Teena Gates opens up about emotional and rewarding journey caring for her father
This week is National Carers Week
By Clodagh Meaney
This week is National Carers Week - a week dedicated to making carers visible, sharing their stories, highlighting their struggles and recognising their dedication.
To mark it, Irish author and broadcaster Teena Gates has shared her emotional, yet rewarding journey as a full time carer for her 95-year-old father Terry.
"In some ways it’s like seeing the child and the parent just literally reversing roles," she said.
In 2018, Terry had a fall which left him with vascular dementia.
"Little parts of his brain are breaking down or decaying," she explained, "that [fall] changed everything dramatically."
Teena, who has a taste for adventure, has climbed some of the world’s highest mountains.
She has kayaked on the Nile, cycled through Uganda and loves engaging in long-distance open-sea swimming around Ireland.
Caring for her elderly father has meant that she has had to put her passions on hold.
"I need to look after him 24/7, he needs constant supervision."
"You have to be hypersensitive and hyper tuned in to everything that they are doing and then you have all the usual household duties then on top of that," she said.
"If I concentrated too much on what life had become I’d start getting a bit morose about it
I do miss going out on my mountains and going on long distance swims."
"Realistically there comes a point where the commitment that you need, for me at least I found that there are so many things that I simply, I had to wave goodbye to," she said adding: "I would be lying if I didn’t say that I miss those things but dads more important."
"I sometimes get sad and I sometimes get anxious and even with the best will in the world, the friends who haven’t given up on me, can’t really understand what it's like."
Sometimes, Teena feels inadequate trying to reassure him, she said as she recalled an instance where her father said to her, "I think I'm mad."
"I really didn’t know what to say to the man. The feeling of inadequacy, trying to reassure him."
However, there are still some beautiful moments of sheer joy for the pair too.
"When dad turns around and looks at me with his little baby blue eyes and his face lights up with his child-like delight and happiness, it makes everything worth while."
"Dad loves being at home and that’s why I'm doing this, and I choose to do it. And the love that I have for him, and the love that he has for me and the happiness that I see on his good days, that’s what makes it such a rewarding journey."
Teena regularly blogs about her life with dad Terry, and their rescue companion, GoogleDog, as part of a growing movement towards #MakingCaringVisible.
For more peer to peer stories and guidance, you can visit Life Effects here.