During Carers Week 2020, we help to make caring visible by sharing voices of staff members at Kingsley Napley, who are either carers themselves or witness the effects of others being required to fulfil a carer’s role. Today, we share Satvir Sokhi’s story as he reflects on his mother’s role as carer for his grandparents and some of the challenges she faces: practically, physically and culturally.
Satvir Sokhi’s story
As my grandparents age, I notice their shaky hands, an increase in tablets in their medicine box, their reliance on a zimmer frame, a few falls here and there and a new forgetfulness. The reality is that they need care, a great deal of which my mum has taken responsibility for. My mum is not a formal carer. She is not paid for this. She is just a loving daughter looking after her elderly parents. In the current coronavirus crisis, I can imagine many more family members take on carer responsibilities and face challenges which my mum is facing now. Below I share just three of the hurdles I witness that my mum has to overcome, especially at this difficult time.
Firstly, we live in Croydon and my grandparents live in Birmingham. This 150 mile journey can take anywhere from 2.5-4 hours each way. My mum, often accompanied by my dad, will do this journey every weekend, after working a full week as a school cook. Her work is demanding. She wakes up at 4am to start her 6am shift and she is constantly on her feet. However, she sacrifices her weekends for her parents and, more importantly (given the physically demanding nature of her work), her rest time to make this journey. She prepares all their food for the week, ensures they have the essential household items, goes shopping for them, washes their clothes and does a whirlwind clean of their house. I see this is taking a toll on her both physically and mentally, but to her this is irrelevant; she will always put her caring duties ahead of her own needs and does so without any complaint.
Secondly, my mum faces cultural differences and challenges. My grandparents came to the UK in the 60s from India. They do not speak English, which can make communicating with doctors and home nurses quite difficult. My mum often has to act as a translator and implement the medical advice over the telephone, and trust that her parents are following this plan during the week. She frequently has to carefully balance this with the community of “uncles” and “aunties” (often neighbours), who offer their “medical advice” to the mix, which my grandparents often trust more than the advice of NHS doctors. It can be quite a battle for my mum to convince her parents to actually stick to the more conventional medical advice ahead of their neighbours’ suggestions (all offered with good intentions of course).
Thirdly, and lastly, my grandparents can be stubborn! I love them, but they can get stuck in a routine which can put them at risk. For example, my mum received a phone call at 5am from my grandfather explaining that as he was putting the bins out (yes, at 5am!), he fell and hurt his arm. Mum told him to rest until she got there. On her way up, she received another phone call from him explaining that my grandmother had now fallen. Apparently, he was trying to move her with his bad arm. They were both fine, but their stubbornness can lead to urgent phone calls requiring a 300 mile round trip for my mum. Alas these types of calls have become a regular occurrence.
Carers Week is about raising our voices together to help make caring visible, which for me means not only acknowledging and praising all carers, but to also recognise the selfless sacrifice that they make to ensure those who need care are looked after. My mum, and many others who have adopted this role as a result of COVID-19 (whether as family, friends or a neighbour) will never accept the praise, but it is important that we value what they do and recognise the challenges that they face.
To find out more about Carers Week 2020 and how you can take part and help make caring visible, please see here.
See also our previous Carers Week blogs here.
About the author
Satvir Sokhi is an Associate in Kingsley Napley’s Medical Negligence and Personal Injury team.