I’m not one for fancy hats or, even worse, fascinators. Surely the only fascinating thing about a fascinator is why you’d want to stick one on your head at such an awkward angle in the first place? I like a woolly hat in the winter, though: one pulled down over my ears when there’s a pesky little wind blowing in off the North Sea.
But as a carer, I’m getting used to wearing a lot of hats.
When it comes to looking after Dad I’ve been known to act as GP, Community Nurse, Personal Care Assistant, Pharmacist, Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist, Nutritionist, Counsellor, Advocate, Administrator, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. Occasionally, I get to just be Daughter.
They’re not actual physical hats, of course, though perhaps that would help me remember what I’m supposed to be doing. Blue woolly hat for Administrator when it’s time to do the paperwork; straw boater for Community Nurse when it’s time to change Dad’s leg bag and green trilby means it’s time to re-order his medication.
Carers are the ultimate multi-taskers. We are jugglers extraordinaire. It’s one of the many hidden skills that carers acquire.
Sometimes I get mixed up about which hat I’m wearing. Or make the fatal mistake of trying to wear more than one hat at once, in a bid to get through my to-do list quicker. It never ends well, of course. Mistakes, forgetting things and probably taking a lot longer than if I’d just concentrated on one bloody thing at a time.
Sometimes I worry that all these multiple roles are reducing my attention span, as I skip from one task to the next, changing hats as I go. I don’t often get time to delve into anything properly: to spend time reflecting or analysing or just quietly ruminating for a bit. Task done; what’s next?
At the bottom of the pile of hats I wear is a slightly battered one, all scrunched-up into a ball under the weight of the other hats. Sometimes I dig it out and put it on and remind myself how much I like it.
It’s the one labelled “Me”.