Mosse finds it hard to shoehorn her thoughts into the impoverished bureaucratic language used in the “care industry” and complains at being designated a “carer”, with its implication of inequality and the passivity of the dependent. Here, she indignantly insists that her surviving mother-in-law may now be dependent, but is also still very much her strong-willed, vibrant self. Mosse refers to herself deprecatingly as an “extra pair of hands” even if she is now “full-time”. The book’s title speaks to the importance of tact in protecting dignity and respect, and Mosse describes admiringly how her mother cared for her father when he had Parkinson’s. “She never spoke for him, never took over unless he wanted her help, never let the things he could no longer do become more important than the things he could do.” She questions how and why we fetishise independence when the reality of human experience is always interdependence. Here is a book that sees, in this, a cause for celebration.
This is a wise and kindly book, all the wiser for its honesty. Mosse warns us that it is a personal story and not a “how-to” book for carers, although those new to the role will find plenty of practical advice, including a list of helplines and charities. An Extra Pair of Hands is mainly a heartfelt reminder of why people become carers. “Most of all,” she writes, “it’s a story about love.” When Mosse took on the care of her parents, she saw it as a privilege rather than a duty, a chance to repay the unconditional love they gave to her: “Holding tight to the hand that once held mine.”