Looking after others

Kate Giles
I smiled as I handed the grandchildren back to their parents. It is not easy to look after someone else when you have a disability. I have a vision impairment. I found it very tiring looking after my grandchildren for two weeks. Julie also has vision loss. She is now living with her elderly mother. Julie says her mother has become very needy. Julie has had to cut back her work hours. She has become depressed. Kathy has also started to lose her vision. But she decided to put her needs first. Kathy decided she could no longer look after her father.
Posted by: 
Kate Giles on 06/06/2011
mother in wheelchair hugging daughter

I had just done an awesome job

We had the best time at Nanny's, says six-year-old Toby. We had a ride on a train. We went to the zoo. We played mini golf. But I think the maze was the best!

Of course, there was no mention from Toby of the drinks that were spilt over the carpet. Or the hole in the wall. Or the complaints every night that I don't eat this. Or the inevitable follow-up: I am just so hungry!

There was also no mention of Nanny getting so tired that she fell into bed at 8pm every night exhausted. Nor was there any reference to Nanny rising again the next day at 6am just to get organised for the day ahead.

Normality back

I smiled as I handed the grandkids over to their parents. I smiled because the couple of weeks I had just been through had come to an end. I smiled because I could now get some normality back in my life. I also smiled because I had just done an awesome job – even if it was just according to me.

I am a nanny with a disability. I am legally blind. I have daily challenges of my own. So it is a huge job to look after others. For the wellbeing of everyone, looking after others needs to be a decision made with full consideration of all the costs.

Very dependent

Julie also has vision loss. Julie used to live alone. So did her elderly mother. It seemed like an ideal situation to live together. They could support each other. But things didn't quite work out.

Julie says her mother quickly become very dependent on her. I am at her beck and call, Julie says. She thinks my vision loss is an excuse to be lazy.

Struggling with obligations

Julie says she has been forced to cut back her work hours. (It is) partly because of my vision loss and partly because of my mother's demands, she explains. Every time I try to explain that I need some time to myself, I am continually told I am selfish. I am also struggling at work. I need some rehabilitation, but I am too exhausted and tired to even think about it.

Julie is struggling with her obligations to her mother and her own needs. They are at conflict. By trying to do the right thing by her mother, Julie's needs are being pushed aside. I am beginning to feel incompetent and useless, Julie says. I am also feeling guilty because I am starting to resent my mother. On top of all this I have now been diagnosed with depression. I cannot see anything in the future but misery.

Her own needs first

Kathy used to take turns at caring for her elderly father. It wasn't an easy task. Her father was a demanding man with high expectations. Then Kathy began to lose her vision. She realised she had to put her own needs first.

I quickly learnt to say no to things that didn't suit me, Kathy says. I quickly realised my immediate needs had to come first. I was called selfish, uncaring and mean by other members of the family. I was told I was using my vision loss as an excuse to get out of family obligations.

Not easy

Kathy acknowledges that it was not an easy time for anyone in the family. There was a lot of heartache as relationships fell apart, she says. (But) I learnt to be strong. I was battling to look after myself, let alone take on anyone else. I knew if I had given in to everyone's demands I would have become resentful, angry and depressed. Then what use would I have been?

Kathy believes that we all have choices. Choices are made through knowledge of our own needs and the situation we are looking at, she says. We must be aware of the challenges. Then we must ask ourselves if we think we can cope. Kathy says she knew looking after her father would be far too demanding. It was a case of my own needs taking priority over family relationships. I then had to deal with the fallout. It was a very difficult time.

Difficult decision

To look after someone else is a difficult decision. Based on your own position, the choice must be yours. Many questions need to be asked. Questions might include:

  • Do I currently have the strength of mind and body to do this?
  • Do I think I can manage the effort involved?
  • Is there anyone I can call on to assist if difficulties arise?
  • Can I cope with being constantly reminded of my disability?
  • Will it fit in with my own plans?
  • Could I become frustrated and resentful?
  • Am I putting anyone in danger because of my disability?

A lot of strength

Living successfully with a disability sometimes requires putting your own needs first. It can take a lot of strength to say no. It can be difficult even when you believe a situation is beyond your ability. But sometimes saying no is the only logical choice you have.

The next school holidays are coming up. I am not sure whether I can look after the grandchildren again. I am currently assessing the situation. Perhaps I can cope. But only for a few days this time!


Support is available

Carers Victoria (opens new window)

Lifeline - 24 hour telephone counselling - 131 114

Kids Helpline - under 18 years of age - 1800 551 800

Just Ask - rural mental health information - 1300 131 114

Men's Line Australia - 24 hour telephone counselling - 1300 789 978

Salvation Army - 24 hour telephone counselling - 1300 363 622

ReachOut! - website for young people (opens new window)

SANE Helpline - mental illness information, support and referral - 1800 187 263

beyondblue Information Line - information about depression, anxiety and related substance abuse disorders, treatments and help - 1300 224 636

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