Caring: A Family Affair
Caring: A Family Affair

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Caring: A Family Affair

2.3 What is an informal carer?

Lynne is a daughter and a sister. Is she also an informal carer?

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Transcript: Caring in Families

SCENE ONE

ARTHUR
You're late.
LYNNE
Bus was late. The lift's not working again.
ARTHUR
Did you get everything?
LYNNE
Yes.
ARTHUR
Give us the list. Where's the change?
LYNNE
Here you are.
ARTHUR
Is it raining?
LYNNE
It's been pouring all day.
ARTHUR
You didn't get the chicken.
LYNNE
They hadn't got that chicken thing. I got Shepherd's Pie.
ARTHUR
You know I hate Shepherd's Pie.
LYNNE
It's all right.
ARTHUR
It's horrible. You don't know what they put in it.
LYNNE
You ate it before.
ARTHUR
Maggie rang today.
LYNNE
Oh yeah?
ARTHUR
They're off on holiday on Saturday. Isle of Wight for a week. I said "Why don't you stop by on your way?" she reckons they haven't got time. I haven't seen those kids for two years now. Wouldn't recognise them probably. That's something, eh? Not recognise my own grandchildren!
LYNNE
I'll do the tea.
ARTHUR
Did you meet Eddie today?
I said, did you meet Eddie?
LYNNE
Yes.
ARTHUR
I don't know what you see in him - thick as three short planks, bone idle and selfish.
LYNNE
I'm heating up the stew and doing potatoes.
ARTHUR
The rent's due tomorrow. I've done the cheque out for you, and one for the electric as well. You can pay them both tomorrow, all right? They're by the phone.
LYNNE
All right.
ARTHUR
Don't go off with Eddie and forget them.
LYNNE
Course I won't.
ARTHUR
What's going on?
LYNNE
Someone at the door?
What do you want?
Bloody kids from downstairs messing around. They ran off.
ARTHUR
What's the matter with them? I blame the parents letting them run wild like that. I said to Doreen this morning, you didn't bring kids up like that in my day: letting them do whatever they like; no discipline. I mean, what'd happen if they broke in here, eh? They'd feel the back of my hand all right.
LYNNE
You wouldn't be able to!
ARTHUR
I've got my stick, haven't I?
LYNNE
Potatoes are boiling.
ARTHUR
Doreen put my washing out there for you.
LYNNE
I'll do it after tea.

SCENE TWO

DOREEN
Morning, Mr Durrant, how are we today?
ARTHUR
Same as bloody always.
DOREEN
Well, a bit nicer than yesterday, isn't it?
ARTHUR
Is it?
DOREEN
Ready for your bath this morning?
ARTHUR
There should be a clean towel in the airing cupboard. Lynne did the washing last night.
DOREEN
That lift's out of order again. It takes all the puff out of me coming up those stairs. I haven't seen your Lynne for months - how is she?
ARTHUR
She's all right. Still seeing that Eddie chap. Don't know what she sees in him.
DOREEN
Well, it's nice for her to have friends, isn't it?
ARTHUR
I don't know what they get up to. My Lil wouldn't have approved, you know.
DOREEN
You were fond of your Lil, weren't you? How long were you married?
ARTHUR
Thirty-two years. She was a good woman - a good mother.
DOREEN
She must have had a lot to deal with, specially when Lynne was little. Lynne and the other one ...
ARTHUR
Maggie.
DOREEN
Yes, quite a handful, I bet. Maggie doesn't live round here any more, does she?
ARTHUR
Yorkshire.
DOREEN
Oh, a long way off. Nice for you to have Lynne at home, though, specially since Lil passed on.
ARTHUR
Well, Lynne couldn't move away, could she? She couldn't live on her own. She can't look after herself - never will.
DOREEN
I suppose not, really. I'll go and run the bath.
How are those legs today? Let's have a look.
ARTHUR
The nurse is coming in later to do them, and my injection.
DOREEN
Oh I think they're looking better. I'll be vecy careful in the bath with them, don't worry. now, I'll take those pyjamas and put them in the kitchen for Lynne. She'll be doing another wash this week will she?
ARTHUR
Friday.
DOREEN
Do you want to use the toilet before your bath?
I said, do you want...
ARTHUR
I heard you. No.
DOREEN
Righty-ho then, let's get you into the bathroom, shall we?

