Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Getting Old in Ireland

It really is no fun getting old in the Ireland of today.  I am sure this is the case in many other countries too, but I am not able to speak for other places.

As an older mother, and, as of last week, someone who is nearer to fifty than forty, I now also have an older mother and I feel compelled to comment on this.

Let me tell you why.This week, my elderly mother, without any warning, received a letter from the HSE (Health Service Executive) stating that her home help/domestic care service is being cut. Not reduced, not suspended, but totally cut. There is no more government funding for it, apparently.

Before she was hospitalised for the first time, she had home help for only one hour a week. This was eventually increased to two, on doctor's recommendation.  Now, when she needs it most,  when she is sick and living alone, it has been taken away altogether.

Some would say, well why should she have 'free' domestic help anyway?  I say, it is not 'free'. Donations are given voluntarily on a yearly basis from the person receiving the help or from their families.  She, my father, and many others who face this situation now, worked all their lives for everything they ever got.  I say, it is not free, because she created five children who have also worked all their lives, contributed to society and done their best not to cause trouble for anyone else. I say she deserves it, because she deserves to be respected and cared for in her twilight years.  When  her sons and daughter and their families are facing cutbacks, job losses, negative equity, higher taxes, extra charges, extortionate childcare costs, she should feel secure about whatever years that she has left.

She has been hospitalised on many occasions with her conditions, COPD and chronic asthma. She acquired these conditions through no fault of her own. She is on a nebuliser 8 times a day and requires regular antibiotics and steroids. Her conditions are a hereditary, genetic thing, mostly connected with age. She also has osteo-arthritis, a knee replacement and 50% blockage in her heart.  She receives B12 injections each month for the rest of her life. For these reasons she has been in receipt of this home care package, provided by the HSE (Health Service Executive) for the past few years.  She is unable to do housework as even such small things as dusting could set an attack off.  Having a home carer, even for a few hours was a great help to her and to us, her family. My mother is lucky to have five children, all still living in this country who can help her when she really needs it. It is not always possible, as they all have young families and do not live in the immediate vicinity.  The ridiculous rise in property prices, especially in Dublin, during The so called Celtic Tiger pushed them all out of their home county.

It's not just herself that my mother is worried about.  She was a Home Carer herself in her younger days before she had to leave to look after my sick father. She relied on the money that it brought into our household, paltry as the sum was at the time.  She is upset that some of the home carers may lose their livelihoods or have even more pay cuts.  She remembers how it was for her in those very comparable times.

Think also of all the people who are older and sicker than my mother who have no-one to turn to for comfort.  Can you imagine their confusion and anxiety when they received this letter in the post without any inkling beforehand? Some of these people don't have family near to hand or any family at all.  They rely on their home carer to do housework, buy in groceries and they could be one of the few people they see all week.

I understand that there is an economic crisis.  I understand that the country is in financial trouble.  I understand that we have to face up to certain austerity measures but I wish the government would LEAVE OLD PEOPLE alone!  Many of the wrong people have been getting many of the benefits in this country for many, many years. While I know that much of this is being dealt with now,  I feel that it's not fair to now clamp down on the most vulnerable in our society. Old and sick people DO NOT deserve this worry after years of working and caring for the younger generation.

I am a person who usually doesn't get riled up about trivial things.  Even the austerity measures and cutbacks that we are all facing I meet with a certain amount of acceptance.  However, I am incensed about this because OLD PEOPLE have done their work and in some cases still are. They act as grandparents, advice givers and sometimes as guarantors. I was relieved that old peoples pensions were not cut but then found that  they are taking the money from old people in many other ways.  There are now household charges, prescription charges (even with long term illness and medical cards) and I have heard a rumour they now want to meddle with the free travel!

Only old people who need to be washed, helped in and out of bed and have their personal care/needs attended to will receive home help now. It seems that families, neighbours and friends are expected to do their housework, shopping etc. That is fine and people do what they can, but what about those who don't have families that care about them? What about those whose children live abroad? What about old people who don't have good neighbours and friends?

I saw recently, in the news that an elderly man was dead in his home for three months before anyone noticed.  For old and sick people who are alone in this world, the home carer maybe all that stands between them being found like this some day.

I hope to see something in the media about it soon. It hasn't been mentioned so far and has happened without warning.  I hope to hear people questioning the move as they did with the medical card issue for the elderly in the past.  I know I have a personal interest in that it affects my mother.  But surely it will affect the parents, relatives and friends of many others out there too.

