Week Forty

Mammy being taken for a ride?

Chapter 21

The results of my recent enquiries are as follows. The discharge coordinator states that Mum should be having her care funded by Social Services, but they are denying receipt of the necessary information regarding the Panel’s decision. He implied some mischief, some delaying tactics and empty pots, but couldn’t give me access to anyone at the PCT or the Panel to speak to. I asked him to find out himself from the PCT if possible.

The Social Worker said he had just come out of a meeting where Avril’s case was being discussed. He complained of aggravation from the NHS due to their lack of understanding about policy and procedure and claims that the NHS have made a mess of this. Apparently there is a common procedure – every case that goes to Panel concludes with a decision that is recorded on a standard proforma. Social Services can then commission the discharge. He thinks there are doubts as to whether the Panel have even met to make a decision, because there is no written evidence of a Panel. He claims that Social Services get charged for ‘delayed discharge’ if they are responsible, but they are not responsible until they have received the Panel’s outcome report. Apparently Sunny Meadows charge over and above the standard care-home rate, so someone will have to pay the difference. This confuses me even more – if NHS recommended Sunny Meadows and that means them having to contribute further to Mum’s care, why are they making it so difficult for each department to get on with it? Social Services won’t be paying any more for Mum than if she went into the cheapest type of home, so…what is the problem? He says there is nothing I can do and he doesn’t know what else to do himself, but he anticipates a speedy resolution. I’m not sure what he’s got up his sleeve… It seems to me that both parties are pointing the finger at the other. Anyway, it’s the twelfth day of Christmas and time to take the decorations down.

***

This is now beginning to feel like a big joke. 10th February and Mum is still in Gold Acre.

Mum was back in her chair, fast asleep and I couldn’t wake her for ages. The nurse told me they had given her a half dose of Lorazepam ‘because of her shakes’. Despite the ‘Cepra’, she seems to be jerking more than ever recently.

Eventually her dinner arrived and she managed to wake enough to open her mouth and eat.

On the last couple of visits I have been disturbed to find Mum lying in her bed in the middle of the day. I know that on previous visits she had been slowly sliding down the chair until her bottom fell off and she landed on the floor. The staff apparently tried all sorts of tricks to keep her upright and said they were going to get advice from the Physio. Anyhow, Mum seemed quite happy in the bed and was very sweet tempered.

After talking to her for some time she suddenly said “I love you!” It was strangely moving and completely unexpected.

Mammy has incredibly good skin – clear, soft and completely unblemished – except for the scars from the fire. Her legs have no hairs, no scars, no veins…mine look like a London A-Z in comparison.

Today she was chuntering away in her semi-comatosed state saying “Yes I know…That’s right..” in a very conciliatory way.

She responded to my funny quips and giggled. I even thought she might get up and dance to ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. That would have been great. I haven’t seen her standing for some weeks now, which makes me sad.

***

Two weeks ago I phoned to prompt the two guys from NHS and Social Services. The man from NHS said he’d ‘been up at Continuing Care’ just that morning and that they (NHS) were accepting responsibility for not informing Social Services properly. He also said that the manager of Sunny Meadows had been off sick and therefore he hadn’t been able to speak to her. Although he said they accepted responsibility for the delay, he then said that “as an organisation (NHS? Gold Acre?) it’s been out of our hands since… well, since it began really.”

The following day Social Services called me back with good news:- The manager in charge has given permission to commission the move on the basis that the NHS had lost the original documents, but all was in order. He had also heard from Sunny Meadows, who had sent a copy of their ‘fees’, which presumably means that they still have a place to offer Mum.

Three hours later I got another call from the same guy in a very different frame of mind. Having looked at the cost of Sunny Meadows, his manager has now decided to dispute it all again and is asking, “Why does she need a ‘Behavioural Management Unit’ when she no longer has behavioural problems”? They now say they will meet her nursing needs, but not ‘fully funded’ at Sunny Meadows. Apparently Sunny Meadows charge about £600 per week for that special unit. I don’t know what they charge in the nursing unit.

