elderly

TILDA, #Dad (92) and Me

Yesterday I was messaging with a community nurse, an occupational therapist, and hiring a professional carer. These are support services which will help me to help my lovely #Dad (92). A few months ago, I didn’t know they existed.

As I headed into work as a journalist with Newstalk Network News, I was still trying to understand how I could be so ignorant about what’s available to a man of dad’s age. Some of these services are free, some I have to pay for, but the fact that they’re there at all will make both dad’s journey, and mine, so much happier. It’s a privilege and a pleasure to care for dad. I would hate the pleasure and fun of our love and friendship to be eaten away by stress and difficulty.

Knowing that I have started building a new, safe, environment for dad feels like a pressure jet being released. The air physically escapes from my lungs in a rush and I feel my shoulders drop; an easing of tension that’s been building for months. For the first time I begin to realise how hugely stressed I have become.

Later today I’m meant to be flying to Copenhagen for a two day mini-break and to wild swim in the city’s freezing canals. (It’s a thing). But the trip’s been cancelled since Friday, when dad complained about a volcano in the garden; and I realised I couldn’t leave him alone any more.

I’ve learned that the sudden realisation of being a carer can leave you scrambling for answers.

Leaving the house and turning the car into the evening rush hour, I again found myself wondering about how quickly my world has changed. How could I find myself so far behind the game; failing to realise dad’s changing needs until he fell and hurt himself earlier this year?

How did I accept the brush-offs about unavailability, 2yr waiting lists for Occupational Therapy and the casual dismissals of my growing concerns?

Suddenly I realise I’m angry.

Age is not a disease and age is not an excuse for lack of respect or care. Dad’s in great health and can continue to happily live at home with me; with just a little extra support.

My dad’s dad received a 1916 medal for services rendered during the foundation of the state. His son (my dad) helped build our country, he worked all his life and paid all his taxes. He ran in cross country races, he was a sprinter, he won medals for dancing while working in Belfast during the troubles, and he cycled from his farm in Cavan to Croke Park for a match (and Cavan wasn’t even playing!). My dad has an expensive love for silk ties and Louis Copeland suits, and his favourite food is a 30oz steak! He is a person, an individual, a charming, funny, sensitive gentleman. He deserves a proper and dignified quality of life.

*Breathes deeply*.

Driving towards Dublin city centre, I also wonder whether my experience is unique? I’m a working journalist who has spent the last 30 years asking questions. If I run into a brick wall while trying to get answers, surely I’m not the only one finding the going tough?

With that thought buzzing between my ears, I arrived into work to find the latest TILDA report on ageing in Ireland, sitting on my desk. Incredible timing. But my eyes widened and my jaw dropped as I read it’s heartbreaking findings. It’s being published today and guess what?

#Dad (92) and I are not alone.

Read on >>>

SHOCKING REPORT ON GROWING OLD IN IRELAND

42 per cent of all care provided in ‘last year of life’ in Ireland is provided informally by either friends or family.

A significant number of elderly people are NOT accessing support and services which are available to them. Many don’t know what’s on offer; others don’t know how to go about getting it.

People can enjoy a better quality of life in their final months if treatable conditions are screened and tended to accordingly; this includes pain relief and help with depression.

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These are some of the findings of the latest TIDLA report published today. The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing is a large-scale, nationally representative survey on ageing in Ireland.

8,500 people over the age of 50 initially took part in Tilda, and its latest findings are based on interviews with the family members and friends of 375 participants who have died since the study began.

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Check out radio news bulletins to hear more (Tues 12/12) with report author Prof Charles Normand of Trinity College Dublin, and reaction from Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Carer Engagement at Family Carers Ireland.

Or read the full report at www.tilda.ie.

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