How Long Is a Piece of String?

It’s now more than four years since I moved back to Dad’s house to help look after him. 

Wow.  Time sure flies.  If you’d told me at the beginning that I would still be a carer more than four years down the line, I would probably have dived under the duvet and refused to come out.

Of course, it’s not all that bad.  I’ve learnt a lot in those four years and I’ve shared some really precious moments with Dad.  But there’s one question that does flit through my head now and again, usually around four in the morning (yeah, it’s one of those).

So what is this pesky question?

How much longer will I be a carer?

I know, I know.  No-one can answer that question and I probably wouldn’t trust anyone who said they could.  But it rattles round my head because it’s a question that has a significant impact on the practical and emotional side of being a carer.

Caring can be an open-ended commitment and the timescale is one over which a carer usually has little, if any, control.  

Dad has a medical history which means it’s entirely possible that one day he could pick up an infection which antibiotics can no longer tackle or have a fatal stroke.  That could happen next week.  Or next year.  Or next decade.  Or not at all. 

Dad’s basic constitution is pretty strong, so it’s also equally possible that he lives on for years.  His cousin died last year at 101, so you never know.

It’s a situation that produces conflicting emotions.  There are things I’d like to do that I just can’t while I’m a carer, but I know that looking after Dad is what I need to be doing right now.  I love Dad and will miss him immensely when he’s not here anymore.  And yet – I can’t deny that it will bring with it a freedom that I also miss.

It’s a conflict I’ve yet to get my head around and not knowing how long it will last can be frustrating.  Another six months?  Two years?  Five years?  Ten years? (Yikes!). 

And it’s not such a dumb question when it comes to some key practical issues.  How long do we as a family have to make the money last to pay for care?  How long will it be before I can start to earn some money again and what’s the best way to manage what money I do have?  Should we be thinking about some more modifications to the house or will we have to sell it to pay for the care?  Should I be looking for somewhere else to stay in the next year or two?

We can only hedge our bets and keep re-evaluating as we go along.  And try to enjoy the good bits as best we can. None of us can truly know what the future holds and when all’s said and done, perhaps that’s for the best.  Though I’m sure it won’t stop me chewing over that pesky old question now and again.

How long will I continue to be a carer? 

Well how long is that proverbial piece of string?