I used to hate it when Mum announced it was hair-washing night. These days, I wish I had some hair to wash, but that’s another story. So, why am I thinking of those long-ago Thursday evenings? Well, today, it was hair-washing day when I called in to see Mum. Mandy, Mum’s lovely hairdresser, was paying her weekly visit.
Mum hates having her hair washed. Worse than that, she finds it very distressing. As Mandy and I manoeuvred Mum to the edge of the bath, she began to cry softly. Soon, she was wailing as Mandy poured water over her head. I’m struggling to describe the heartbreak of hearing your mother crying for her mother. I managed to quiet her cries once or twice but soon had to call for reinforcements, which is why I’m sharing this sorry tale.
Two carers talked Mum down as Mandy washed her hair. One – J – was particularly wonderful. She has a way of relating to Mum which is very special.
And special is the word here. Good carers are special people. As our politicians wrestle over the corpse of our social care system, trying to score points off each other, the people at the heart of the story are forgotten. People like Mum, riddled with dementia and frightened of a plastic jug of water, and people like J, barely out of school, whose patience and gentle words ease the pain.
Yes, Mrs or Mr Politician, care has a price, but not caring has a cost none of us can afford to pay.