What was the point of the whole assessment process then? I am content that Mum is at least settled at Gold Acre and is being reasonably well cared for – certainly better than I could do. But I also know that they cannot keep her there. I had set my heart on Sunny Meadows as a place that could meet Mum’s needs positively, but I wonder what type of home they will say she needs now? Probably the cheapest. I feel quite frustrated and disheartened by it all.

***

On Monday the Social Worker’s Service Organiser asked Sunny Meadows to reassess Mum’s needs to sort out the discrepancies. The Social Worker agrees with me that Mum has had severe behavioural needs and has the potential to present them again, especially in a new setting, with more noise and a probable change of medication. Sunny Meadows had also said that Mum would need the ‘Challenging Behaviour Unit’, rather than the general nursing unit there. So now we await Sunny Meadows’ reassessment and the verdict from Social Services.

My Social Worker said today: “You could write a book on all this!”

“I am doing!” was my reply.

Today I read that “Carers save the UK an estimated £87 billion a year through caring at home, but political parties have not set out how they will support carers in the next government.” ( The Princess Royal Trust for Carers. 11/02/10) I can’t say I am surprised, if homes charge £600 per week.

My Social Worker rang today to confirm that he had had a long chat with the manager at Sunny Meadows and that they are in agreement about something, but I’ve lost track myself. She intends to visit Mum today, report back tomorrow and then resend back to Panel.

***

17th Feb today and progress to report. I had 3 missed messages from Gold Acre and the Social Worker, both asking me to call. I phoned the ward manager at Gold Acre, who informed me that Sunny Meadows had been to reassess Mum, at the Social Worker’s request, and that she agrees that Mum no longer needs a Challenging Behaviour Unit, but that her needs could be met on their other unit – the Nursing Dementia Unit. He said that he was therefore now looking to discharge her. I said I would like to make a couple of calls before discussing this further and he curtly answered that she would be discharged by the end of the week anyway. I was reeling!

I thought it best to phone Sunny Meadows to check the facts there. The manager confirmed that, due to Mum’s deterioration, their Nursing Dementia Unit would now be sufficient to meet Mum’s needs, as she is no longer mobile nor challenging. She said she would be happy to offer her a place there. I managed to remind her that I had found the Nursing Dementia Unit to be extremely noisy. I also said that I was concerned that the reason Mum was no longer mobile was that she has been confined to her room, her chair, her bed and sedatives for so long now – in order to ‘keep her safe’ and manage her behaviour. I shared my worry that Mum would have to stay in her room at Sunny Meadows for the same reasons. I just wanted to cry at how sad it is that she’s like this now. She does not think Mum will relearn to walk, because of the loss of muscle tone and the level of her dementia now. She was very sympathetic and said that she has written in her report that I am concerned about the noise level in the bigger unit – it has 60 beds – and that I might want to consider a smaller home. However she feels confident in their ability to meet Mum’s needs and has every intention of bringing Mum out of her room into the quieter areas during the day.

I don’t feel I have an option to look for anywhere else, as Gold Acre are ready to discharge her this week. She sympathised and said that the ward manager at Gold Acre had been angry about being made to wait so long for this decision. She had told him that I needed to be consulted, but confided that she felt that he seemed to be making his own decisions regardless. She said I must make up my own mind.

I feel very angry that Mum and I are being pushed about like this. Mum is still so young; she should have been encouraged to walk about – been taken for daily walks and allowed to dance…Maybe I should have gone daily to ensure this. I am cross with myself for allowing her to have become immobile and not challenging her care plan more…for not insisting that she be given exercise…I didn’t feel I had the right to question her care though – you don’t argue with Consultants, doctors and nurses, do you?

