It came as a shock today to find a phone message from the ward manager of Gold Acre saying that Mum would be discharged tomorrow (Thursday) morning at about 10.30am. He added that he will let me know in the morning the exact time she would be arriving at Sunny Meadows.
But the funeral begins at 10.30am, so I cannot be at Sunny Meadows to greet Mum then. I feel very tearful.
I courageously phoned Gold Acre again, to question the short notice and request some lee-way, but he was adamant. The funding is now in place so they have to discharge her tomorrow. ‘She will be well looked after… go whenever you can; that will be fine’.
I want to see Mum today. Now.
As I was arriving, the ward manager was just leaving. I suspect neither of us wanted to see the other. I was not feeling very charitable towards him at that moment. He tried to be reassuring and I kept my responses brief. Had I known she would end up in a nursing home, rather than the specialist home they recommended, then I would have chosen a smaller one nearer to home. He argued that I can move her again any time I wish.
It was important for me to see her for one last time as she has been at Gold Acre. I also wanted to log some of Mum’s favourite CDs so that if they don’t make the journey to Sunny Meadows, I won’t lose them forever, as I did the ones at the St Peter’s Wing. Some things I had already brought home in anticipation of the imminent move that never happened in the Autumn. Music is the one thing that clearly links Mum with her soul and her past; it is crucial to her well-being – not just any music, but specific – Gene Vincent, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Billy Fury, The Everly Brothers and others that I wouldn’t know just off the top of my head. Three of her favourite CD covers were empty today and I couldn’t locate them.
When I found Mum she was sitting up in her chair, which was encouraging, but her face looked so sour. In fact she looked as if she had had a stroke; her eyes were half closed but her left side, especially the eye and mouth, were drooping down and she had a very grey look. I tried to be chirpy, but was getting no response at all and, as she couldn’t see me, I let the tears fall.
I felt exhausted. If only I knew how to help. Suddenly she sat bolt-upright in the chair, eyes staring wide ahead.
“You made me jump!” I laughed. She laughed too, relaxed and then shuffled her bottom back into the chair a little. I was so thrilled and it just got better. She carried on sitting up and slouching back, sitting up and shuffling back… and I joked about the ‘six-pack’ she’d be getting from all the sit-ups. I was even delighted that she was hallucinating again and ‘talking’ to Tacker and Cacker about the babbies. I managed to join in the conversation as if I understood. Nearly every time she sat up I would hug her and she smiled or giggled and again she said ‘I love you.’
I can honestly say that I love you too, Mammy, and today you cheered me up so much.
The Social Worker rang Simon whilst I was out, to report that no decision has been made by the Panel as yet – indeed they have not met – so Gold Acre are clearly acting off their own bat again. Still, I’ll go to the funeral in the morning, then drive straight over to Sunny Meadows. I may even arrive before Mum.
Now I am hopping mad. I was getting ready for the funeral and have just answered the phone to the ward manager of Gold Acre, who told me that Mum cannot be discharged today because the funding has not been confirmed. I could feel the grit in my throat as I tried to calmly ask what had made him think that the funding was in place when he made the decision yesterday. He gave a vague answer about some emails saying that he should go ahead, and that Sunny Meadows had accepted her, therefore…
I was feeling so frustrated by them all trying to blame one another.
“You don’t need to shout!” he said.
“I’m not shouting, I am cross, but am trying to speak clearly and trying to understand why you have messed us about again.” I then repeated that I wanted to know why he thought the funding had gone ahead when the Social Worker had clearly told me that the Panel would only meet on Wednesday.
“He told you that”, he asked, “and you withheld that information from me?”
I hadn’t withheld anything from him, of course, and, boiling with frustration, I reminded him that he was the manager and the one with authority and that I had questioned the short notice yesterday.
“You should have told me about the Panel meeting,” he continued.
“I can’t believe you are turning this around now, when you have clearly messed things up.” I stuttered.
“It means you can go and find somewhere else though, since you said you don’t want her to go to Sunny Meadows; you can find her a smaller place.”
“I am going to think about this now, so I will put the phone down,” I said shaking, and we both hung up.
What a fine state to go to a funeral in.
