We all see the cheesy quotes on Facebook – “To care for those who once cared for us is the greatest honour” – or we joke to our parents that if they annoy us we’ll put them in a home; but sometimes when the time comes, an aging relative needs the sort of help only a care home can provide. The issue is though, sometimes we feel a sense of guilt at the fact that we are not caring for our loved ones ourselves. Additionally, if we choose to let our relatives stay in their own homes, we may feel like we’re failing if we need to bring in external help like a nurse or care worker. We need to stop feeling guilty for seeking care!
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why is there some small part of our psyche that makes us feel bad for doing a good thing?
While some of us may be licensed professionals with the skills to care for the elderly or infirm, many of us are not. Which means we simply cannot offer the right style of care or support that a person needs as they age, especially if they begin to suffer from symptoms of dementia or other chronic illnesses. Luckily there are countless professionals in the UK who do know what to do. Who choose to dedicate their lives to caring for others. These are men and women who have trained to know how to help an injured or disabled person shower comfortably, who know how to keep track of medications and can comfort someone with dementia properly. Care homes are organising more and more social activities – like a recent sports day in Suffolk – because collectively we are all realising that community spirit is the key to happiness.
You don’t feel bad about sending your children to dentists, do you? Or bringing in an electrician when your lights fail? That’s because you accept that other people know more about a situation than you do, they are professionals who use their knowledge and experience to solve problems in the best way. The exact same applies with care workers, whether they are supporting people in residential homes or visiting for a few hours a day; they are experts utilising their knowledge and experience. Nevertheless, there seems to be this reluctance, whether it’s openly discussed or just a nagging sense in the back of our mind, that forces you to doubt the choice of seeking care for a loved one. We judge ourselves and the degree of our love for the person if we are not the ones caring for them.
Our love for someone should not be quantified by the degree to which we alter our lives to care for them in their later life, if we are not the ideal candidate to provide that care and support. Occasionally, yes, a relative may be best supported by a loved one; however most of the time, the best outcome for the person who needs care, is to seek professional help. We should move past this unspoken stigma around someone needing to go into a care home or hiring a care worker to provide care at home, and recognise that ultimately that may be the best thing to do. And surely choosing the best for someone is the best measure of love, support and care?