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  • Sarah Whitebloom

A Reluctant Daughter's Diary

Stories from the Sandwich Generation


I have been trying for the past few months to access extra help for my elderly parents at home. She is in her late 80s and has a heart condition and ulcerated legs. He is well into his 90s and very frail.

They are naturally finding day to day life increasingly taxing - as am I. Some sort of extra help would ease the situation for all concerned.

After discussing things with my mother in a mature way, she agreed that maybe she would like someone to come in for a couple of hours one day a week to cook lunch and tidy up afterwards. The leading charity Age UK runs a ‘Help at Home Service’ in Bromley and Greenwich. For a charge of £17.50 an hour, they offer a range of support services. This looked like the answer. Not only was it local, it was from a reputable name and seemed to be just what was needed.

My husband, glancing at the list of services, commented that it looked like all the things ‘a daughter does’.

He is quite right. A lot of these tasks, which also include such jobs as changing bed linen, helping with shopping, organising cupboards and wardrobes and escorting to appointments are things which either I help with or my parents struggle with on their own - which is precisely why we thought it was a good idea to get some help.

The assessor from the service paid my parents a visit while I was present. After a sensible discussion, she said she would try to find someone to suit to come in once a week at about 11.30am to make lunch and tackle a few kitchen chores. It was a start. It could be the answer to their problems and my stress. But nothing connected with older people is that simple.

There followed a month’s silence which was broken this week when I received an email from the assessor. My elation at the idea Mum and Dad would have someone, other than me, to turn to, turned to disappointment as I read the message. She apologised for the delay , saying they are trying to recruit staff to cope with the ‘huge demand’ for the service.

In a nutshell, she offered help on Friday mornings from 10.15 am for two hours, which she acknowledged was not the time slot we had requested or needed. Yes, it was an offer of help. But it brought with it the possibility of a whole new range of problems. Had they any idea how long it takes older people to be up and ready for visitors in the morning? I wondered. They would have to sleep in the sitting room, fully clothed, to stand a chance of being up,

After deliberating, we have politely turned down the offer, explaining that the early slot would be add to the stress for my parents. They simply would not manage to be up and dressed before 11am and 11.30am would have been a push. An extra 75 minutes may not sound a lot. But to an older person, it makes all the difference. If a suitable time slot becomes available, the service will contact us.

I had been told by others, who have been through all this before, that finding help would be a problem, I had no idea that we would fail so miserably at the very first attempt....Mum, shall I change the beds now?

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