SCENE THREE

RITA
Hallo, June, how are you?
JUNE (DOREEN)
I'm OK, how are you?
RITA
I'm fine. Just poped in to see Lynne.
.... and Eddie made me eat TWO Big Macs!
LYNNE
Oh hallo Rita.
RITA
Hallo Lynne, can I join you?
LYNNE
Sit down.
RITA
Thanks. How are you?
LYNNE
I'm all right. We're having a laugh 'cos Eddie took me out and bought me TWO Big Macs ...
RITA
Two?
LYNNE
..... and chips and a coke - a big one. I was nearly sick on the bus!
RITA
Oh dear. I saw Eddie going into the library last night.
LYNNE
Yeah, that's where I meet him. They're nice in there, Mrs Borden and Mr Trimble - he's the caretaker.
RITA
How's Eddie?
LYNNE
He's all right. We're going to the disco on Sunday. He's got tickets.
RITA
That's nice. Where's the disco?
LYNNE
At the club. They've got a special one 'cos it's Dave's birthday. Everybody's going. It'll be good. They've got him one of those .... you know, surprise women that come, only it's a policewoman ...
RITA
A kissogram?
LYNNE
Something like that. It'll be a laugh.
RITA
Yes. Well, don't stay otit too late or your dad'll get worried.
LYNNE
He can bloody well do what he likes, can't he?
RITA
Well, he can't really, can he? I mean, he does need you round the house, Lynne.
LYNNE
Washing, cooking, shopping, I'm fed up with it. And he's always moaning .
RITA
It can't be easy for him being at home all day in the wheelchair. It's no wonder he gets a bit down in the dumps. He and your mum looked after you when you were little and couldn't do things for yourself: so it's only fair for you to do things for him now he's getting on.
LYNNE
He's always bossing me about.
RITA
It's 'cos he can't do things for himself anymore.
LYNNE
It's not my fault.
RITA
How are things here at work? I saw Mr Morris on my way in and he said you were doing really well. "Very conscientious", he said.
LYNNE
Did he? What's that mean?
RITA
That you do your work well and take it seriously.
LYNNE
There's five off sick this week.
RITA
So you're extra busy?
RITA
I worked through dinnertime twice last week.
RITA
So you missed your meals?
LYNNE
That's when Eddie took me to MacDonalds.
RITA
Aren't you eating in the evenings with your dad?
LYNNE
Sometimes.
RITA
You must be sure to keep eating properly, Lynne.
LYNNE
Yeah.
I've got to go back now.
RITA
OK. I'll drop in again in a week or so. Have a good time at the disco .....
LYNNE
Cheerio.
RITA
..... and don't get home too late.

