The Nanny State
“Now, I’m just going to pop next door to hang up the washing, and then I’ll come back and see what you’d like for dinner”
“Nick, I’m going to phone the council now to ask about the repairs”
“I’m going to blend that chicken and bacon pasta a bit to make it easier to eat, and I’m slicing up some avocado too, for some extra calories”
“I’m just writing your menu for tomorrow and then we’ll do your online shop”
“I’m throwing away these holey socks, Nick, and finding you some better ones.”
And so on.
Do you do this too, I wonder? Go through the day describing exactly what you’re doing and what you’re about to do next. It's the Nanny State all right - the state of being a constant nanny.
I know it’s not just me as I saw someone else at it today. One of my dementia clients lives with her widowed daughter who is her primary carer, and when I arrived this morning to take the mum out, the daughter was giving a running commentary about the washing she was doing, (“your favourite blue cardigan is in the wash as there was marmalade on the sleeve cuffs“ and “I’m just going upstairs to brush my teeth and then Mel will help you to get ready to go out”)
It seems to be second nature for carers. Why do we do it?
I suppose because it’s important to try to include the person in their care decisions, even when they don’t have much capacity to choose, so that there is some sense of things being done in partnership.
Sometimes Nick looks at me out of the corner of his eye while I’m busying myself about his flat, picking up his washing and opening the post, checking the freezer to see what food is left in there and what I might need to replenish, seeing how much wine is left in the box. It's all for him, but I'm still messing around with his things in his space and ultimately, totally undermining his independence.
The only way I can lessen that a wee bit is to give the running commentary so I'm an ally, not a cat burglar. It's all done with the best intentions, but those can run away with you in the name of doing what you think is the right thing. And honestly, I do want to tell myself to shut up sometimes.