Who cares for the carers?
He’s just your average guy, but he has more on his plate than many people could imagine. Geoff Sloman is a 57-year-old gay man caring for his elderly mum. She’s now in a nursing home (which Geoff describes as a bit of a nightmare) but despite the professional care provided by others, Geoff feels it’s ultimately his responsibility to see that his mum is given the dignity and attention she deserves.
Basically, I am a gay man whose mum has fairly advanced Alzheimer’s dementia, he told the Star. It was horrendous for me last year, trying to take care of her myself -“ I was going through a pretty crook time.
Sloman thinks that because he was gay, his mother’s care became his responsibility by default. In many cases, everyone else [in the family] was too busy and had their own commitments, so it was down to me to look after her. Luckily, I was able to eventually get her placed in an Aged Care Hostel so I was relieved from day-to-day care. But the guilt and sadness I am feeling is just awful. She hates it there. And every time I visit, I just get bombarded with complaints and crying: Why am I here? Why did you sell the house? Why did you do this to me?
Geoff Sloman’s case isn’t unusual. In fact, it would appear there’s a trend amongst gay sons and daughters having to care for their elderly parents. Unfortunately, many of the mainstream support groups Geoff Sloman accessed were not appropriate for his situation.
Starting in early February, the AIDS Council of NSW is holding a series of information sessions in the city and Parramatta designed to help bring together carers for peer support and provide them with additional support services. Classes include de-stressing with yoga, aromatherapy and legal and financial issues. It isn’t just a support group for those looking after elderly parents. Whether it’s caring for someone with HIV/AIDS, a disability or whatever, ACON has an appropriate support session.
I’ve been to counselling and an external support group, but it didn’t really help, Sloman confides. So I’m taking part in the [ACON] workshops to help me with things -“ mainly just the general support group [Caring for Carers] but I will do anything to help me talk about it and perhaps relieve my own sadness and guilt.
Sloman says that the worst part is having lost his mother mentally but not physically. In a way, it’s like you lose them twice -“ first mentally, and then physically, he says. So I’m looking forward to participating in ACON’s workshops in the hope that it will help me deal with the feelings I have now and those I’ll have down the track.