Week Thirty Nine

Pretty young Mammy with me or Debbie.

Yesterday I took Wendy and Monica to see Mum. I was a bit spaced out though, as I had had some shocking news the day before. My beloved friend ‘Little John’, whom I’ve known since 1985 (23 years) died suddenly in Heidelberg on this remembrance day. I had spoken to him just last week and now he’s dead. I am still in shock and can’t stop crying.

We found Mum slumped in a chair in her room at 10am and all greeted her as she started to whimper. After kisses, cuddles and Monica’s lively banter, everyone relaxed and we remembered people and times past together. Mum continued to cry out spasmodically, but did seem to vaguely engage. Nobody came to Mum’s room until just after 12 noon, when a cleaner walked straight in and was startled by our presence. She fetched us some chairs and shortly afterwards there was a knock on the door and a nurse entered with Mum’s dinner. Well, it was meant to be dinner, but consisted of four dollops of different coloured puree on a plate. I questioned the nurse about it, as Mum has all her own teeth and good ones at that. She said that they had ‘run out of proper food’. My silent question was ‘WHY?’ It’s not like they can’t predict who’ll be there for lunch, is it? I put some green puree with a bit of brown puree on a spoon and tried to feed it to Mum. The spoon was too big and the food was all ‘gloopy’. It took so long to eat and I can’t say that Mum enjoyed it. The sponge and custard, on the other hand, went down like a dream. During the feeding a nurse came in with Mum’s midday dose of tablets. Monica asked and we learned that one was the Trazodone and the other an anti-sickness tablet to counteract some of the other medication. I was struck by the fact that Mum made no attempt at all during those two hours to get out of her chair.

Wendy and Monica were glad to have visited Mum and taken another trip down memory lane together. I learned that Mum and Wendy had been to see Gene Vincent live when they were teenagers and had gone back stage and got an autograph and a kiss from the heart-throb.

I went to put the chairs back in the lounge, which was empty but for two ladies sitting in heavy duty recliner chairs. They are a bit like dentist chairs only more solidly padded and have extra sides and all sorts. I spoke to the shouting lady and stroked her shoulder, offering soothing words of encouragement and immediately she calmed down. I am quite sure they do it for their safety, but these two ladies were strapped in with harnesses like infants in a buggy. What bothered me was that there were no staff around. This lady was so easily placated, but for nearly two hours she had been left alone to cry out.

As I left those rooms to go through the main corridor I spotted four nurses sitting together in the dining room. Another resident approached them and was told to go away as they were having a break. I was getting cross.

As I passed the office I was even more annoyed to see at least six nurses sitting in the office. I appreciate that they may have been doing a ‘hand-over’, having a review, or any other legitimate and worthy business; I also appreciate that the staff need to have breaks during their shifts at work, but surely not all at the same time? To be in an NHS ‘Challenging Behaviour Unit’ with about a dozen members of staff, but nobody willing to meet the needs of the residents was to me quite appalling. Monica and Wendy were also shocked that nobody had come to see Mum except to bring food and medication. It doesn’t seem to be a lack of staff, but something isn’t right!

***

Yesterday Isabelle took me to see the Challenging Behaviour Unit in Cotgrave. It’s not far from Kirk Way, but the ‘Sunny Meadows’ setting is more tranquil, surrounded by pines and countryside. I was very impressed by the ideology of the new senior nurse. He is all for the challenge and for not doping everyone up. They sound very enthusiastic and committed and, as said, they have beds. The manager took us for a tour of the units and I filled out some paperwork. She said that she would do an assessment of Mum within the week.

Later I had a strange call from a nurse at Gold Acre. She said not to worry about anything, but that they had removed Mum’s wedding ring and put it in the safe. She said Mum’s hands had gone all puffy ‘with all the walking around she does’, so they took it off as a precaution and I ‘should collect it’. She also said that Mum had taken a little fall. The doctor had seen her and she was fine, but they had had to sit her down for a while – for her own safety – even though they prefer her to walk about freely… She left me wondering if someone had passed on my concerns about the bucket chair again. I don’t like feeling suspicious about all these things.

***

Mum was warm and smiley today. I talked about family and she seemed to respond with understanding and emotion. A nurse came through to tell me that the manager of Sunny Meadows was in the office doing Mum’s assessment. She came to speak with us and we told Mum she was moving to a nice place in the country. I don’t think she understood, because she doesn’t know where she is now. The manager said they were considering moving her next Wednesday. It feels very sudden, but potentially very good. We don’t even know about funding yet.

***

November 2009. I spoke to the Social Worker this morning to see what he knows about Mum’s move and if there’s any news on the funding issues. He knew nothing about her discharge and was shocked that such a decision could have been made before anyone knows which departments will be paying for Mum’s care. He was equally surprised that Sunny Meadows have accepted Mum without clarification of funding too.

At 11am I got another call from Mum’s nurse at Gold Acre to say that the taxi for Mum has been booked for Wednesday at 10am and could I be there to meet them at Sunny Meadows and help her to settle in. I suppose they will sort the funding details later?

Now a further phone call from Gold Acre to say that Mum’s discharge will have to be delayed until the funding decisions have been made. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Am I surprised? I am disappointed though.

***

On Wednesday, the day Mum was supposed to have moved, I spoke to the Social Worker again and learned that he had ‘stirred things up a bit’ in the department. Other than that he was none the wiser. The NHS and Council process just doesn’t seem to have got its act together somehow.

On the whole Mum is much the same, mostly seeming content, but using less of her capacity and saying very little. She always enjoys hugs and kisses and the occasional massage, but seems half asleep most of the time.

***

It is now the 8th December. I was glad to have been at Little John’s funeral in Heidelberg, to say goodbye and to share some memories with his dear friends.

Today I got a surprise call from the other Nursing Home in Cotgrave – Kirk Way – that had a waiting list of five when I visited in October. They have a spare room. My initial response was to assume that more than five people had died since I visited, but of course that was not the case and I felt rather stupid as they explained that they had gone through the waiting list to find that everyone on it had already secured ‘alternative accommodation’. I too have already found alternative accommodation for my mum, but whether that will still be available when she is finally discharged is anybody’s guess.

***

21st December and Mum is still in Gold Acre.

At 11am I went along to Gold Acre to what I thought was a Carers’ meeting, but turned out to be a Christmas party. The ward manager sat with me making small talk, but also said that the psychiatric nurse, who was present at the original MDM in September, was supposed to have written to me a fortnight ago to explain the final decision and to get Mum sorted. But she hasn’t, and they haven’t, and therefore we can’t.

I went in with Christmas cards, sherry, mince pies and chocolates for Mum. I took a CD of children singing Christmas Carols and she cried with joy. She tried to sing along, but no words came out. Monica came too and we all shared laughter and stories. I am really missing Little John.

***

It’s the 6th January 2010 today. Mum is still in Gold Acre and I’ve heard nothing more about her moving or funding.