Belfast Telegraph

'They cared for us, so it only seems right that we do the same for them'

Frances Burscough knows only too well the conflicting demands put on parents who are also carers to their mums and dads. With two sons at university, she and her siblings are juggling their dad's care between them.

By Frances Burscough

I can't remember a time when I wasn't responsible for anyone.

When you grow up in the middle of a large family, as I did, there is always someone you have to look after. I was one of eight children and I came fifth. By about child number four, mum and dad had their hands full, so there was a fair bit of delegating that went on.

 For example, I was often looked after by my big sister Louise, who was five years older than me. She did my hair and got me washed and dressed while mum organised the others.

We even shared a bed for a number of years and when she grew out of clothes they automatically were handed down to me. So when my three younger sisters Marie, Rachel and Lucy came along, I was largely responsible for them a lot of the time in the same way.

Then I left home, got married and had kids of my own. I only had two, both boys, but even bringing them up was incredibly hard work. The more responsibilities I got as a mother, the more I realised how amazing my parents had been, managing eight children on their own without any fuss or drama and doing it so well.

It seems only right therefore, that now my dad is of an age where he needs help, I should do whatever I can to give it to him. He is in his mid-eighties, with assorted medical conditions, a heart bypass and two artificial hips.

He can't really be on his own for very long without needing both assistance and company, but he is determined to stay in the family home. As a result, my siblings and I have had to come up with an ad-hoc rota between us.

I visit dad in England and a stay there for a week every other month, during which time I cook, drive, shop, do the housework, help in the garden and generally keep him company 24/7. When I leave, another brother or sister takes over.

This is, of course, hard work and requires a lot of time, effort and expense, but it is do-able because as a writer I'm freelance and so I'm not bound by office rules or regulations. As long as I have my laptop and internet access, I can effectively work anywhere. I'm also fortunate that there are eight of us, so the effort can be shared equally among us.

Heaven knows what it must be like for those without siblings, who have to manage their own children as well as elderly parents. God help them. If the expense alone doesn't ruin them, the effort and stress probably will.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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