Week Twenty-One

My lovely Nana, with Avril and Julia

There was a message left for me this morning from the County Councillor – he got my letter about staffing in Care-Homes this morning and responded immediately. He thanked me for bringing it to his attention and is going to take the matter up with the Strategic Director and ensure that I get a proper response asap.

I phoned Broad Glade to see how Mum was before I went in. Apparently she was compliant this morning. The CPN had been in yesterday (I’m disappointed that I missed her, having asked especially to see her) and she has prescribed a new medication. They were unsure what the new medication is, but I’ll find out later.

I got there just before lunch. She didn’t hug me quite so tight, so was presumably not as distressed. She said she was “All right now!” and seemed settled and happy having lunch. Getting ready to go out, she was in the bathroom, when suddenly she looked up and scowled at her reflection, saying, “Does she always have to come?”

I realised that she was being serious, so I asked, “Do you mean that gorgeous lady in the mirror?”

She grunted, “I don’t like her. She’s always there!”

I had to laugh, but it was so difficult to show her that it was her own reflection that followed her into the bathroom. She understood eventually and laughed with me, but I expect she’ll forget again. Maybe she expects to see a younger, brown-haired lady in the mirror? I know I often get a shock when I happen to see myself in a mirror!

We went off to shake collection boxes at Tesco. She wore a rose hat and we filled our boxes and met a few lovely people. We did a good stretch of walking afterwards and Mum and Conor had the chance to chat and play.

Mum is concerned about her eyesight again. When we got back to Broad Glade, they took her to do her night-stuff and Mum expressed some anxiety about not having much money. I reassured her that she had already paid for it all and then she let us go quite happily.

***

Sometimes I get some very morbid thoughts of life and death, etc. I’m not afraid of death, but of dying; and I anguish for those who live miserable lives because they don’t know the love and peace of God; and I miss people terribly, who have died. I have been having emotionally unsettling dreams about my dad, Pa, Pat, Roger and so many loved ones who have died.

I saw Mum on Monday and we went for a very long walk; taking flowers to Pat and Pa’s graves and enjoying each other’s company. She still seems more settled, but whittled again about needing ‘new eyes’. She even mentioned that she’d like to take up the guitar again, which I’ve not heard her consider for a long time. I agree and go along with it all for now.

I did see some senior staff at Broad Glade, but they all appeared too busy to talk, so I smiled only.

Yesterday I got home to find a message from a new Social Worker, saying that he had ‘been asked to do an assessment update of Avril’s needs, as Broad Glade were having problems providing her care’. I found myself shocked to get such a message from a stranger. Fortunately, he saw fit to inform ‘family’ and to get me involved from the beginning of his ‘new case’. I do not understand why Broad Glade did not tell me. I do understand that they have to be proactive, but they could at least communicate their intentions with me.

I found our new Social Worker’s approach to be professional, supportive but non-committal. Interestingly, he said that he’d gone along to Broad Glade on Monday, but that they were all ‘too busy to see him’, so had left again without meeting Mum or talking with anyone. He said they ‘must have been a bit short-staffed’. Broad Glade had contacted Social Services because, they said, Avril had become ‘verbally and physically aggressive’ and had, at one point, ‘pulled a resident out of her chair’.

When I’d recollected myself, I phoned the unit manager at Broad Glade. I now wanted immediate answers about GP, medication, CPN input and anything else they were considering doing or that I might need to know.

I did get some answers: – Mum is now on Trazodone twice a day and apparently the CPN said that that was ‘all they could do for her’, for now. Mum is also now registered with a GP. The unit manager said that they had contacted Social Services to reassess Mum ‘as backup’, so that they can provide the best care for her. She described Mum as ‘quite threatening, although she hasn’t actually hit anyone’. She also described a situation last night, where they had provided ‘entertainment’ and Mum, although enjoying the music, got distressed in the room, because of the noise volume. They then sat her just outside the door and Mum enjoyed it fully, she said. To me it just shows how a little flexibility and understanding enables Mum to fully participate in something she enjoys. She said that they would involve me when Social Services come in to assess and said I must always go and ask, if I have questions. I think that everyone is doing their best, but that priorities and resources vary.

Trazodone is a serotonin modulator used as a sleep aid and for depression/ anxiety/ schizophrenia.

***

The Social Worker did an assessment of Mum yesterday, but is waiting for the nurse to do an assessment too. He said that Mum was clearly very distressed and that he felt sorry for her. He doesn’t think that Broad Glade is a suitable place for Mum, in that they don’t have the staff, or the time, to give Mum what she needs. His concern is that the sort of environment better suited to Mum’s needs tends to be much more severe in terms of the other residents and their behaviour. It could be quite a scary environment for Mum, if we don’t look carefully.

