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An ongoing exchange

I am sometimes harbour misgivings about ‘reporting from the frontline’ upon my experiences of dealing with my aged father who needs live-in care assistance – but not necessarily for the reasons you might think.

I was chatting to a Rust colleague the other day about the motivations that prompt people to write diaries or journals at all, as we have both done at times.

They seemed to boil down to one or more of the following:

(1) a compulsion to record one’s doings;

(2) the desire to leave behind evidence of one’s existence for those who come later, e.g. family descendants or possibly the world at large (either on the basis ‘keep a diary and one day it might keep you’ – if published – or alternatively that, even after one’s death, perhaps in the hands of some academic researcher, it might contribute something to human history that one’s meagre lifetime achievements had not);

(3) the desire either to ‘set the record straight’ and/or explain one’s reasons for acting as one did at certain times;


(4) possibly just to create a means whereby later to be able look back and remind oneself what one was doing at any time in the past.

As it happens, it seemed to me that we both self-identified with at least the compulsion to record and perhaps the ‘means to look back’ factor, albeit that neither of us has regularly done it.

However, back to my subject of the day.

The fact is that at some point all human family members face bereavement or terminal illness, including one day their own. Nothing special about this, it happens to be the lot of all living species: it comes with the territory (as they say) of being born in the first place.

In a personal context, my reticence about detailing my experiences with my parent stems to a degree of not wishing to be regarded as arrogant enough to assume that they – and/or the way I describe them – are actually worthy of being read by others. After all, they’re probably no different to the experiences of anyone else – so what makes me think that I and/or mine are so special?


One of the fascinations of dealing with an elderly relative who needed full-time caring assistance is the relationship with the latter.

By definition such carers deal every day with caring issues that the individual concerned and/or his or her family do not. That’s why the career exists. But then again, they’ve come across every situation that might visit an elderly person, whereas previously his or her family members might or have not.

This brings different perspectives that have to be reconciled or accepted.

Whereas once I might have been shocked e.g. by my father’s sometimes either ‘one-off’, out of the blue, or indeed progressively odd, aggressive, loopy or ‘out of character’ behaviour, these days this is the case no longer because, as his successive carers have uniformly explained, he is not who he used to be … but now someone quite different.

When you think about it, part of a carer’s job is ‘managing the situation’. Firstly, each client/patient is different even though in a general sense their issues may be finite and therefore what those are (and the coping with them) is knowledge that can be learned and trained for.

But quite separately, carers also have to acquire the knowledge and experience to ‘manage’ the inexperience in dealing with such matters of close family members of their client/patient. Simply because, of course, each family – and each family member – is different, even if (again) their ‘types’ are finite and can also  be ‘learned’.

Here’s an incident that I took part in yesterday – and here I’d admit that whilst I’m not proud of my contribution, I’m also not ashamed of it:

Sometime after his Christmas Day breakfast my father and I found ourselves together alone in the drawing room.

These days his speech is relatively soft and also indistinct so it is not uncommon that he says something that others (well, me in this case) cannot quite ‘catch’ so we engage in a bit of ‘ping-pong’ such as we did yesterday:

He begins by pointing towards the terrace door and saying:

“Pfffghhllllmmm …”

[Me]: “Sorry, Dad …?” (whilst looking around to see what he could possibly be referring to)

“Pfffghhllllmmm …” (he pointing again)

“I’m sorry, Dad – could you repeat that, I can’t make out what you’re saying …” (whilst again trying to work out to what he’s trying to draw my attention)

[He, now aggressive, frustrated that I haven’t understood what he’s saying]: “Pfffghhllllmmm!” (pointing again)

[Me, getting irritable because there doesn’t seem to be anything remotely of interest in the direction he’s pointing at]: “But what are you talking about …?”

[He now more aggressive and with the tone “Why am I surrounded by imbeciles like my offspring?!”]:

Pfffghhllllmmm … that Fleet Air Arm thing!

[Me, given that there is no ‘Fleet Air Arm thing’ anywhere in sight, and reacting to the aggression by applying some of my own]:

What the hell are you talking about, there’s no Fleet Air Arm thing!

THAT thing! …” (pointing at an item on the end of the large sofa opposite towards the terrace door)

[Me]: “That’s not a bloody Fleet Air Arm thing – That’s Theresa’s [my other half’s] bloody handbag!

End of conversation.

About William Byford

A partner in an international firm of loss adjusters, William is a keen blogger and member of the internet community. More Posts