Darren Gormley is a blogger and a professional carer.

All blogs are the views of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Age.
 

I write this blog post on the top-deck of a 28 bus just minutes after a home visit to Maria, an 86-year-old lady living with vascular dementia. I am the only familiar face to breach the four walls of her one bedroom flat, which she now tellingly calls her prison cell, for she has no friends or family to call upon in her time of need.

Almost as soon as Maria has wedged open her ludicrously heavy front door she begins to weep hysterically, “I just can’t take this anymore, I want to die, why won’t God take me?” Her frail body frantically trembling, she can barely grasp for air given just how much she has devoted to her desperate plea for help, which is so penetrating I am concerned a neighbour might think she is being assaulted.

While this is certainly not the first time I have encountered this level of emotional intensity, today is different. I guess I too am having a shit day. You see like Maria I also live with the harsh realities of depression. Like Maria I have some soul searching of my own to do.

While I would normally hide beneath any number of regurgitated textbook responses professionals like me are renowned for espousing, in the hope that it might instantly alleviate our sense of hopelessness, today I do absolutely nothing. Confronted by what Maria is sharing I feel on overwhelming sense of vulnerability. As I have no way of escaping I have no choice but to embrace it. Uncharacteristically, in the face of my existential insignificance, I stand up, walk towards Maria, open my arms as wide as possible and invite her to hug me. I just don’t know what else to do. Maria leans in and grabs me with such an intensity of need it immediately renders me motionless. She doesn't let go for what feels like an eternity, time simply stood still. Her breathing eventually calms, the tears run dry and her exhausted body slowly slumps back into her armchair. Now I am sitting on the bus home trying to figure out who really needed that hug most.

I share this personal story against an increasing political narrative which Jeremy Hunt provocatively calls a cultural shift towards compassionate care. I am not entirely sure whether I should be embarrassed or proud to publicly confess this but I have absolutely no idea what he is talking about. This begs the question, how on earth are we to cultivate this culture Jeremy has so kindly promised.

What do you think needs to happen to make the UK the best country to grow older in?

What concerns you most about growing older and why?

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