IF YOU DON’T WORK HARD AT SCHOOL YOU’LL END UP CLEANING TOILETS!!
Well, I worked (kind of) hard at school, went to uni, got a degree, earned a bunch, and now, guess what. I’m cleaning toilets.
Not just cleaning toilets, but doing all the things people end up doing when they supposedly aren’t qualified to do much else, like wiping bottoms, making beds, spoon-feeding and dressing and changing adult nappies and being in the presence of unspeakable smells and less than beautiful people. I’m working in a nursing home.
Anyone who tells you all this shit is ‘unskilled’ or ‘semi-skilled’ has obviously never done it. It’s not that simple to remember what 30 people have for breakfast, how they like their coverlets arranged, which bits of them will move and which bits will break, and who hasn’t showered for a week but likes to pretend they have. It’s not easy to put in dentures, change pads, get clothes over the heads of people who can’t move, wash and dry people with more crevices than Bora Bora, stand there looking unfazed when someone’s crapping into your gloved hand. It’s skilled, believe me – and I’m not.
I’m daily amazed by the talent of the carers I work with. Sure, some of them are pretty hard-bitten when you chat to them in the tea-room, but confront them with an unwell elderly person and they could pretty much do Jesus out of a job, they’re so loving and kindly and compassionate – and so damned competent it’s frightening!
I keep thinking how funny it is that people like me can whip off a research report or a memo like it’s jelly on toast but find something like this so challenging and interesting and well, you know, it makes me think. Because we’ll all come to this in the end. As one of my new colleagues puts it,
‘Me and my hubby are gonna jump off a cliff. We’ve got it all worked out. There’s no way we’re going to end up here.’
Which makes you think – if it’s so bad, can’t we, the carers, somehow make it better? Maybe all this loving care is like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Maybe pain, humiliation, boredom and helplessness just an inevitable consequence of living to get old? Maybe instead of telling old people to check in to Sunlit Waters we should be saying, ‘Run! Run while you still can! Failing that, hire a Mazerati!
Do you think? Ps I read The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared and it is just great! Recommended for anyone over 50!