Wednesday 26 January is Dad’s 96th birthday, an event I was beginning to think would not take place. He has looked close to death on several occasions. But what do I know? Caring for one elderly parent is difficult and exhausting, but caring for two (one of whom has dementia) is almost impossible. It is my new normal, and memories of life in my own home are starting to fade. Most of the time Anne has been with me, thankfully, but she has to go back to London later this morning. Although Dad is far from being on form we have to do something to recognise the day, so I nip out to Sainsbury’s to buy a sugary cake and invite the neighbours to pop in, in ones and twos. He also receives a couple of phone calls.
They have not seen so many people in a single day for years.
The following day it’s back to the routine: making early morning tea, served with carefully measured medication, choosing Mum’s underwear and helping Dad into his Y-fronts, followed by his shirt, trousers, socks, slippers and pullover. At breakfast Mum doesn’t eat her blueberry wheaties so I snap at her. It’s not her fault, and in fact I don’t much like them either. When Shaunaugh the teenaged carer arrives at 11am I go to Warwick Park to cool off. Then comes a visit from two nurses; finally, Dad’s INR is more stable.
Next, the District Nurse examines his leg wounds; again, there is quite an improvement. I get a call from Medequip; there is no pillow support available as yet. Dad wants to check his medication online using Patient Access. He thinks he’s ordered more sleeping tablets (Nitrazepam)… I discover that he hasn’t. Eventually he believes me. I ring the GP’s surgery to expedite it.
Then it’s time for lunch
While I’m composing an email to the lawyers who are registering our Enduring Power of Attorney, Sally, the Adult Care social worker, rings to offer moral support. Although I have never met her, I feel a connection. In any case I will talk to anyone who will listen. I explain my plan: assuming we eventually get Dad into a care home, we use that to convince Mum to follow him. Not that she really has a choice, but she seems determined to fight to the very end, uttering her catchphrase of “I’m not going”. Sally agrees to keep the case open.
Anne joins me for the weekend and we manage to get out and walk as far as Upton and back, with me glancing at my watch every few minutes.
On Monday I get the long-awaited call from Rose at Upton Manor
After being locked down by the Council following an outbreak of Covid amongst the staff, they are finally open to visitors and new residents. They do have rooms available, in the modern part of the building, as Dad prefers, and with a view of the garden.
I inform Dad and we agree to avoid discussing it in front of Mum. She will only point out, as if we didn’t know, that they have been there before (for a week in November) and were not happy. After dinner, Dad goes off to the bathroom with some tissues, probably to have a cry. He knows he will be leaving his home of 60 years tomorrow morning, and may not see it again.
Tuesday 1 February dawns and I am already wide awake. I have been here for more than three weeks but today is D-Day. Our plan is for Dad to leave at about 10am but I’m surprised to hear that he has slept reasonably well and wants to get dressed asap. “Let’s get this show on the road”, he says. But first I have to deal with Mum, trying to delay her from getting up until Dad and his luggage are ready. I need help from Anne, and the reassuring and experienced presence of Rose from the Manor. Rose drives over, a journey of three minutes, and stays chatting to Mum while Anne and I go off with Dad. After an hour we come back and Rose leaves us to see how Dad is getting on. I prepare some lunch for the three of us. At first Mum behaves herself but there is one last blast of “I’m not going”. We get through that and help her into the car.
Mum will have to stay in the Leyland unit, which is specifically for dementia sufferers. There are clearly a few severely affected persons there. I feel terrible about leaving Mum in this place but there is no choice.
Anne and I have, literally, been here before
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Or do the same thing again and expect a different result. The first time, back in November, we felt we had achieved something but soon realised it had been an utter failure. The difference this time is not that we expect them to be happy but that they will not be allowed to leave, except to go into another home. But we are not even going to discuss that. I ring my new mate Sally to tell her the good news. She is “made up” for me.
We walk up to the village for a drink in the knowledge that Mum will not be sitting at home fretting about our absence. We can stay out for a whole hour – or even longer. I’ll still be anxious about how they get on but at least I should be able to sleep tonight.
4 thoughts on “One does one’s best IV”
Well done Colin, and Anne. It is good to be able to catch up in this way, until we meet for that long delayed cuppa in my new flat. Don’t forget to get in touch when you’re home.
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I’ll call you soon, Sheila.
It’s painful to read Colin, but you did the right – the only thing. Your parents are actually very fortunate to have such a caring son.
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Thank you for your friendship and support, Laurence