I had offered to mind Isabelle’s children this morning, but at 10 O’clock, Broad Glade phoned to say that Mammy was very distressed and could I go and calm her down. I was planning to take her out with her sister this afternoon, but…Simon was here and able to fetch her instead. Mammy was in a bad way and cried a lot. What follows are snippets of what she expressed between sobs and tissues. In brackets are some questions or clarifications added by me: –

“Silly, silly man!…He’s gone!…He didn’t have to do that!”

(Do you think he did it on purpose?)

“I know he did!…I’ve said my Goodbyes…He knew he was going…He said so, but I didn’t believe him…He said, ‘I’m going to bed…and he killed himself.”

(How?)

“A knife. I don’t know what sort. Then he threw it away and I couldn’t get it back…Don’t tell the kids will you? …He looked lovely when he went…Don’t tell the boys…Silly, silly man!…He knew that we loved him…I think he was happy…I’d never seen him like that…dying…”

(I thought Daddy died at Jimmy’s house after too much whiskey?)

“Yes, he was there and then he came back…He came in HERE (she was pointing around the table) and he said he was going somewhere…I didn’t know he…YOU STUPID man! …Don’t tell the kids, will you?”

(When did this happen, Mammy?)

“It was round about here…about this time…he said, ‘I’m going now’ and then I found him…Don’t tell the kids…I don’t know what they’ll do…”

(I explained that Josh and Conor, had never met Daddy, that he had died 13 years ago, before Conor was even born. I said that Daddy had never been to this house. Mum frowned for some time, looking very confused.)

“No, he WAS here. I know it sounds silly, but he WAS here.”

I made us all some more tea and came to see her grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat…

“He’s just come…he’s smiling…he looks lovely…BIG HUG FOR ALL!”

Isabelle collected her children after lunch and Conor took Mum to watch a DVD, whilst we waited for her sister. Today is (their mum’s) Nana’s anniversary – 26 years ago she died. When Julia came, we took some flowers up to the remembrance garden. Julia approves of the remembrance vase. We weren’t there long, then we drove into town to drop her off and I took Mum back to her ‘home’.

She always asks me why I’m going and when I’m coming back. ‘See you soon’, isn’t enough.

***

Today Mum and I came back from the TAB Summer picnic, expecting Debbie any time…

“What are you feeling, Mammy?” I asked, because she was clearly distressed.

“You don’t want to know!” she growled, giving another of her very suspicious, shifty looks.

“I really do want to know what you are feeling, Mammy.”

“Horrible…If you want to know…I want to kill myself…I know it’s wrong, but I can’t go on…I can’t live any more…I’ve felt a long time…I’m sorry. It’s stupid. It’s wrong… I know that I can’t do it though…kill myself…I’m a coward… I’d better clean up. The boys will be coming home…I’m sorry I’m a coward…I can’t.”

“I’m glad you are a coward, Mammy. I don’t want you to kill yourself. Did you think about how you would kill yourself?”

“I can’t even do that!” she sobbed.

“Do you think you should kill yourself because of Daddy?”

“”I can’t though…”

“Good. I’m glad. Do you think Daddy is waiting for you to follow him to death?”

“Probably…” she drifted away…

“If Daddy’s in heaven, I’m convinced he’ll be praying for you to have the grace to live a full life, not to die.”

“I can’t do it. And I don’t want to…I’m sorry…” she reached out for a touch…

“I forgive you, Mammy.”

“Thank you.” she smiled.

I wish I could takeaway her distress and pain.

Eventually Debbie phoned to say that she was visiting a sick relative-in-law and wouldn’t be in till late, so I took Mum home again. As we got near to Broad Glade, she asked, “Where are we going?”

“I’m bringing you home.” I answered. “See you later.”

“Are you going?” she sighed sadly.

“I’ll be back soon and Debbie is coming too. Be good.”

“There’s nothing else.” She added with evident disappointment.

I went home, sad and disappointed that Debbie hadn’t managed to see Mum today. I always feel I have let Mammy down so badly. Still, it was lovely to see Debbie and her son James when they did turn up. They had very good reasons for not being there earlier. They were on a different, but equally important mission with a dying lady. Debbie and James promised to spend the following day with Mum and we were all happy to share the evening together.

Mammy in Stromness, with her beloved Grandchildren – Rachel, James and Olivia.

Tuesday evening we said farewell to Debbie and James, and then it was Conor’s ‘Farewell to Year 6’, an evening of drama, song and tears – lots of them, like a dam bursting and sending a domino wave over the whole line-up of year six children.

Of course Mammy has no idea now that Debbie has been to see her and there’s no point trying to contradict her. In her reality, she is right. She always has been. A strange mixture of the stubborn ‘I’m right and I know it’ and the other ever-present ‘I am useless/I can’t do it/I’ve got it wrong again’. She does speak conflicting messages to herself. I am not dissimilar.

It’s a busy week getting ready for a trip to Germany and then for Faith Camp straight afterwards. So much to look forward to and so many friends to be grateful for. Most importantly, I have asked Isabelle, Julia and Monica to visit Mum and look out for her whilst I am away. I know that Monica will see her as often as she can. I feel much reassured by that.