I have been reviewing my posts from last year. It is far from riveting stuff.
There was a great deal about Covid-19 (no surprise there); a bit of nostalgia; quite a lot about getting out of London, when possible (and there were more escapes than I mentioned – including a very enjoyable weekend in Paris), and much moaning over the last few months about dealing with nonagenarian parents.
It didn’t feel like a year of achievement. Perhaps getting out of London at all was an achievement? Many people never managed to go on holiday. However… no CD released, no book written, a few visits to art galleries… (actually, five, now that I think of it, notably the incomparable Louvre). And did I really go to the cinema just twice?
We did have the rear windows repaired and repainted. I did make some progress with learning Romanian. I did see the Herne Hill Society’s Ruskin book published to great success, and I can take a little credit for that. And I did meet up with lot of old friends, some of whom I had hardly seen for 40 years, including my former tutor, John Rutherford. But it feels like another year of frustration.
We are all hoping for a better 2022. But it hasn’t started well for me.
At 6:45am Dad is up and sitting in the lounge. He looks OK (for him), so I decide to sneak back upstairs to bed. I managed to get more sleep than usual last night. At 7:45am I make him a cup of tea, accompanied by the obligatory two digestive biscuits. He coughs because the crumbs catch his throat. He says he slept reasonably well. He only got up once in the night, but wet his pyjama trousers. Mum is still in bed, which makes things easier.
Dad staggers off to get changed, which takes an age, even with my assistance. At 9am the front doorbell rings. A nurse has arrived to give Dad an INR test, which will dictate how much Warfarin he should take for the next few days. “Tell her she’ll have to wait,” he says. He’s still searching for clean underpants. I find a pair. Eventually a blood sample is taken: the first medical intervention of the day. It’ll be 5mg today and tomorrow. Where’s his yellow book? Dad has a pile of identical little yellow books going back more than eight years. Why does he hang onto them? I find the most recent one, which is full. Nurse says, ”I think I have another one in the car”. I put the new one, once her entry is completed, on top of the pile. It is one of my new duties to ensure he takes the correct dose.
Just as the nurse leaves the phone rings
It’s the Man from Medequip, who is coming to deliver a guard for the bed to make it easier for Dad to get up and more difficult for him to fall on the floor.
Last Sunday night, while I was in London, Dad fell in the bedroom and was probably knocked out cold. Mum, who has dementia, was unable to ring 999 or activate his fall alarm. Dad lay on the floor for – probably – eight hours before being found by a delivery driver, who somehow came across my mobile number. But who opened the front door? We are not sure. The neighbours rallied round; we are very lucky to have them. Dad was taken by ambulance to Arrowe Park Hospital. Which explains why I am back, once again, in Upton, on an unscheduled visit… after spending just two nights in London in my own bed.
Dad remembers that it’s time to take his first Amoxicillin: three a day for five days as he has a chest infection. Then I ring the GP to find out if both parents should be taking one Furosemide (aka water pill) a day, because the instructions are not clear. The answer is “yes”.
The back doorbell rings. It is another nurse, here to take blood samples for some reason or another. It is now 10:15am and I am still trying to help Dad put on his socks and slippers.
Mum is sitting on the edge of the bed. I have to find her some clothes, including clean pants and her black bra (because it is the only one she will wear). Dad remembers that we need to get her to remove her upper denture and clean it. She keeps promising to do it… but won’t. I present Mum with a cup of tea and a biscuit. I pour a cup for myself but I don’t get to drink it because someone is knocking on the back door. It is a woman selling a “relaunched” tea brand from a van. “Do you drink tea or coffee?” A chance would be a fine thing. I can order a pack of tea and get a free tin of luxury biscuits. Wonderful. “I don’t Iive here, I am visiting my parents”. “Do they drink tea?” Eventually she gets the message and pisses off.
Mum is now dressed and Dad struggles out of his chair to make breakfast. “Where’s the prunes?” I explain that I’ve already taken the tin out of the fridge and that they are on the work surface behind him. Someone knocks on the back door. It is a neighbour asking if we want anything from the shops. Dad remembers that they have a tumble dryer. So it’s my next task, or next but one, to wash the bedding and take it across the road so it can be dried and go back on their bed by tonight.
Then the post arrives
There is the monthly invoice for Mum’s fall alarm watch (which she doesn’t wear because she doesn’t know what it is for). Yesterday I was told that fall alarms don’t go off unless you fall further than a metre; so falling out of bed won’t activate it. You have to press the button. Unless, of course, you are lying unconscious on the floor.
It is now 11:30am, so I have half an hour’s free time before the carer arrives (I can only get someone to come in for 45 minutes, Monday to Friday, and nobody at the weekend). Unless she can’t come because of a positive Covid test?
My wife, who has been trying to work from the upstairs bedroom, reminds me that I am supposed to be having a chat with Upton Manor care home, one of the best in Wirral and only a few minutes away. In any case I know they are closed to new entrants and visitors this week owing to a Covid outbreak (as are 76 care homes and related institutions in Wirral, I am informed). So there’s no relief coming from that quarter, as yet.
With luck I will be able to make myself some toast – for what I had hoped would be breakfast. I search for the marmalade, but someone rings the front doorbell. It is Medequip Man to deliver and fit the guard for the bed. I watch him doing it. When I return to the living room Dad is talking about needing a new pair of glasses. A Pinteresque conversation ensues. After 10 minutes it dawns on me that he doesn’t want go for an eye-test (I made an appointment for him a couple of months ago, which he promptly cancelled) but a new pair with the same prescription as last time: five years ago. I make a note to deal with it later.
At 11:45am Mum starts complaining, again, about the “horrible” maroon slippers she’s wearing: the ones I bought to keep her feet warm. She gets up to go to the toilet, and I look towards the kitchen and remember that I need to clear the breakfast dishes and associated mess. Dad wants his hearing aid. I go off to the bedroom to find it.
He coughs horribly
Mum exits the toilet, then veers off to the bedroom to change her trousers because “they are wet”. I check the bathroom floor, then look out two clean pairs for her to choose from. I am still trying to strip the bed and get the bedding into the washing machine. Then Dad gets up, very unsteadily, presumably to go to the toilet. I can hear that Anne, still in the bedroom, is trying to conduct a work meeting on Teams. She comes down for yet another coffee and asks me if I’ve spoken to Upton Manor yet. I nearly lose my temper. At 1pm, precisely one hour late, the carer arrives. But not Kelly, the one we were expecting. What happened to her?
The afternoon continues in the same vein, with calls from nurses, social workers and, comically, a cowboy roofer from Blackpool looking for beer money.
I could write a lot about Dad’s two-day stay in Arrowe Park Hospital but for now I will just say: he lost his wedding ring after 70 years of marriage (…but was he actually wearing it?); he lost his glasses; and they sent him home with a cannula still in his right arm. And in any case, why were they about to send a man of nearly 96 home in a taxi at 8:30pm on a cold January night just because he said he wanted to go home? When he did arrive in a hospital taxi at 10am the following morning I didn’t even know he was on his way!
A complaint will be made
When I can find time, that is. Because when Anne goes home, as she soon must, I will be Mum and Dad’s sole carer for the foreseeable future. Needs must, but it is bloody hard. And when I go to bed I know that I may awake to desperate calls from Mum. Or maybe she won’t notice what’s happening.