Stories from the QLO Archive
Author: Noela Foreman
Stories from the QLOB archives-
All of the people who have told me their stories are ageing parents aged over 65. Most are single parents aged in their seventies and eighties, but I have also included a couple who are struggling with their own health as well as that of their ageing son. All parents are very concerned about the future accommodation and ongoing care of their children after they are no longer able to care for them. Ideally, most would hope to see the transition to a degree of independent living for their kids - of a safe secure and appropriate place to call home for them – a move they hope would take place whilst they are still around to support them during the change. To imagine a future where they are expected to provide – sometimes - intensive care for their child until they die is not only an unreasonable expectation in this wealthy country but surely denies them the right to age with dignity and assurance of support that the rest of us expect as we age.
Joan is 84, a widow and mother of eight – her son David is intellectually disabled, has several ongoing health problems and is in need of constant support and supervision. Joan’s hope is that he will be able to gain a place to live where he is secure, has constant supervision and constant, ongoing care as he ages. Joan recently fell and broke her leg, needing hospitalisation and subsequent convalescent care over a period of several weeks. While Joan was recovering from her fall, David was home alone for extended periods of time and it was during this period that his leg became infected and swollen. Cellulitis had set in, a condition that can not only be extremely painful but could threaten his life. Fortunately David was discovered by his sister who immediately summoned an ambulance to take him to hospital - where he stayed for some time. Afterward, he was not able to return home when he was ready to leave because there was no one there to look after him during his recovery.
Joan is concerned that David needs constant supervision due to the range of complex health problems he suffers and she is not sure she will be able to provide him with this care for much longer.
Helen is 71, the mother of Susie who is aged in her late forties and has issues with anxiety and behavioural problems. Susie has Down’s Syndrome combined with a history of difficult psychological problems and violent behaviour that necessitated Helen giving up full time work to support her daughter at the time.
These problems have now evolved into Susie developing an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. With appropriate medication the problems have lessened but Helen still feels like she is walking on eggshells most of the time. Coping with this is an enormous problem for a single mother and constitutes a great burden that inevitably prevents Helen from leading the kind of relaxed life we expect as we age.
Wilf and his wife Fay have cared for Rodney since he was born with a severe disability. Rodney needs constant care, is non-verbal and unable to move about without constant help and physical support. As father and primary carer for Rodney, Wilf is concerned about the future but is finding it hard to relinquish the support and loving care he gives to his son. Wilf is now 87, his wife’s health is failing and he is aware that time is getting on and he could be placing both himself and Rodney at risk of a crisis in the near future if he doesn’t find answers to his accommodation and care very soon.
Fran is 65 - her daughter Katy has Down’s Syndrome and a happy outgoing personality, a love of music, performing in a drama group and going out to parties and meeting people.
Fran hopes for a happy place for Katy to live where she could share a home with others like herself – a place where they could form their own ‘family’ group, a place where they could share their enjoyment of what life has to offer within a safe and secure environment. With the range of health problems that occur as we age, the certainty that our children can be supported to lead worthwhile and rewarding lives would in a sense, be a reward for the many years of care that Fran and other parents have committed to their children.
Jean Spiers is 94, her son John lives with her at her home. After a fall John is now in a wheelchair and needing a lot of physical support. Currently, two of Jean's daughters provide much love and care for both of them - but other serious health issues in the family add to the stress and the burden on the well members of the family is intense. Jean loves to have John with her - but contemplating the future is a difficult issue for them all. To know that a place is available, where John will get the care and support that he needs, would relieve the anxiety experienced by this close family.