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29 things only you'll know if you look after someone

As people who care for someone else, on a regular basis, there are things in life that only we know and understand. Caring for someone else is like being part of a club and there are always unexpected moments to keep us on our toes.

Illustration of two people chatting

One minute our heart is full from connecting with the person we care for. Then the next, we're at our wits end from having the same conversation on repeat or a lack of Blue Badge parking at our local shopping centre.

We have the patience of a saint (mostly 😉), the organisational skills of Marie Kondo and the medical knowledge of a junior doctor. Truly, from prescriptions to poo cleanups, we’ve dealt with it all.

So what does it really mean to be a carer? We’ve highlighted some of the unique, weird, wonderful and poignant things that only people who care for someone else can relate to.

From the good and the bad to the hilarious, we’d love to know how many things on this list have struck a chord with you, and what else you would add! Share with us on social media @mobilisecare.

1. Our step count can easily exceed 10k without leaving the house

Move over Mo Farah. We could easily start training for a Marathon with the amount of steps we rack up running around the house after other people. Oh and let’s not get started on the amount of calories we burn lugging shopping around and lifting people out of bed. Joe Wicks and Jane Fonda have nothing on our daily workout routines.

2. We feel like there’s no time to be ill

When we’re looking after someone else, our own health can take a backseat. Sure, we might be sneezing into our coffee, coughing up a lung and looking like an extra from The Walking Dead, but as far as our to-do list is concerned, there’s no time for a duvet day.

3. Instagram targets us with incontinence products

Ah, the good old days when the internet would send us ‘normal’ ads like tropical holidays and smartphones. Now we’re being targeted by the latest super-absorbency underwear technology and most of our browser history is medication names we can’t pronounce.

4. Relatives who don’t ‘care’ suddenly become experts

When we’re running ourselves ragged, providing round-the-clock care and somehow managing to keep it all together, a know-it-all relative will pipe up and tell us that we’re doing something wrong. Although they probably don’t mean any harm by their comments, it’s often the last thing we want to hear.

5. Looking at the array of cleaning products in Tesco may be as close to self-care as we can get

Forget fancy restaurants and spa weekends away, replacing our old washing up sponges is our version of a good time.

“I actually got very excited by my new washing up sponges. The company had packaged them beautifully and somehow they felt like a treat! 🫣”

6. A full nine hours of sleep is a myth

Seriously. We can’t remember the last time we woke up feeling rested. The kitchen coffee machine has become our best buddy and nobody in our household should utter a single word to us until we’ve finished that glorious first cup.

7. The hospital has become our second home

We’re back and forth to the hospital so much that we know the nurses on a first-name basis and the grisly sights of A&E no longer phase us.

8. We’ve made more complaints than had hot dinners

After years of passive-aggressive emails to the manager, we’ve mastered the art of presenting our complaint evidence like a high-powered lawyer in a true crime case. Especially while dealing with bad customer service, products that don’t work, and places that aren’t disability friendly.

9. The laundry is a never-ending task

The vicious cycle of never-ending laundry never seems to get any better. No matter how many loads we put on or pants we peg out, there are always dirty clothes hanging about at the bottom of the basket at the end of the day. Sigh.

10. We can assess a door width from several hundred yards away

We’ve got absolutely no coordination on the dancefloor, yet somehow we’re able to shimmy our way through a heavy set of double doors with a wheelchair in tow. And like the Terminator zoning in on its prey, we’re always on the lookout for pesky potholes and raised curbs that might obstruct our path.

11. Our CV now includes therapist, chef, housekeeper, PA and taxi driver rolled into one

At this point, we might as well be called ‘Mary Poppins’.

12. We’ve used our caring situation as an excuse to get out of social events we’d rather avoid

Raise your hand if you’ve ditched the in-law's BBQ or a school fundraiser because you had no social energy left in the tank.

13. Our summer reading list consists of medication guidance, therapies and stool charts

Ok so the Bristol Stool Form Scale or the our guide to bladder and bowel incontinence are not quite the thrilling beach read we’d hoped to delve into on a sunny day, but at least we’ll be prepared when sh*t hits the fan.

14. Nothing makes us squeamish anymore

Speaking of toilet trips, we’ve cleaned up so many accidents over the years that it’s hard to find anything that fazes us these days. Poo? No problem. Wee? Doesn’t bother us. Even the Bushtucker Trials on I’m a Celebrity look like a breezy walk in the park to us.

15. We’re fluent in carer lingo

Whether it’s PIP and DLA payments, or AA or AFIP forms, people outside of our caring circle have absolutely no clue what we’re talking about most of the time. And that’s excluding our impressive pharmacy chat. We can correctly spell the names of conditions and medications that most people can’t even say.

16. We often realise we're actually the expert in the room

All that online reading has turned us into Mensa-level geniuses (with a super high IQ level!) about specific health conditions, without us even realising it. We reckon we could win Mastermind with our in-depth medical knowledge.

"I’m getting pretty accurate with my scoring for clinical assessment of Parkinson’s. I accidentally joined in a discussion about whether my husband's turning on the spot was a ‘two’ or a ‘three’. Luckily the team let me join in."

