Being With Mother

Mother and I had lunch together. She was struggling rather with the spoon she had to use. I think I shall look at what might be available from the Alzheimer’s Society. Then we went to her room. She was tired and taken off her glasses and disappeared them. They later turned up up her jumper. I should have guessed. Sometimes she puts them up her sleeve. She dozed while we listened to Welsh Songs, hymns mainly. They were supposed to be Irish Songs, but the wrong CD was in the case, and Mother enjoys it.
Suddenly, she became agitated. It was about thirty minutes since she had finished her lunch, so even if I didn’t know how agitated she becomes when she wants the loo, it wouldn’t have been hard to work out. I went to find a member of staff and met the Nurse-in-Charge. I told her mother needed the toilet. She looked me in the eye and said she would have to wait as staff were having their lunch. I said my mother needed the toilet straightaway. She pursed her lips. This makes me so mad. I have had conversations with management who say that this doesn’t happen, that staff should have staggered lunches, so there is always someone who can work with a resident.
By the time the two very pleasant carers arrived, Mother had soiled herself. They also asked her questions, yet only last week I had an exchange of emails with the manager asking her to remind staff not to ask Mother questions, as she had been told Mother was increasingly agitated. All the notes are Mother’s room. Staff either don’t have time, or lack the inclination, to read them. But these two were evidently interested to learn that Mother enjoys being sung to, and commented that they had been dancing the other day and she had loved it.
Once changed and the room freshened with liberal applications of M&S lavender spray, we settled down to poetry. Mother seemed to be hallucinating a little, convinced there was someone else in the corner of the room. I went to the loo. When I returned, she said to me proudly, my daughter is here. She even told a staff member my name. She joined in with Sea Shanty, anticipating the ends of the lines of the first stanza. Moments like these are precious beyond price.
Various items are missing from Mother’s room. No one could tell me where they were. No one seemed that interested in finding out. She has four rugs, None were in her room. She was chilly, and there was nothing to put round her. Luckily, one was brought back mid afternoon from the laundry. So that’s another thing to go on her birthday list.
Before I left, I met the Activities Organiser. She was quite jolly, but from the way she spoke to another resident, I doubted how much she understood about dementia. In the current climate where one of David Cameron’s wheezes has been to suggest that the young jobless could be put to work in care homes, I doubt things are going to improve any time soon.


32 thoughts on “Being With Mother

  1. It’s most;y about training, sadly the statutory stuff about H&S, food hygiene etc doesn’t teach staff specialist stuff or even how to just be with the people they care for.

    • I agree, yet this is a special area for those living with dementia, and it has received very good reports when inspected. I think most of the carers do care, but there are never enough in duty, they are paid very little. As a society we do value the care of our old people in general, let alone those with dementia. Viz David Cameron’s comments. I only want people who want to do this work, who want to see beyond the dementia to the person struggling with this horrible condition to look after my mother.

  2. My heart goes out to you. My mother-in-law was in a nursing home for 5 years because of senility and it was so painful to watch. Three of her four children lived locally so with spouses too, she had frequent visitors. Residents get better care when there are regular visitors who are checking in on them. It was very painful to watch her memory fail to the point that she couldn’t follow a conversation on TV and then didn’t recognize most people. Pretty soon all we have left is a shell of a person and our memories of what she had been. Consider yourself hugged.

    • It’s a long time since Mother has followed a television programme. She used to be firmly attached to radio 4 most of the time. My au t and a good friend of Mother’s visit most weeks, and there is a lovely lady who volunteers to see her and who takes my aunt when she can. I need to chase up what is happening with visiting clergy, as there was an excellent curate who clicked with Mother straightaway.
      Conversations are difficult to sustain at best, which is why it has been such a joy to discover how we can still communicate via the poetry she always loved.

  3. Isobel, how unremittingly grim for you both, I am so sorry. Reading your account makes me despair: we all head for this time of life, and have a right to dignity and consideration. The lunch thing makes me see scarlet. it really does.No-one should have to go through something like that just because staff are not available. How atrocious.
    I do hope things improve soon, I really do.

    • It could be worse. We rejected one care home immediately as it was obvious from the word go that residents had to fit in with the regime and the regime would not be adapted to their needs. The attitude of the nurse in charge makes me very cross. She needs to lead by example. She was free, and I am happy to be an extra pair of hands. We could have helped Mother together.
      I do not think there is the political will for things to improve. Rhetoric yes, will no. 11th November I shall be honouring my mother’s war service. She nursed throughout the 2WW, suffered the privations of life at that time, and though not in the armed services, and no did not lose her life, she did give her life to the service of the country at that time.

  4. to be honest i dont believe in those care houses, they only provide partial health care, where as real care could only be provided by children and grand children, they make our old people, be happy and hopeful,.and consequently healthier, means live longer.

    • In an ideal world, all our elderly, all our infirm, whether young or old, would be loved and caed for in the bosom of their families. However, just to be with your family is not an automatic passport to good care and love. There are plenty of neglected, sidelined old people living with their families around the world. Believe me, I have tried to think of ways I could live with my mother and look after her. I think she would be lonelier, as where she is she meets a variety of people. I would struggle to care for her alone.
      There are no easy answers, but I do think the quality of care in care homes could and should be vastly improved. However, that costs money. Here most care homes are run by private companies who want to make a profit. Those in the public sector are subject to savage cuts.
      As to longevity, my mother will be 93 in just over three weeks, yet she was baptised at home as she was not expected to survive a week.

