Pressure of Time

Made it across with water with a borrowed i-pad reaching Belfast in the sun.

It’s been a gorgeous day. Earlier I was looking out of the kitchen window at stripes of White cloud across a still blue sky. Being that little bit further north, the days are a bit longer, giving the illusion of more time.

Ah, time. That’s what it all boils down to. I found a message on my mobile from the hospital, and called back. It was to find out how we are doing with our looking at nursing homes. I mentioned one I’d found online and asked if she knew it.

Have you visited it? I was asked.

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Reality Check

Another evening in the garden. It’s very windy tonight and Not Cat is chasing unseasonably brown and fallen leaves instead of insects.

I’m not crying.

I’ve cried a lot today. Every time I’ve thought of Mother. Every time I’ve thought of the impossible choices to be made. Every time I’ve thought of the colleague who said “Well, she’s old. Her life is over. It’s the young ones I care about,” yet who described herself today as empathetic, a person who knows when someone is low and gives them a hug. Continue reading

Viva Voce

At the start of next week there’s a meeting at the hospital which may decide Mother’s fate.

I understand the hospital wants firm decisions to be taken about where Mother will go when she is medically fit to leave its portals.

The family, on the other hand, wants an information gathering session, and for any decisions to be deferred until we know if Mother’s leg mends properly, and for the sore on her heel, a legacy of poor care in the same hospital, to be history. Only then, we feel can we make an informed decision.

There should be a good turn out. Doctors, trauma nurses, OTs, physios,a social worker, a District Nurse, someone from the scheme where Mother lives, three members of her family, a family friend if he can make it, and if we’re lucky, a representative from the Alzheimer’s Society. Continue reading

Tuesday

I missed a call from the hospital social worker and she had gone home when I was able to call back, so I have not been able to ask any of the myriad questions going round my mind.

I’ve just come off the ‘phone from Aunt who is very upset and wound up. As she suffers from high blood pressure this is also worrying. I tried to just let her vent some of her stress and felt my head starting to pound.

Note to self: replenish stocks of camomile tea and lavender oil.

So, no real progress, but no guns to our heads from the hospital either. My research into care/nursing homes doesn’t look that promising. The ones we have visited are the closest, and a shocking number don’t have en suite. The one that really confuses me says there are 60+ residents in 35 single rooms. Are they in bunk beds? Maybe there’s a rota system.
“Up you get Mrs Jones, it’s Mrs Smith’s turn to have the room now.” Continue reading

Monday

I can’t say we have got very far since I posted last night.

My chances of getting away in a couple of weeks for a break seem remote. I’m obviously not happy about it.

Not just because I’ve been looking forward to catching up with Cousin and meeting the new dog, but also in the wake of Olga’s death a family reunion is being planned to coincide with my visit. I know Mother’s brother and sister in Belfast will want to talk to me about her, and I’d welcome their thoughts. Telephone conversations are not the same. Continue reading

Long Weekend

Friday

Out in the garden with the netbook. Barely able to see the keys, Finally succeeded in getting online.

Tried earlier with Aunt anxiously following me with my fleece over her arm.

No joy.

Though Aunt became quite expert at seeing how few bars we had.

We tried again in Sainsbury’s car park.

No joy.

We are looking for nursing homes. We feel the hospital has already made its decision and no matter what we say, Mother will not be allowed home.

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Hopes and Fears

The ambulance has been called.
Mother will shortly be on her way to hospital.
I know I haven’t really failed her, but that’s how it feels.
I hope is that it is the other hospital, which is slightly more accessible from London, and I hope the care and understanding of those with dementia there is better.
I hope she comes home again, to her flat, and is not rerouted to a nursing home where she will not know the staff, the other residents or the layout.
I hope one night she dies peacefully in her sleep, at home after a day where she has been happy and content.
I hope.

Professional Ignorance Must Change

My grandmother was a nurse, so were two of her daughters. My aunt served in the Queen Alexandra Nursing Corps, and my mother qualified during the Second World War first as a State Registered Nurse, then a State Certified Midwife.

After the war ended, the National Health Service was introduced. Mother was tremendously proud of her profession and of the achievements of the new health service. As you would expect, I grew up to respect health professionals and to support the NHS.

So it goes hard with me to make negative criticism of the care and professional standards I have witnessed during Mother’s hospital stays. I expect health professionals to know their stuff, and when I realised that not just one or two, but the majority knew little or nothing about dementia, it was an unwelcome shock. Worse, they were not willing to admit their ignorance. My suggestions and advice were largely ignored, some staff listened to me with barely concealed impatience. Who suffered from this? Why, Mother of course. I am sure I am an irritating relative, but I’m not going to sit back politely and I watch medical staff, from the consultant downwards, make life more difficult for Mother than it already is, or dismiss her as incapable, without intervening. Continue reading

First Night Nerves

At nine o’clock last night, I was sitting in semi-darkness in Mother’s living room, grateful for the sound of a busy bell as Not Cat cantered briefly back through the door for a rest in his explorations. Mother came home at four yesterday afternoon.
On Monday, when I called the ward, I was told transport had been booked for the morning and to expect her between nine and midday. So I drove up in the evening, calling the AA out after the first third of the journey when the car behaved oddly.
At half past twelve yesterday, wondering if I should be putting lunch on, I called the ward again to find out what time Mother had left.
She was still there.
Transport, I was told, had been booked for the afternoon and she could be home anytime between one thirty and nine in the evening. So I could have gone to get petrol in the morning after all. And slept a little later. Or even driven up yesterday morning and enjoyed Monday night in my own bed.
Oh well.

I know the hospital staff are stretched, but they don’t have a monopoly on being busy and having to juggle demands. Sometimes I find them quite cavalier in their attitudes.

Anyway, the important thing is Mother is home.

She looks frail and is certainly disorientated. But she recognised her flat, and the moment the ambulance crew had left, up she got to go to the loo. I went with her, guessing correctly she’d be wearing some form of incontinence pad that she would first struggle with and then discard.

While she was sitting on the loo, I helped her out of her trousers and into a fresh Tena pant. For some reason I started counting. Maybe it’s the influence of Janh’s counting backwards from two hundred cycling up hills. I don’t know that would work for me. Cycling up hills is not something I’m planning to do anytime in the next century. So one two, buckle my shoe, I said. Three four knock at the door. Mother joined in. I counted, she completed the rhyme. The only one she got stuck on was nineteen twenty. Continue reading

Not Fit for Purpose

I am hoping Mother will be home from hospital early next week.

The hospital social worker is convinced she needs to go into a nursing home. She may be right, but she’s not coming up with the evidence.

Once again Mother has been assessed as being unable to perform simple tasks; to walk; to understand instructions.

I asked to be at the assessment. It was carried out without me. I pointed out that I had stayed East especially to attend. Another assessment was arranged.

In conversation on the ‘phone I had already underlined the importance of giving short clear instructions; making tasks ‘real’; not asking questions; giving Mother space.

“Do you want to go home?” asked the OT, “You need to show us you can stand up if you do.”

Obviously there was a great deal wrong with this approach, but I limited myself to saying, “That won’t work”. Continue reading