It takes a village to raise a child – African proverb
It also takes a village to care for the elderly – Me
The old African proverb is absolutely true – the concept of a village has changed somewhat over the years and can now include people overseas via FaceTime rather than the people next door.
The proverb now needs to be applied to the elderly in our communities. My Dear Old Dad lives on his own. He needs a village and he has one and it includes:
Me – chef, chauffeur, nurse, pincushion when he’s frustrated, shopper, postmistress, cribbage player, Oscar vomit cleaner, general organiser of his life, carrier pigeon for letters to his brother via email.
My husband – patient listener, conversationalist, light bulb changer, dinner companion, occasional chauffeur, hacker of plants and weeds, forgiver of how much money it costs us to look after him, occasional provider of free legal advice
Oscar – spoiled cat, companion, listener, sharer of his thoughts.
My sister – host when Dad goes to visit or when I am away. See the reference to ‘Me’ above for when he visits and replace cribbage with scrabble. Also frequent visitor and sharer of photos of Dad’s great-granddaughter. Also emotional scaffolding for me when required (often). Is much more patient than me.
My brother-in-law – companion when Dad is visiting, willing cribbage player, chauffeur, also frequent visitor and dinner companion.
My brother – frequent visitor, scotch and red wine drinking companion, cribbage player and participator in theological discussions. Fish and Chip carrier
My children – bin putter-outers, mail collectors, Oscar carers when Dad away, patient repeaters of everything they say because he is a bit hard of hearing and they keep forgetting
My sister’s friends – caring people who take an interest and listen to him, also occasional scrabble players
Neighbours – keeping an eye out, bringing the bins in.
My uncle – Dad’s brother who lives in Wales who has visited regularly over the last few years, companion, pen pal, sharer of thoughts, provider of scotch for Dad and champagne for me (favourite uncle)
My cousins – occasional visitors, lunch companions, and provider of meals
Outside helpers – cleaners, gardener, ironing lady, handymen
Church friends – sharers of his faith, occasional chauffeurs, providers of stamps for his philately hobby, telephone correspondents, and one cribbage player
His GP – not my favourite part of the village to be honest, but DOD has complete faith in him and is a regular visitor to the medical practice
Other specialists – at 94, things are starting to not work as well as they should so we visit quite a few medical specialists, most of whom are very kind and caring
This is a big villagefor one person!! But it’s necessary to enable DOD to stay in his own home. He is eligible for a government funded care package – however my experience with My Aged Care has not been happy and I don’t want to leave his care at home in the hands of government agencies when they have proven that they are incapable of responding in a timely way to requests for assistance (more on that in another post)
As Honore de Balzac once said:
Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies
There are now private businesses which can provide home based care, and I am sure I will be using their services in the not too distant future. I honestly believe that the best care the elderly can have is where there is an emotional attachment between the carer and the person for whom care is provided. Will that work if people are paid to be carers?
Time will tell.