      • it seems your a single daughter,
        to be honest when i commented i had the picture of my grand mother, she has 4 boys and 3 girls(including my mother) when she had a heart attack years ago she was blessed to have my uncles around her, they all cooperate to provide her with the needed care,
        as for me, am worried cause am a single son for mom too

        • Actually I am not, but for reasons I shan’t go into here, I am the one responsible for my mother.
          I used to wonder about setting up a cooperative, a place where sons and daughters took it in turn to stay and look after their parents. A home in the real sense, where the dog slept in the kitchen, the cat snoozed on someone’s lap, where the elderly could help out with such tasks as they could manage. Feeling useful is so important. I would certainly buy into somewhere like that if I could.

  5. When I read this post, I was unsure what words I had to describe what I felt for you. There was warmth when you said your mother had remembered your name and a lot of sadness and frustration too. Then I read the comment above and I just felt angry at what I feel is an insensitive comment.

    • Thanks Scroob. I think a lot of people have a romantic idea of. The elderly being warmly looked are in the family home which does not translate into reality. Too often elderly person is trapped in an upstairs room, unable to manage the stairs,; or if downstairs, parked in a corner, surrounded by noises and conversations that confuse rather than calm. Neglect comes in many forms. The big advantage I can see of being with the family is that memories are more likely to be kept alive, the shared family culture enjoyed.
      There are wonderful care homes. They come at a price and it is a debate in this country at least that we are not being sufficiently honest to have.

      • I think the other hard part about this issue is that sometimes the perception is when a person goes to a high care facility that this means their family members are no longer the carer. So very untrue. It is clear that you continue to provide much love, support and dedication to your mum.

        I hope that the quality of care in your mum’s home improves.

        • Yes, I think you are right. The imputation is that you are in a home, forgotten and uncared for by friends and family. Unfortunately, the care homes also seem to resent continuing interest by the family. We are in an ongoing struggle to be kept up to date.

    • Most of the carers work really hard. They do not stop. They don’t have time. The two carers who had built up a very good relationship with Mother have both left. We are starting from scratch again.

  6. All the staff have their lunch at the same time? I’m speechless that happens, and horrified at the consequences.

    The prospect of getting old and having to rely on care doesn’t fill me with much confidence 😦

  7. I am so happy for the precious moments you shared Isobel because they are memories I know you will hold close to your heart. As to the lunch situation where all the workers eat at the same time, in my opinion that is pure selfishness on their part. I am sure they do that so they can all have some talk and laugh time. It doesn’t take rocket science for them to see that at least two people/carers need to be available to take care of residents. I mean seriously, what would happen if someone went into cardiac arrest during the staff’s lunch? Would it have to wait? An absurd situation that wouldn’t take much to fix, they all just want to have lunch together to smooze. CH and I wonder what will happen to us because we have no children, certainly no guarantee or comfort that you will be taken care of in your old age. I hope to make my own decision when it becomes necessary as to the time I die.

    • To be fair, the carers were working their socks off. It is a management problem I think. Not enough staff, presumably because that would damage profit margins, and not staggering their lunch breaks.
      Like you, I have no children, and I dread to think of the level of care I might receive.

  8. It’s pure negligence to allow staff to lunch at the same time. There should be at least two members of staff to attend to residents at any given time.

    I love it that you can still connect and entertain with poetry and songs that your mother recognises and likes. 🙂

      • To the manager, the solution should be barn-door obvious! Humph! Where’s the CQC when you need ’em? You might ask, actually, if they have a protocol to ensure resident needs are cared for at *all* times – because if they haven’t, they should!

        • I have to compose an email to them today. They are not giving me the weekly updates agreed on. Instead, I am being told I can ring at anytime. Grrr. I only now my mother’s meds have been changed as the GP called.
          Also they are washing Mother’s fleeces at too high a temperature, something we stipulated when she moved in should not happen, so they are shrinking and not keeping her as covered as they should. £1000 wp this home charges. It is outrageous.

        • Time to kick up a fuss, I think. I have no idea how they are shrinking fleeces. They are the easiest of garments to wash and dry… Yes. It is outrageous. :-/

        • They wash them at too high a temperature then put them in the tumble drier. We had the same problem at the scheme. It took ages to stop staff tumble drying everything at the highest temperatures. All mother’s good jumpers were shrunk to the size a seven year old might wear, and felted.

  9. My father has dementia, fortunately though sometimes regrettable as it is an enormous sacrifice, my mother is his sole caregiver. She is nagged by some to place him in a facility, but she will have none of that. She thinks and have to agree, he would not last long in one, As I doubt he would not get the level of attention he gets from her. She constantly nudges him to do as much as he can for himself and keeps his mind stimulated. Here in Canada there does seem to be plenty of staff, however that is maintenance and there is more to taken care of someone then just feeding and bathing. You are so right, what is needed is dedicated, well trained health care providers.

    I cannot help but think, we would not for an instance consider to some how come up a plan and way to train those current unemployed to dole out a education curriculum to children, in practical terms it could be done -but! Yet it is okay when it comes to providing meaningful care to the elderly.

    By the way, this was extremely well written.

    • Tough on your mother, but I think she is right by and large to keep your father at home if she can manage it, but I imagine the personal cost is high. Stimulus is key in my opinion. Finding new ways to communicate is hard, but so so rewarding when you break through. I so agree that maintenance is more than feeding and bathing. Man cannot live by bread alone.

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