SCENE FOUR

ARTHUR
Nothing but football results on the telly. What are you doing?
LYNNE
Peeling potatoes, what does it look like?
ARTHUR
All right, all right.
Blimey, that's the third time they've smashed the shop window in one month! What is this place coming to?
LYNNE
I saw it - all boarded up again. Looks like it's shut.
Dad ...
ARTHUR
What?
LYNNE
I want some ofmy money for tomorrow.
ARTHUR
You what?
LYNNE
I want some money.
ARTHUR
What for? You've had the shopping money this week, and your bus money. What do you want more for?
ARTHUR
I'm going out tomorrow and I want some of my money. Going out? Where?
LYNNE
It's none of your business.
ARTHUR
What do you mean, "none of my business"?
LYNNE
I can do what I want. I don't have to tell you where I'm going.
ARTHUR
Oh yes you do. I can't have you going out all over the place just as you please. You're out enough as it is - Wednesday nights, Thursday nights, Sunday mornings. You're hardly ever in this house!
LYNNE
I'd rather be out than stuck in with you.
ARTHUR
It's that Eddie, isn't it? What's he up to? Where's he taking you? God knows what you get up to with him. Good for nothing ...
LYNNE
Shut up about Eddie.
ARTHUR
It's him that wants your money, isn't it?
LYNNE
No it's not. It's me. It's my money. I go to work and I earn that money. It's not yours - you're keeping it from me. It's not fair.
ARTHUR
Don't be stupid, Lynne. You can't look after the money - I have to do that. I give you what you need, don't I?
LYNNE
It's my money.
ARTHUR
How do you think we'd manage if I didn't look after the money? You wouldn't remember to pay the bills. You couldn't write a cheque out, could you? Blimey, we'd get thrown out of here ifl didn't remember when to pay the rent!
LYNNE
I wouldn't care. I hate it here.
ARTHUR
Oh, here we go again!
LYNNE
I do. I want to get out of here and get my own flat.
ARTHUR
Don't talk rubbish. How could you live on your own? You wouldn't manage five minutes. Now stop all this nonsense and finish those potatoes.
LYNNE
I want my money!
ARTHUR
Blimey, Lynne, put that knife down. Get away, will you?
Put it down! Lynne!

SCENE FIVE

ARTHUR
.... so I told the home care this morning. I think it's her boyfriend, egging her on, you know. I mean, it's not natural for a daughter to threaten her own father like that, is it? And me in a wheelchair and all -bloody scary, I can tell you.
SOCIAL WORKER
Of course, it must have been very upsetting. You're all right now?
ARTHUR
Yes, I'm OK. But when's she going to do it again, eh? The look she had in her eyes .... .I wouldn't put it past her to really have a go next time.
SOCIAL WORKER
Where is she?
ARTHUR
Locked herself in her room, hasn't she? Wouldn't come out to talk to Doreen this morning. Won't say a word.
SOCIAL WORKER
Has she locked herself in before?
ARTHUR
No. Well, she spends a lot of time in her room - most evenings, when she's not out somewhere with Eddie. But not locked in. Normally she's down the Salvation Army on a Sunday morning.
SOCIAL WORKER
Well, I can understand why you're worried Mr Durrant. Shall I see if I can persuade her to talk?
ARTHUR
You can try. It's the door by the kitchen.
SOCIAL WORKER
Hallo, Lynne, are you in there?
It's Dev, Dev Shanna. Remember me?
There's no need to be frightened. You can come out now. I'd like you to come out and talk to me. Are you there, Lynne? I really think it would be a good idea if you came out. We need to talk. I hear you had a little upset, and we could try and sort it out. There's nothing to worry about.
ARTHUR
I told you she wouldn't.
SOCIAL WORKER
Lynne, we really must talk this over together. I don't want to have to make any hasty decisions. You know what happened last night could have been very serious. Your father is not a well man. It was a nasty shock for him. I'm sure you want to say you're sorry. So please come out now so we can talk it over nice and calmly. I'm going to wait for you in the next room.
She might come out. Let me get this straight, Mr Durrant, has she ever threatened physical violence before?
ARTHUR
No, nothing like last night.
SOCIAL WORKER
Do you usually get on well together?
ARTHUR
Well, yes, so-so. She goes out more often than I like really. I mean, she works full-time during the day, so when she's out in the evenings as well, I hardly seem to see her.
SOCIAL WORKER
And she pulls her weight around the house?
ARTHUR
The washing and the cooking - not that she's much of a cook - and the shopping, but I have to write out the list and give her the money, of course. She's not really all there, you see, so she can't do normal things, not properly. I mean, she should've been put away years ago, but Lil wouldn't have it. You couldn't get her put somewhere, could you?
SOCIAL WORKER
Well, it's potentially a serious situation, Mr Durrant. I mean, if you're physically threatened - or even actually hurt - we might need to look at the alternatives. There are various places ....
ARTHUR
Oh look, here she is. Mr Sharma here says you might have to be put away.
SOCIAL WORKER
.... oh, hallo Lynne. Come and sit down. We're just talking about.. ... Lynne!
Come back!
End transcript: Caring in Families
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Caring in Families
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Activity 2: What Lynne does and does not do

0 hours 15 minutes

Listen to the first two scenes of the audio clip 'Caring in families: a case study' again. After listening, write down the answers to the questions below.