17. When we get time to ourself, we never know what to do with it

If we're lucky enough to have some time off, we can fill the space with anxiety, while we try and decide if we use the time to do absolutely everything we can't normally do. Or do absolutely nothing at all…

18. Our predictive text is unusual at best

We have to apologize to friends when texting “feeding the cat’ becomes “feeding the catheter”...

19. We have no filter

Sorry to anyone who gets stuck on a table with us at Sunday lunch. We’ve forgotten that it’s not polite to talk about bowel movements in public, especially when people are eating.

“I talk about poo, to literally anyone and everyone. I think I’ve even stopped noticing that some people might actually be embarrassed or disgusted!”

20. We wish things were different sometimes

We can’t help but wonder what life would be like if things had been different. We might picture our mornings without a life-changing diagnosis, or before their condition got worse. It’s natural to feel this way, and knowing our feelings can help us to process them a little bit better. Feeling a little (or a lot) sad, is a thing too - it’s our own kind of grief - a carer’s grief.

21. There are cold cups of tea all over our house

It’s our biggest annoyance. We make a cup of tea and the washing machine or medical machinery starts beeping. Next thing we know, half an hour has gone by and that lovely cuppa is ice cold and no longer drinkable. It’s a simple fact of life that tea stays firmly unfinished in our house.

22. Going to the toilet is the only time we get to sit down all day

We never thought it’d be something we looked forward to, but bathroom breaks are the one time we can sit down and (mostly) be left alone in peace. Bliss. Those of us also working, are also likely to consider our commute to be a bit of rest and relaxation!

“I used to hate my train journey to work. These days, it’s 45 mins of bum on seat, no demands me time”

23. To-do lists are our love language

As are mind dumps, planners, journals, charts, and trackers. Our friends compare our list-making skills to Monica Gellar from Friends, but without army-level organisation, everything would come toppling down like a house of cards.

If we'd like some inspiration on how to make our to-do lists work for us, take a look at our short blog.

24. Sneaky snacking in the kitchen is the norm

Scoffing down a couple of handfuls of crisps while putting the dishwasher on is a new daily ritual.

25. We only wear practical clothes

Today’s fashion trends absolutely baffle us. Crop tops look incredibly chilly. Flared trousers could get caught in a wheelchair. And you can’t tolerate a jacket that doesn’t come with pockets for tissues. These days, we wear clothes that make our job easier and that means comfortable, wipe-clean and functional.

26. We know all the hold music on our GP’s phone line by heart

We’re constantly on speakerphone listening to Take That and ABBA.

27. We sometimes daydream about having a minor injury or sickness

Nothing life-threatening of course, but a temporary ailment that might give us a little break from our caring… without us feeling guilty about it.

28. There are days when we have to laugh or we’ll cry

And caring can be relentless too. If we’re not in the thick of dealing with someone’s immediate needs, we’re probably already thinking about what needs to be done next. Sometimes it all gets too much, and we feel like we can’t just keep going.

29. …but it can be worth it for a smile or thumbs up

Because when we share a moment of genuine gratitude with the person we care for, it can be all the motivation we need to keep toughing it out and moving forward.

And finally...

Have we missed something on our list? Make sure to share this blog post on Facebook, Instagram, or tag @mobilisecare on Twitter, and add your own carer ‘moment’.

Feel free to also join us for a Mobilise Cuppa. These are free 45-min video calls where we can connect with around 12 other people who are also looking after a loved one. It’s an inclusive and friendly group, and a great place to laugh (or cry!) about the things only us people who care will understand.

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Catherine Daley
Catherine Daley
Apr 17, 2023

I can identify with every single one of these. I constantly repeat myself with what day it is. I am constantly tired and only find 1 hour of energy a week if I can. I only became a carer because my mum had an accident whilst in hospital 3 years ago. I don't get any help off family apart from 1 off my brothers. They don't want to know as I got called stupid for being a full time carer for my mum but no one else will help me as they say we'll it's your job. I look after my mum 24/7 take her to appointments and make appointments. I know everyone by name at the doctors surgery and…

Ann-Marie Ramsdale
Ann-Marie Ramsdale
May 29, 2023
Replying to

A family member asked me why I look after my mum and looked at me incredulously when I said “because she’s my mum” “but what about this that happened 40 years ago“ was the reply. Unlike them I am not living in the past and am happier than mum is with someone who wants to look after her.


Apr 17, 2023

Thank you. I can identify with the majority of the 29. I have a situation where I am guilt ridden constantly. Having happily spent several years caring for a neighbour in his 40s with cerebral ataxia who lost ability to function. We finally communicated through our own sign language and I was at the end of phone 24 hours a day. All done happily and with patience. He has now passed and I find myself a 24 hour carer for my husband of 56 years with mixed dementia. I find I have no patience, get cross with him. I tend feel resentment and then guilt for these feelings. I have found that once a diagnosis is made you are on…

Apr 17, 2023
Replying to

Hi jacquie60 - it seems to be me to be entirely natural for it to feel very different caring for a neighbour and caring for your husband - there are so many factors involved - including the fact that although you have a choice in both situations as to whether to "care" - with one's spouse it seems less of a choice somehow - "in sickness and health" and all that, and somehow makes a difference to how we feel about what we are doing. Then there is the issue of the relationship - 56 years is a hugely long time to be married, to form the bonds that are between you, and for mutual interdependency to become established and…

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