Health & wellbeing

Midsummer madness: It’s Christmas – and we find room at the inn…

24 Dec 2022 | Written by By Geraldine Durrant

In her eighth, festive instalment of ‘Midsummer madness,’ blogger Geraldine Durrant tackles Christmas as a carer.

You can find the previous instalment of Geraldine’s column here.

We have always enjoyed big family Christmases and it has been a rare one that we haven’t celebrated in the home where our three sons grew up.

Each year from September onwards – and sometimes even earlier – the jockeying would begin about who was coming and when, and I started planning the catering and where everyone was going to sleep.

But last year I realised things were going to be different – and my suspicions were confirmed when son number-one invited us to spend Christmas at his home instead. 

“So,” I teased, “I take it there has been an international conference (son number-two lives in Dubai) at which it has been decided it is all going to be a bit much for mum this year…”

Number one laughed and said “yes-” we had indeed been the subject of a tripartite Zoom call in which “What are we going to do about mum and dad this Christmas..?” had been the first and only item on the agenda.

I was touched, and accepted his invitation with an alacrity bordering on indecent – even if I did feel a pang that the baton of hospitality was being passed down to the next generation.

We were no longer the purveyors of Christmas cheer, we were a parental problem to be sorted out – very kindly and thoughtfully – but a problem nonetheless…

But any regrets I may have harboured about not hosting last year’s festivities disappeared two days before Christmas when I found myself sitting in the loos at the town library, crying…

Even without a dozen guests to cater for I had quite simply reached the end of my tether, and was so glad to be locked in a space by myself that I could no longer hold back the tears.

And then I cried because I realised that sitting sobbing in a public lavatory really was a new low…

But there I was nonetheless, with tears streaming down my face – and trying not to make too much noise while I was about it, because I was, after all, in the library…

I felt pathetic.

But I was also desperate after a – quite literally – shitty 48-hours which had left me feeling that if I didn’t get out for an hour I would kill one of us…

I wasn’t bothered who, but I didn’t want to put a dampener on Christmas, so I had left Patrick with a cup of coffee in front of the TV and simply quit the field of battle…

Things had started to go wrong two days earlier, when Patrick’s catheter had blocked.

The district nurse who sorted him out was kindness itself, and left him clean and comfortable – and me with a mountain of wet bedding.

But this unplanned intrusion into his daily routine had left Patrick agitated, and as bedtime approached I guessed we were in for a rough night which would see him roaming the house in the early hours.

And I was right.

Every hour, on the hour, he arrived in my room to tell me he couldn’t sleep.

And at dawn, with any hopes of slumber entirely defeated, I discovered Patrick had diarrhoea.

Without even a cup of tea to start the day, I bundled him into the shower, hosed him down and dosed him with Imodium.

The poo-nami continued unabated and by the time we got to bed I had showered him five times, and was beyond exhausted.

But my dreams of sleep were blighted for a second night by Patrick’s appearance in the early hours sans nappy and with his night bag removed.

He and his bed were covered in poo, there were puddles of pee all over the floor and his duvet was soaked.

I showered him, changed the bed, mopped the floor and pleaded with him to leave his nappy and night bag alone for the rest of the night.

In the morning it was apparent there had been no let up in the pooing, but now Patrick was refusing to take any more medication on the grounds that it was the Imodium “which was causing it…”

So rather than kill him or myself, I got him showered – again – gave him a mug of coffee and fled…

I knew if I didn’t have an hour to myself I would not be responsible for the consequences…

Which is why, on the last Saturday before Christmas 2021, as the nearby high street was bustling with cheerful shoppers, I was locked weeping in a public lavatory trying to steel myself to go back home.

And hoping that when I did so, home wouldn’t be covered in poo…


Later in the day I had recovered my sense of humour enough to give a wintery smile to this facebook post:

Santa to a carer: What do you want for Christmas?

Carer: A magic unicorn…

Santa: Oh come on – be realistic. What else would you like?

Carer: A good night’s sleep, five minutes to myself, and a pee in peace.

Santa: Okay then – what colour unicorn would you like..?

Geraldine Durrant is a retired journalist, feature writer and children’s author who – since her husband was diagnosed with dementia a year ago – has kept a diary about her experiences as his carer. We have the privilege of publishing Geraldine’s incredibly personal story on our blog every Saturday, so keep your eye out for more on this series next Saturday.

If Geraldine’s writing resonates with you in some way, please do leave a comment to let her know.

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