Playing up

I suppose it was a bit ambitious thinking I could go away for 5 weeks and not have any problems, but I had planned this trip before mum had her stroke and I thought it would have been more of a nightmare trying to change it.  My 23 year old son amazingly offered to oversee her care while I was away, give her an evening meal and help her to bed.  The carers were still coming in 4 times during the day, so it should run smoothly, or so I thought.

What did mum do?  She rang a bell (for night time emergencies) literally every 5 minutes, and was constantly demanding.  I think she thought my son was there to cater for her every need, with 24 hours constant care!  She would put the tv on really loudly to get attention, throw everything on the floor, deliberately wet herself and even wrote on the wall!!!  Not once did she say thank you to him and would just point to what she wanted.  She was also rude to a friend who was staying with us, who was kindly popping in to chat and take her cups of tea or the occasional meal if mum was hungry.  She told her she was fat 4 times and that she had never had a ‘real’ job (she was a PhD student!). Mum couldn’t understand why they stopped going in to talk to her.  I could say she was overly anxious and didn’t know what she was doing, but she has admitted to me in the past that she does know.

This isn’t dementia or a consequence of growing old, it is her personality sadly.  She can be very nice to others who are not close, although she has admitted to saying unkind things to friends on occasion.  Every few years my brother goes through a period of refusing to talk to her, but I try to convince myself that it is because of her own background/childhood and her general bitterness about life.  Her life wasn’t horrendous but it was tough and experiences can effect how we develop as a person.  Or is there really no excuse for being rude?

It was also a lesson in who will actually help when they say they will.  One day my son needed to see a friend which involved an overnight stay, but people who said they would help now wouldn’t, so it cost me £200 for an agency carer.  I felt he deserved the night off, bearing in mind if he had managed to go out in the evening, he would get a cab back at 10.00pm to help her to bed, as she wouldn’t go to bed any earlier.

Either way, I did get away and I will be forever grateful to my son and our friend who made this possible, but I don’t think I will ever go away for so long again – and I don’t think they would be so quick to offer if they had any sense….

Silent care

Having finally found a reliable Care Agency, I am still so dismayed at the actual care system.  They are all (well mostly) lovely ladies and come in smiling and actually turn up on time.  They are usually very efficient, speedy and do all they need to do, but they just don’t talk.  I can understand why my mum feels so isolated and lonely.

The carer arrives, says hello, goes about her business with a flurry, then departs.  Absolutely no communication in the meantime, unless they are talking to someone on their phone.  So the elderly person just sits there all day on their own virtually isolated from the rest of the world.  Yes their needs may be met, if they are lucky, but a few minutes talking about their day, the weather outside or even asking how they are would go such a long, long way.

Age UK provide a befriending service.  We did try it a couple of times and it was really good, but the people tend not to stay around.

Again, having mum come to live with me has brought home the harsh reality of actually living on your own when you are housebound – just sitting in front of the tv all day and having no friends still alive or anyone to chat to. The evenings are the worse.

My mum is lucky in that she does have one friend who pops in once a week and her sister visits, plus me now, but what about all those other people who don’t have this.  There was a ‘running group’ I heard about once, where runners would pop into an elderly neighbour on their route.  I don’t know whatever happened to that, and I can imagine there are privacy/security/safeguarding and all sorts of other issues to consider, but honestly if you live next to an elderly neighbour, I cant stress enough the importance of actually popping in if only once a week to just have a quick chat. Just do it.