If I knew then what I know now
The journey through care can be a challenging one, having been personally navigating the landscape for over nine years both personally and professionally for family and clients, it is amazing how many people do not get advice when faced with potentially their greatest outlay.
I have spent the last decade with multiple hats on, I am a full time employee, a husband, a father until recently a Power of Attorney for my late Aunt and a carer for my Grandmother. Over the past three years, as the health of my Aunt and Grandmother deteriorated I have taken a much more active role in helping them through their day to day lives.
My grandmother lives with me, she requires care four times a day, my aunt was suffering with dementia and living in a care home. I know from experience how difficult it can be to navigate the Social Care system in the UK, we were often provided with conflicting information, it is made more difficult by lack of capacity, trying to understand the impact of those decisions on behalf of someone else put huge amounts of strain on the family.
I felt it important to provide some back story before getting to the title of the blog, if I knew then what I know now, the first area I wanted to explore is not really related to care but instead some of the warning signs we experienced.
According to Age UK, most people will feel lonely at some point in their lives. It is a deeply personal experience, but in the large majority of cases it will pass. However, for a growing number of people, particularly those in later life, loneliness can define their lives and have a significant impact on well-being.
· 3.6 million older people in the UK live alone, of whom 2 million are aged over 75.
· 1.9 million older people often feel ignored or invisible
As each case is unique to the individual it can have different consequences for you, loneliness can strike for a number of reasons:
· Death of a loved one
· Moved away from your friends and family
· Lost the social interaction and enjoyment you had from work
· Have health problems which make life difficult
My grandmothers health issues are directly linked to the death of a loved one. Following my grandfather’s death and despite the family rallying round we didn’t address the loneliness. It is important to understand that being lonely doesn’t mean you have no friends or family around.
The loneliness extended into depression, looking back the signs were obvious, however, at the time, the strong minded independent women we knew and loved, who had been the backbone of the family for a lifetime would never admit to needing help and certainly wouldn’t hear the word depressed.
Over time, she started to rely on the family more and more, it started as little things, popping over the shop, taking her to the doctors. Within two years, she lived solely indoors and her communication with the outside world became the interaction between her, the TV and the Radio.
Her health started to take a turn, because she was less mobile she developed severe nerve constriction within her spine requiring major spinal surgery. The purpose was to slow an eventual decline towards loss of motor functions.
Fast forward to now, she can’t grasp a pen, she needs to be hoisted from her bed to a chair and back again, she can no longer live an independent life. I often look back and wonder, if we had acted then would we be in the position we are now.
We didn’t recognise the warning signs, they were obvious, but neither the Family or the GP picked up on it. The signs we faced were so simple looking back, we just didn’t know to look out for them:
· having a significant change in their routine (e.g. getting up a lot later)
· neglecting their appearance or personal hygiene
· complaining of feeling worthless
· not eating properly.
So what do you do should you suspect a loved one is feeling the impact of loneliness:
· Raise your concerns with their GP
· Contact charities, they are a great source of support and can tap into networks around your community
· Talk to your local authority adult services team
· Befriending services
· Telephone Book Clubs
· Online Forums such as Gransnet.com
The message here really is never under estimate how serious loneliness can be if left unaddressed.
Sources of additional reading:
All opinions are my own, they may not be representative of the corporate position. Zen Wealth are not responsible for the accuracy of third party information and contents.