I spoke through tears to Debbie and her questions echoed mine – Let her go there, where at least she seems to be wanted? Or speak to a solicitor and buy time? Or find somewhere else before the end of the week? She was sympathetic, but the decision and actions will remain mine.

I spoke again to the Social Worker. Yesterday he submitted Sunny Meadows’ reassessment and his own report to the Social Services Panel that commissions these moves. They are meeting on Wednesday and I will therefore hear from him on Thursday. I told him I would be at a funeral on Thursday morning and would want some notice before she was discharged so that I could be there with her. The Social Worker said he was happy with Sunny Meadows’ assessments and was reassured that it was a good safety net, because if Mum’s behaviour does change, she won’t have to go far to be cared for in the ‘Challenging Behaviour Unit’. He said that he trusts the Manager’s judgment, but there is no way of gauging how Mum will respond to the complete change of place, smells, carers and noises. And so I await the decision on Thursday morning.

Week Thirty-Three

Mammy, the dancing Queen and music lover

A week later, back from Ireland, I learned that the ward dentist had referred Mum to the Maxillofacial Unit at the West Hospital. I asked Gold Acre to inform me of the date, so that I can go and hear for myself what the doctors have to say.

I finally took Monica out for her birthday treat, then Monica came with me to see Mum. We decided to hoist her out of her bucket chair with a view to a stroll in the sunshine. I was horrified at how unstable Mum seemed to have become. There is no way that she can get out of that chair alone. It took time and a large dollop of encouragement to keep her standing without wobbling. We all but dragged her to the garden, but once outdoors she was off like one of those squash balls in slow motion, bouncing into all the walls. Apart from toppling the bird table, she had fun and enjoyed the sunshine and the breeze. I do need to ask why Mum spends so much time in that chair.

***

The following day I phoned Gold Acre and found the ward manager very calming and sympathetic. He asked me if I had any concerns to which I replied that I would welcome an opportunity to discuss Mum’s ‘care-plan’, as I have no idea what medication she is on currently and ‘I do have some issues’. I imagine he was groaning inwardly, but he remained very encouraging. He said that Mum’s consultant was ‘on holiday’, but that on his return I would be invited to the weekly review. I did express some concerns about her mouth, hygiene and her ‘triangular bucket’ chair.

***

This Friday, three weeks after the ward dentist saw Mum, I have been given an appointment date for the Maxillofacial Unit – 20th May. That is satisfyingly sooner than I had anticipated.

Before a trip to London, I finally contacted Mum’s friend Wendy. When I next went to Mum’s I spotted a bag of large chocolate buttons and said, “has Wendy been to see you?” and she said “Yes, yes she did.” It is unusual now for Mum to actually say a complete sentence, even one as short as that, so Wendy must have made an impression.

After getting Mum suitably animated with Gene Vincent and Kenny Rogers, I took her hands and, with a “shall we dance, Madam?” managed to coax her out of the bucket chair. Dancing was a bit strange – more like a clumsy smooch around, but Mum seemed happy to be up. She does bump into everything when left to her own devices, so maybe that is why they prefer to keep her sitting – for health and safety reasons.

Julia has decided that she does not want to see her sister again. She wants to ‘remember the old Av’. She admitted that her angle might seem selfish and I tried to give her a different perspective. But…

***

I think that some of my concerns were heard, because on Friday the ‘bucket-chair’ was gone and an ordinary chair in its place. Of course that meant that Mum was wandering around the corridors, getting lost in unfamiliar territory and bumping into everything.

I must write down some questions for tomorrow’s meeting with the new consultant. Care Plan? Medications? Section? Daily routine/hygiene? Meals? Behaviour? Exercise and Stimulation…?

