Gordon Lennox WS is an Associate Director with Scullion LAW in Hamilton and Glasgow. He writes here about combining full-time work with the responsibilities of being a carer on Carers Rights Day 2018.
So, I’m a carer.
It’s not something you necessarily think about when you are looking after somebody in your family. I just thought I am looking after my mum because that is what you do. She is getting older, she needs our support and care with everyday tasks and living.
So here’s the thing - in our society today provisions are made for people who are having children, it’s maternity leave or paternity leave, a good work-life balance, flexible working, working from home etc. If you are looking after somebody who is old and infirm, has dementia or a disability, less emphasis is placed on that.
As one of approximately 12,000 solicitors on the roll in Scotland, I can’t be the only person in the legal profession who is working full-time while caring for a loved one. Let nobody underestimate how stressful and difficult it can be. The phone calls at two o’clock in the afternoon “I can’t work the remote control” or you leave in the morning wondering will she fall in the bathroom today? Will the carers go in on time and give her lunch or will she try and make it herself and burn the place down?
My partner and I have, until recently, looked after my 90-year-old mother whilst both of us have worked full-time. Sadly, she recently had to go into care. Moving back in with a parent at any time would be difficult for some and for others unthinkable. When it is to care for them at the later stages of their life and there is no-one else to do that, when you are an only child - it can become something much, much worse.
You are dealing with a parent who is beginning to fail, they could be dementing and your relationship is not one of mother and child but becomes something different. To the point where the relationship with them becomes unrecognisable to what you have known. It is fraught with stress and anxiety and it is a constant battle of wills.
Even although I was supported by my employers, it didn’t lessen the anxiety and stress that comes with caring responsibilities and which create what we now recognise as mental health issues. Everyone wants to do a good job but sometimes when there are external pressures outwith the workplace, it is not always easy to function with 100% concentration or give it your full, undivided attention because there are other things going on that others do not realise.
As 20th century theologian, John Watson, once said ‘everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about’. And it can be a battle when you are trying to navigate health and social care services. So, the next time you see a colleague a bit downtrodden, a bit tired, spare a thought for what else might be going on in their life. Even the recognition of that can help. Who knows – you may be a carer too? #ImACarerToo