  1. What tasks does Lynne do for her father and what does she not do for him?

    • Washing him?

    • Washing his clothes?

    • Shopping for him?

    • Preparing and heating his meals?

    • Helping him on the toilet?

    • Dressing him?

    • Giving him his injections?

    • Paying the rent?

  2. Think about how the things Lynne does not do for Arthur differ from those she does.

  3. Is Lynne rewarded for what she does for Arthur?

Discussion

Here is what I noted:

  1. Lynne mentions shopping, preparing and heating his meals, doing his washing. She pays the rent. She does not wash him, assist him in going to the toilet, dress him or give him his injections.

  2. I thought that washing, toileting and dressing are tasks which demand considerable physical closeness and touching. This she avoids. Giving him his medication also requires a degree of physical closeness, perhaps, but its main difference from the tasks Lynne does lies in the level of responsibility implied. If she got the medication wrong consistently, her father's condition might get worse, and that would have serious consequences. So the things she does not do differ from those she does in two ways:

    • she does not do things which demand a lot of touching, physical closeness;

    • she does not do things which carry a high level of responsibility.

  3. Well, Lynne is not rewarded in any conventional sense. She is not paid. It is possible she gets some kind of emotional reward, although that is not immediately obvious.

Why does Lynne draw the line where she does? As far as physical closeness goes, if Lynne were to dress or wash Arthur it would be deviating from the normal rules which govern social behavior. It is not common for women to touch men unless they are in a fairly intimate relationship – partners, lovers, mothers with young sons. To start taking her father to the toilet would mean breaking an unwritten social rule about how adults behave towards one another, specifically how adult daughters behave with their fathers. She would see his genitals, possibly have to wipe his bottom. When it comes to administering medication, we heard it is the community nurse's responsibility. The nurse might well be held responsible if anything went wrong.

So these are tasks Lynne does or does not do for Arthur. Is this what we mean by care? It is a long way from the sort of care the poem refers to. It is not care in the sense of an all-enveloping love and protection. But it is done without payment, and it involves doing things for a family member which need doing. In fact it is much more like the sort of caring assumed in policy documents and in research studies on health and social care.

In 1994, Parker and Lawton analysed census data and drew up a list of the sorts of tasks done by informal carers in the home.

What informal carers do

  • personal services, like washing someone, or taking them to the toilet

  • physical labour, like changing bedclothes, doing laundry, moving people who cannot move without assistance

  • paperwork, like paying bills, writing letters

  • practical assistance, like fetching prescriptions, shopping

  • keeping people company

  • taking people out

  • giving medicine

  • keeping people occupied.

So is Lynne what we might describe as an ‘informal carer’? She does not call herself one, but nowadays we have government policy and legislation about carers. Is she the sort of person they mean? This is the subject of your next activity.

Activity 3 Is Lynne a carer?

0 hours 5 minutes

Compare the tasks Lynne does for Arthur with Parker and Lawton's list of what informal carers do (see Box above). Which of them does she do? Which does she not do?

Discussion

These are my thoughts:

  • Lynne's contribution to her father's welfare includes physical labour, paying bills and practical assistance.

  • She does not do what Parker and Lawton term personal services, and expresses distaste at the prospect of even touching him. She does not give him medicine.

  • As far as we know she does not take him out, or keep him occupied, but she does keep him company to a limited extent, just by being around at times.

If she did not do any of these things, someone else would have to do them – possibly a paid carer. In these terms, Lynne probably is a carer although, as I noted earlier, she does not call herself one, and neither do other people in the drama. Arthur certainly does not see her as his carer. To him, she is his mentally handicapped daughter.

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