarrel!

When your hand is forced

Elizabeth hated seeing Janet worried but didn’t like a fuss because she was fiercely independent. Then, when Elizabeth had a fall in the garden, it was the final straw for Janet. Elizabeth didn’t break anything, but it meant that Janet had to drop everything at work and drive over to mum at the hospital and get her severely sprained ankle sorted out. She had to get her back home and think about how on earth she was going to deal with taking care of her.

Janet ended up staying with her Mum for a few weeks, continuing her commute to work every day. It was exhausting, distracting, and juggling things at home with her son’s needs was becoming increasingly difficult. When Janet had a conversation with Elizabeth’s GP during a routine check-up, it was clear to the doctor that this was all taking its toll on Janet. She was tearful and felt a huge burden trying to do the best for her Mum but feeling like she was failing on all levels.

Janet had to take time out from work in the first week just to get her head around what needed to happen. Her routine was thrown up in the air. She couldn’t keep going like she was and if this was how she felt in just a few weeks, how was she going to be able to carry on caring for Mum in the long term? She couldn’t leave her son to fend for himself and although Phil was back home, after a couple of weeks of her living at Mum’s she knew that by the time he had to return to work, she had to find a solution that suited everyone. Not just Mum.

Elizabeth was now in a wheelchair too, so it meant even more responsibility for Janet to ensure she go where she needed to be day to day. Leaving Elizabeth in her chair to fend for herself while Janet went to work was a non-starter. Elizabeth could manage to a certain extent, and a couple of friends popped by with meals and as much support and transport as they could, but in just two weeks, it was taking its toll on everyone.

When relief replaces guilt

It was Elizabeth’s GP who mentioned Promedica24 to Janet, so she gave them a call. Mum’s main concern was remaining at home to continue enjoying her independence, so when she got a chance, Janet met with the live-in care director, John. He told Janet everything she needed to know about the care Elizabeth could expect. Further – how live-in care would remove the burden of caring for her Mum from Janet’s shoulders.

Live-in care workers live with people in their own homes as their companions. They help with everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning and personal care so loved ones can live as they choose in their own home – and family members, like Janet, can get on with their lives knowing that someone is being taken care of in the right way.

An in-depth conversation also had to take place between Mum and Daughter. Of course, Janet and Elizabeth were extremely nervous about what this would mean, what it would cost and the impact this would have on their lives having someone else living in Elizabeth’s home. But when they both sat down again with John and discussed all the details, he was able to reassure them that Elizabeth would be fully supported, from living solo to living with someone else taking care of Elizabeth and her home.

They decided to give it a go and try it for a few months. The wheels were literally set in motion!

Regaining independence and happiness again

With Promedica24 by her side, Elizabeth’s live in care and support was put in place. It was a straightforward transition. Janet could finally take a deep breath and a step back realising that Mum was in her own home and being taken care of, just as she’d want her to be. Elizabeth was happy. She was much more relaxed – and the relief for Janet that she could literally go back home again and not worry about whether the house was clean and tidy, that Mum was eating properly and comfortable and that she had someone there she could talk to – was huge.

Janet also stopped feeling guilty that she’d taken a step back from caring for her Mum. It had taken time for her to realise that she wasn’t the best person to give the care her mum needed, because apart from having her own life and family to take care of, she wasn’t best placed to keep the house tidy, or cook a decent meal for Elizabeth every day. She also felt the weight of keeping Mum’s medication right disappear too. That had been a huge worry.

And sometimes, when mothers and daughters’ roles are switched, it isn’t always for the best.

What Elizabeth got to enjoy was a brand-new lease of life. She went out regularly to the community centre for lunch and a good natter with her friends, she was able to get to GP appointments on time, and in the knowledge that her medication was monitored. She enjoyed days out and shopping and even more enjoyable things like having her hair done.

It’s so simple. Live in care has helped Elizabeth live much more comfortably, independently, and happily in her home, surrounded by all her things and home comforts. Although Janet is over 45 miles away, she knows she can speak to her regularly and see her on the weekends. It isn’t just about practical care but knowing that her lovely Mum is happy again in her home and that she feels safe and loved.

Live in care gives people all the emotional support they need, too, and it’s not just for the person receiving the care but for family members, too. There are over 5 million people providing unpaid care in the UK. Many of these have had to reduce their work-hours – or give up altogether – a financial millstone that weighs heavily upon them. Janet’s story is about getting her own life back, as much as getting her Mum the care she needs. Knowing someone is under the same roof as her Mum, giving safety and security, is incredibly reassuring.

Help is just around the corner

No one wants to see any family member – elderly or otherwise – go through physical or mental pain and distress. Caring for your Mum (or any other elderly family member) presents challenges – both practical and emotional. The Cheshire Later Life Hub Team hears this story, and its many variants, on an almost daily basis. Whether that is dealing with a fall (and it’s consequences) like Janet and Elizabeth; living with the effects of dementia; a neuro-degenerative disease; or simply old age, frailty and loneliness – then we can sign-post you to people, charities for caregivers and local companies that can help. When caring for Mum, you do not have to be alone.