I paid my respects to a few mourners after the service, then came home to see what else I could find out. I tried to phone my Social Worker and his Team Manager, but it seems that both were out in training today. So I went back to join the funeral crowd at the wake. She was a very loved and well known lady. I was glad I went.
So many people I know have died since I moved to Nottingham. Pa died in 2006 just before I came back, but since then there have been a litany of farewells and not all of them were old. Pat, Roger. Elizabeth, Clemency, Peter, Barbara, Pauline, Alf, Alec, Ted, Phil, Little John, and Rachel… I don’t want anyone else that I know to die for a while.
PART 4 Sunny Meadows Nursing Home
Finally the decision to go ahead was made by Social Services. I arranged with the manager of Sunny Meadows for a date to admit Mum and they coordinated with Gold Acre. Thus Mum arrived at Sunny Meadows by taxi at 11am on Tuesday 23rd February.
A few minutes later I arrived. Mum was sitting in a chair near the door; Gold Acre staff had left and the new carers were unpacking her belongings. (It looks like her CDs didn’t come with her). I had brought her “This is your Life” book, a CD player and some more of her music.
I was disappointed to learn that the bedrooms are on the first floor, which means a wheelchair in the lift and no wandering about for Mum.
I stayed for several hours as she was clearly distressed by the journey, the change and the noisier environment. We sat in a relatively calm area, but the main entrance was busy with human traffic, phones and buzzers, a TV, another lady banging and there was Kate. I learned a lot from Kate. She thinks out loud in very clear sentences. I learned from her that Sunny Meadows is quite understaffed and that one of the cleaners now has to help out with the caring; that second sitting is best for lunch as it is in the smaller dining room and is much more civilised, and learned about the contents of her string bag attached to her ‘zimmer frame’, which she takes everywhere. She is like a sports commentator revealing each thought and observation and made it clear that she was unimpressed that they had admitted another resident into what she saw as stretched resources.
When Mum started to cry Kate shook her head saying, “That’s all we need now! No use crying in here, you’d better learn to laugh or something instead.”
I appreciated Kate and her frankness and thanked her later. She also helped as Mum kept sliding out of the wheelchair at lunch. Kate went to find help and came back with the Manageress and another lady, who helped Mum get back into her chair. A man, who was feeding his wife, told the carer in the diner that his wife needed the toilet.
The carer said, “She’ll have to wait. I’m on my own just now.”
On her own? With sixty residents. After lunch, when Mum was in the recliner, I spoke to the nurse in charge, who appreciated the ‘This is Your Life’ booklet and away I went, confused and exhausted.
It’s exactly ten miles each way to Sunny Meadows from home. These last two afternoon visits I found Mum sleeping in her bed. She seemed very comfortable and peaceful. I am told that she joins the other residents through the morning and lunch, then sleeps for a couple of hours and goes back down at about 4pm. They say she is very settled and that they haven’t had to give her any Lorazepam. I’ll have to come during a morning session to see if I can get Mum standing or walking.
I’m concerned about Monica at the moment. She has been suffering for some time, but has recently been told that she has diabetes and cancer. She had a scan yesterday and goes for surgery on Friday.
Today I went early and found Mum sitting in the quiet lounge. She was tearful, but doing her ‘sit-ups’ again. After cheering her up I took the opportunity to invite her to walk. She responded positively so on her next sit-up I took hold of her hands and asked her to come with me. To my delight she assented and ascended. She stood rather wobbly for some time whilst I hugged her properly and when she seemed steady, I asked her to come walking.
She made the right movements with her legs, but it felt like there was Velcro on the soles of her slippers, which didn’t leave the ground. I supported her back with my left arm, guided her hand with the other, whist talking lots of encouragement and a bit of brute force… But she walked. We walked the length of the big lounge and back again. She was happy to sit back down, but I felt she was aware of having done something good.
I was so happy and the staff and some of the residents were cheering her on too. It was the first time they had seen her walking since she had arrived. I really hope they find the time to take a little walk with her on a daily basis. It must help them as well if she gets a little exercise and remains mobile. It may help with the sliding out of the chair habit too. I will try to go only in the mornings so I can take her for walks myself and feel a little more useful.