Again, I say, LEAVE OLD PEOPLE ALONE.  Let them have peace. They deserve to be cared for and respected in their twilight years.

How do YOU feel about this?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sweet Tooth and Sugar Cravings - Inate Or Developed?

I was just reading a blog post over at the Mama Courage blog in which she talks about doing her best to introduce nutritious and healthy food to her child.  Having a sweet tooth herself, she feels guilty tucking into cupcakes and chocolate in front of him.  For the moment, he seems happy to accept a banana, or a yoghurt treat in lieu. She asks the question 'when is a good time to put down the banana puree and succumb to chocolate buttons?'
It is an unusual thing to say, but maybe she won't have to.  Take my son, for example. He is now four. He loved bananas, yoghurts, rice cakes and diced fruit as treats when he was younger. He still loves them to this day.  He wouldn't thank you for a bar of chocolate or an iced cupcake.  He likes only plain biscuits and plain ice cream. He would have a bite or two of something chocolatey but that would be it.  Even when his Grandfather forces chocolate buttons and the like upon him, he just says he doesn't like them. His Granddad thinks him very odd as he is the only one of his twenty something grandchildren who refuses to eat them.  He even handed back his Easter Eggs last year!  

From what I can see, usually, it's when the child starts being offered sweets and chocolate by other people outside the household.  Grandparents and other relatives may be the first culprits here.  Mixing with other children who are allowed chocolate and sweets as a matter of course can also do it. The blogger says that she declines the treat on his behalf and that some people are incredulous at this.  She says that her son is just as  happy with fruit or yoghurt. It seems that the delayed introduction of  processed sweet stuff isn't impacting on his happiness or development so, she asks, why would they want to hurry it?

Why indeed? An acute sweet tooth can cause problems that will extend from childhood into adulthood. It can spark off a lifetime of weight and dental problems.  I was from a generation where it was deemed acceptable to have sugar sandwiches in your lunchbox! It was a cheap alternative the child was guaranteed to eat and yoghurts and rice cakes weren't on the menu way back then. I feel that this is where my addiction to sweet things started. I am now in my forties but I still battle to stop at one or two biscuits when I open a packet. I  still binge eat on sweet things and my weight goes up and down on a regular basis.Thankfully, my son doesn't take after me in this respect. People think it odd that he refuses chocolate but he just didn't get the sort of things that I did as a child.  I also think I may have overdosed on chocolate when he was in my womb and that helped to put him off!

What do you think?  Is a sweet tooth something that you are born with or is it something that is developed? Are yoghurts and bananas just as likely to cause sweet cravings as sugary processed treats?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hot Cross Mum - bite size slices of motherhood

I have been reading a blog for the past while named 'Hot Cross Mum'.  It's by a lady called Hazel Gaynor and I find it amusing, honest and smart all at the same time.  Hazel left the world of work outside the home in 2009 to become a full-time mum.  Her blog documents her mothering journey and all the joys and challenges that it throws up for her.

I was delighted then, to find that Hazel has written an e-book of the same title, and that I could download it to my new smartphone. I started to read it and immediately identified with things that she mentioned. I read some of it while my husband watched TV and annoyed him with my loud chuckling. I read the rest of it the following night.

It's a book that any mother will connect with and it's also a book that will cheer any mother up!  It's certainly comforting to know as mothers, that any situation can be looked at with such humour!  If you want a chuckle in your daily mothering routine, if you need a book that you can read in 'bitesize' pieces, then this is the book for you.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Freedom in Parenthood

A recent conversation with a friend compelled  me to write about freedom in parenthood over at The WM Parenting Connection

She was lamenting about her bad day at work and all the things she had to deal with.  She said that she wished she had the freedom that I had. As a stay at home parent on a career break, she thought my lifestyle was much freer than her own.

She really made me laugh because I am not free.  As every parent knows, stay at home or otherwise, your life is never your own again, once you have kids.  In essence, you swap one kind of servitude for another kind.   You are still in bondage to someone other than yourself.

I am not complaining and wouldn't have it any other way now.  I love my new life, even the challenging bits.   I am a mother for four years now,  but almost every day still feels new.

I mention in the piece the things that I do to make myself feel free in my new lifestyle.  I go for breakfasts with friends while my son is at preschool.  I take long walks and practice yoga.  I write when I can.

What things do you do to make yourself feel free?