By Kelly Iona**
Life’s funny; you have a thousand moments in a day, but every once in a while, you get hit with one that is defining. I’m young, 24, so I don’t often think about ageing. I certainly didn’t have to think about the needs of a 90-year-old or what his life might be like. In passing conversations with my Mum she’d mention, ‘Grandad’s sight is getting worse- he isn’t driving’ or ‘Grandad needs stronger hearing aids. He can’t hear anything anymore.’ As normal 24 year olds do, we brush it off and keep moving, Mum’s got it covered right? I didn’t see her breaking; I didn’t see her struggles or the sleepless nights. Not until my moment. This moment happened at about 4 am on Thursday August 11th, I was staying at Mum’s and heard her talking really loudly into her phone. ‘Can you hear me, Dad? What’s wrong. I’ll come now.’ Then she got up and left. My grandad lived pretty close, walking distance. So after a while I thought- she isn’t coming back; I better go and check on them. I got to the street and saw the ambulance driving up to my Grandad’s house. That was my moment- my heart sank, tears started to swell and my mind started to panic.
After running as fast as I could- even hopping the fence and scaring the daylights out of the paramedics because they’d blocked off his driveway, I got to him. In that moment, seeing him like that, not being able to breathe, it dawned on me what my mother’s life had been like for the past few years. She’d been dealing with this alone like so many adult daughters do, living day in and day out with the pain of seeing their parents age and sometimes become unwell and not being sure where to get the right help. Grandad of course had to go to hospital and we were questioned by the nurses, multiple times about what we were doing and not doing for him. They’d bring up nursing homes and we’d knock them back because we promised him he could stay in his home, so we had to make that happen.
My mother is slightly horrible with computers. She knows the basics but she needed a little help. So I sat down with her and started Googling what in home services Grandad could have to keep him fully cared for. There were a lot of options and it was confusing; but the hospital said we needed to give him more home care or he couldn’t come home.
Through my Google search I found an in-home care service that among the many resonated with me, it was different; the costs were transparent so mum and I could work with our budget, they were flexible on what we got and when we got it and after doing the math, mum figured out we would get more service for our money. Five.Good.Friends. gave us an immense amount of support from the beginning (thank goodness); a home visit, a plan for all of his care and soon we’ll be able to book visits on an App– which is a life saver for me because it’s so much easier to arrange stuff. I’m lucky I had this level of support because I was so completely lost and all I knew was that I suddenly went from care-free 24-year-old granddaughter to co-carer of a 90-year-old. I love caring for my Grandad who helped raise me; but Mum and I work full time so we needed a little bit of help. That’s all it is, just someone to help keep him company, help with the cleaning and the gardening.
Ageing affects the whole family, from 24 year olds to 90 year olds. It’s normal to want the best for your loved ones. My best advice is to not be ignorant. If you notice the signs that someone might need a little help, then get together with your family and see if you can play a role in caring for them. Everyone has a role; pay attention to what’s going on around you. Watch for small changes. Figure out where you fit (big or small) and what you can do to help. My role is a companion for him; I fix his hearing aids, tell him jokes and organise his Helpers through Five.Good.Friends. (who he seems to like almost as much as he likes me!). Mum’s role is to care for him; get him to his appointments, organise his medication and feed him. Between Mum, me and Five.Good.Friends. it finally works.
**Due to privacy Kelly’s name has been changed for the publication of this story.