Here’s the perfect live-in carer for my dotage – Susan Dalgety
Growing old sucks. Bones, literally, creak when you move too quickly. Stairs you once ran up, two at a time, suddenly take on the incline of Ben Nevis. And 8.30 pm becomes your default bedtime, or maybe 9pm if Phil and Kirstie are on the telly.
There are some benefits. Age does bring a degree of hard-earned wisdom and a clearer sense of perspective. Dramas rarely become a crisis – with the exception of Brexit of course.
And older women are expected to be grumpy and pass-remarkable, so freeing you to complain as loudly as you like in Marks & Spencer.
But the biggest challenge of growing old is the fear of becoming so frail that you are unable to look after yourself, and will need someone to help with even the most basic of tasks, like wiping your bum or pulling on your pants.
Sitting round a very pleasant dinner table last week with friends of a similar age, we discussed what may lie ahead.
We pondered the wisdom of inter-generational living, where families combine their equity to live together in one big happy family. With Granny at the head of it, naturally.
We scared each other with tales of nursing homes, where old people, imprisoned in the nightmare of dementia, sit drooling for years on end, kept alive by drugs and personal care.
And we cheered ourselves up with stories of 89 year-olds who are still climbing hills and doing the Scotsman crossword every day.
But the reality for most of us, if we live long enough, will be that at some point we will need help in our daily lives, from getting up in the morning to preparing meals.
I couldn’t face living in a care home. As an introvert, the prospect of spending my twilight years with strangers fills me full of dread. I won’t eat mince and tatties. Or custard. And I can’t stand TV quiz shows or communal singing.
But a new business set up last week in East Lothian seems to offer a practical alternative to packing granny off to a nursing home. Kairos Home Health provides full-time, live-in carers so that frail elderly people can stay at home, secure that their practical needs are being taken care of, while still enjoying the comfort of their own bed. And control of the TV remote.
This 21st century take on flat-sharing wouldn’t be for everyone, but I bet many of the 40,000 people currently living in Scotland’s care homes would love to stay at home if they could.
No doubt this new service will be expensive. But so are care homes. According to the Care Information Scotland website, the cost of a week’s stay in a publicly funded nursing home is £689 a week, and nearly £600 a week for a standard residential place.
And it is not just the older person who benefits from having a live-in carer. As rents soar, and it becomes increasingly difficult for young people to get on to the housing ladder, this job offers a home as well as an income.
The only drawback that I can envisage is a clash of personalities and lifestyles, just like a typical flat-share. So for the record, and while I am still able, I will list my requirements for a live-in carer.
He must be male. Clean-shaven. Cook like Nigel Slater. Like David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen and sweet soul music. Enjoys discussing politics, but always lets me have the last word.
And doesn’t scold me when I have reached the government’s recommended alcohol limit of 14 units a week by Tuesday afternoon. When I get to that age, red wine will be all I have left.