***

So I got my list of questions out… Medication was a straightforward one. She’s still on the epilepsy control (Tegretol), the anti-depressant (Trazodone) and the anti-psychotic (Haloperidol). The latter he has already reduced from 3mg to 1mg daily and intends to drop that one altogether. If the hallucinations and distress come back, he plans to try ordinary anti-dementia type drugs like the Aricept. He said it all so matter-of-fact. I was sort of anticipating that this would happen with the Haloperidol, but I didn’t expect the hospital to do it after spending all this time finding drugs to stabilise her. But I didn’t say any of that, because I don’t think of the right words to go with my thoughts and feelings at the same time. I don’t want her to deteriorate again now she’s finally content (-ish).

He said that her progress is reviewed daily by the staff nurse and three times a week more officially. He does the rounds weekly, but has been away for a month. He mentioned the growth in her mouth and that he had noticed some cellulite on her leg, for which he’d just started her on antibiotics. He asked if Mum had ever had a firm diagnosis and, as I tried to explain, he too said how it was ‘all just academic’. We discussed Mum’s deterioration since 1997 and whether any of us offspring would like to be tested to know if we have that specific gene to cause early onset Alzheimer’s…? He thinks that Mum has both Alzheimer’s and a type of vascular dementia, because she presents such big mood swings and the psychosis. He said that Mum has been taken off the ‘Section’ so I asked whether I could now take her out?

“You could always have taken her out. You only needed the doctor’s permission!” was his astonishing reply.

I don’t know where I could take her now though. It is a scary prospect and I couldn’t do it alone. She is a bit more mobile again now that she is not perched in the ‘bucket’ for hours.

He also said that Gold Acre is ‘a hospital unit for complex needs and behaviour issues’ and that their job is to stabilise patients ready to send them into more permanent home settings. This I did know, but I had put it to the back of my mind, since the last assessment was that Mum would continue to ‘need at least the same level of care as at St Peter’s Unit’. He said that he would expect Mum to be able to move on in a few months and asked me if I had somewhere in mind? I do not have a clue. How could I know? She isn’t ready for an ordinary nursing home, even one dementia registered. He reassured me that a Social Worker will get involved again when the hospital decide to send her off and that they would all help to place her appropriately.

I tried to ask about daily routines, stimulation and care-plan, but that clearly was not his expertise so he referred me to Mum’s key worker who is…we don’t know? I must find out and run the rest by them. The consultant has given me plenty to think about.

***

Mum is becoming tearful and unstable again – possibly the result of a reduction in medication? Today I met her shuffling the corridor with that look of confusion and rage that she had before.

The nurse said “Look, here’s your daughter, come to see you!”

Mum glowered and said “Who are you?”

She looked angry and started to scream, mimicking Betty (another resident). I took her back to her room away from the noise and closed the door. I asked if I could have a hug and she said that she didn’t have any.

“No hugs for me?” I questioned

“Well I suppose…”

I forced her arms around me and cooed and encouraged. She started to cry and said,

“I want to die…Well, you can’t… I want to kill myself…No, you can’t…”

I just held her, prayed and told her how loved she was. Then I creamed her face, so that she would smell like Mammy again and we both sang and laughed, whilst I fed her lunch. Someone had tied her hair back in double ponytails and she looked very pretty.

When I made to leave, she playfully said, “No, don’t go!” We were both smiling and bouncy when I left.

***

I was nervous about them taking her off the Haloperidol, but this time she seemed fine. She had had her nails painted and was wandering the corridors, singing to herself. She was playful with her gabbling and entertaining the ‘babbies’. The hallucinations are much stronger again, but seem positive. She is often questioning the babbies and telling them off. “I’ll kill you!” was a more extreme reaction, but the babbies are never far away. She was making creepy sounds and faces to a ‘rhyme’ and then building it up to a scary finale to make them jump. She was clearly enjoying herself. She seems to understands the majority of what I say, but unfortunately I no longer understand most of her replies. It doesn’t trouble me, though I would love to know what she is trying to say.

Before leaving I went to check about Wednesday’s Maxillofacial appointment. We discussed how to transport Mum and concluded that a wheelchair and taxi would be easiest all round and I will meet them there.