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I’m a live-in carer. Truthfully, how much do I need to tell my family about my job?

Many live-in carers live in other countries and travel to the UK to work with clients. This, in itself, can be a traumatic event, leaving loved ones behind often for months on end.

Getting back to our loved ones can also be a difficult time so it's worth digging a bit deeper to see the things that can make us stressed when we eventually go home. More importantly, let’s investigate ways to keep home time better and as pleasant as possible.

What could possibly go wrong when we get home?

I don’t seem to fit in anymore

Ever heard the phrase that ‘nature abhors a vacuum?’ You will see this in every walk of life as well as profusely in nature herself. 

Try to leave your beautifully weeded garden bed for a few weeks and see what happens. Nature fills it up for you, maybe with weeds, maybe with seeds, but it does not stay empty for long.

The same is true when carers head off to other countries to work. People they have left behind fill the gap, so to speak. 

Someone has to do the work we have just left behind us, things that we have done while at home are now done by others. 

Hey, even the dog seems to transfer his allegiance to the person who feeds him, now that we are not there!

When we get back, it seems that we are something of an outsider, even with best friends or family. While the dog may jump for joy to see us, he knows that his food can come from the person who feeds him while we are away.

They get annoyed by my conversation

This is possibly the biggest issue that a live-in carer can have when they return home. A new carer may be exceptionally proud of something that she has managed to achieve with her client, going out for a walk, eating better, taking medication without an argument, all these are huge milestones in the life of a new carer. 

These are important to us, but unfortunately they are not as important to other people outside the client circle.

For carers who have been working longer, there will have been a time when a client passes away. This can deeply affect each one of us, and it is simply not true that we can just move on, particularly if your client has been special to you. Neither is it fair to expect the carer to ‘get on with life.’

Often a carer will want to talk about the death, the client, memories they have, their own fears and concerns, and more often than not, the carer may not have anyone to talk to, other than a spouse, partner or friend. 

Now, while they may be willing to listen for a short time, the carer will soon recognise the signs of boredom with the subject, which, while it is such a part of our life, does not have the same importance in the lives of others, including family.

The reality?

Particularly in the case where a client has passed away, the carer has seen and done far more than other people ever do. 

Being with a client at the end of their life is truly a privilege, something that we may never be able to fully explain to other people. Chances are you may not be able to explain your feelings to yourself, let alone to family.

Additionally, if there is a person in our own family who is old, or ill, there is a great chance that they will pass away soon. Family may not want to know the step by step details of the last few days before death. Neither would they want to know what to expect at the very end, particularly if the loved one is in pain.

Death is a very personal thing and differs with each person. Hearing the carer’s views on it may not be what they need, unless they ask for this.

In reality, your family and friends are just not that interested in how you managed to get your client to the toilet on time, how many times you need to get up at night, how your client is nasty to other carers and not to you, or why the family think you are the best thing for their loved one.

Truthfully, there are two different worlds in the life we lead, namely our personal life, with our family and friends, and our business life, with our client and family, and ‘never the twain shall meet.’

Live-in carers have two different paths to follow, treading one path at a time, and never both together.

How do we keep things separate?

In order to stay sane and keep a relationship working, it is important that we segregate work and home life. This means with spouses, partners and family members. 

While it is great to finally be home with our loved ones, what they do not want to hear is a running commentary each day on our client and everything that concerns them.

By all means, when you get home, chat about your work for a while. Reassure your loved ones that you cope well most of the time and are fine in yourself. 

Now, take a deep breath and stop talking about your job. Change the subject, talk about things at home, involve yourself in things you used to do when you were there.

If you are asked about your job, it is polite to respond and answer questions, and then move on to another subject. 

People ask because they are genuinely concerned, there is no doubt about that, but once they are satisfied that all is well, they will get back to things that concern them there and then.

Something to remember here is that many a relationship has not survived because one party cannot focus on the present instead of the past.

So, who can we confide in?

The only people who will truly understand what we are going through is a like-minded person. Not even agencies may totally understand or be sympathetic. There are doubtless agencies where the support is excellent, but unfortunately not all carers have this backup.

There are several online platforms where you can join groups of carers, where, should you post a thread about anything, they will share their own experiences with you.

If you are religious, and more importantly, can ever get to a place of worship, you may be able to talk to someone there, although most carers will not have the time to do this.

Final thoughts

The bottom line about surviving a career as a live-in carer is that family and friends really do not need to know that much about your job. They need to be assured that you are safe, and doing your job to the best of your ability. 

More than that they possibly do not need, or want to know. No family member needs to know the intimate details of you and your client, much less have them repeatedly brought up in conversations.

The best advice then, is to simply tell our loved ones enough to let them know all is well with us, and keep the rest to ourselves, hard as this may be.

P.S.

Please note that the above thoughts may not reflect the family and friends of every live-in carer. You may have family and friends who are happy to discuss the pros and cons of wearing a night pad over a day pad to keep the client from wetting the bed, and if so, consider yourself lucky. However, be aware that the two paths may only overlap for a short time.   

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