Only twice in my adult life have I been off-work, bedridden ill. Last week I had to stay in bed for three days. I was weak and wretched, and entirely reliant on my husband to bring me necessaries and check on me periodically. This was my first real insight into what it must be like to be entirely reliant on a carer for an extended period. Needing a drink but not able to get one. Needing the toilet but unable to get there without support. Hungry but can't face the food left for you. Feeling terrible but not knowing or remembering which medication to take. These are the people district nurses and carers look after every day, helping their patients with these necessary tasks that most of us take for granted.
And what might it be like to be the frail elderly person living with your family? Surrounded by people but unheard. With the noises of the house and its occupants, and being of weak voice, combined with crying children coming first, I couldn't grab anyone's attention until they walked past my door. It brought to mind the old lady in bed upstairs in the 80s sitcom 'Allo 'Allo!, banging on the floor with a large stick. I was only in bed for three days, but for the majority of it I was on my own and I began to feel lonely.
The episode provided an insight into the lives of the cared for, and underscored the lifesaving role that district nurses and carers have for people of reduced mobility, providing help with the little things that healthy mobile people don't give a thought to. Aside from the physical aspects of the care they give, they might often be the only other vital human contact that person has. Society owes a debt to nurses and carers that choose to work in the community caring for those with long-term chronic conditions. Having been cared for, albeit briefly, has enhanced my perception of the lives of those needing care and caregivers.