I’m convinced there are Black Holes in Care Homes. There is no other explanation for where some of Maureen’s gear goes whenever she is in Respite Care. Relentless searches by care staff at Ashgrove have so far failed to unearth her a pair of tights, trousers, and slippers. If she realises that her slippers are missing we are in real trouble as they are special to her as her sister bought them for her. The Black Hole in Ashgrove must suck in slippers as a pair went missing on a previous visit. Perhaps we have got off lightly this time as her watch went when she was in Alderlea. Thankfully she has forgotten that this special present from her son is missing. She wore it every day despite the fact that she can no longer tell the time.
Last night Maureen’s aunty came round to look at those old photographs I had found. It was so sad to see two people who used to be in fits of laughter in such a sober state. Even reminiscing with someone who had shared those times failed to cheer Maureen up for long. When I looked across at them Maureen looked years older than her aunt.
I’m struggling to find ways of lifting Maureen’s mood. This morning she ‘feels useless and wants to die’. I know that feeling well from my periods of depression. I’m also well aware this is not a chemical imbalance and antidepressants are not the solution. She doesn’t need to be taking tablets that don’t work and are likely to give side effects. Thank goodness my daily visits to the gym are helping my mood: Black Holes may be inevitable but I have to avoid the Black Dog, as Churchill labelled depression, at all costs!
Maureen came into her own very early this morning after spending most of yesterday catching up on sleep. She loved looking at some old family photographs that her sister had sent us several years ago. The one above is my favourite of the big sister of the family with her siblings.
I often think I have turned into a One Trick Pony relying on music to fill our day. I’m hoping that sifting through these photographs, and many others that are tucked away, will provide hours of happy memories and even lead to some life story work.
If Maureen was in a Care Home now I would say ‘she is settling in’. She seems to think we have been on holiday together for the last two weeks and says it would be nice to visit Cleethorpes when the weather improves. Her recollection of happy family holidays here are one of the dominant memories of her childhood.
I’m picking up Maureen from Ashgrove Care Home in a couple of hours. I’m hoping that lots of TLC along with the right music will transform her from the little old lady who was asleep in a chair when I popped in to see her last night. I’m encouraged by the fact that once she warmed up – with the help of a blanket – that the old Maureen was still there: she even invited me to get under the blanket with her!
Several people have questioned why I keep a close check on how Maureen is doing when she is in a Care Home. I suppose it all started a couple of years ago when I went to visit her in Ladysmith Road Care Home and found her bruised and battered – as you will see in the picture below. Once again I have erased her eyes to preserve her anonymity.
The Care Home said she fell out of bed: sustaining severe bruising to her face and head. They chose not to send her to the hospital or inform me of the incident, which I found bemusing. Unfortunately, this has not been the only occasion when I have had misgivings about Maureen’s welfare during Respite Breaks.
Imagine my concern a couple of years ago when I received a phone call from Ashgrove Care Home to inform me that the police had found Maureen in someone’s garden and they didn’t even know that she was missing. Then on another occasion, I found her in an unused part of the building in an unlit room struggling to open the door.
I bought my last Respite Break, when Maureen was in Alderlea Care Home, to a premature end. She had not slept in a bed for the duration of her stay and I didn’t warm to residents being unsupervised when I popped in one evening.
There have been times when Ashgrove has been in Special Measures. A new Mangement Team has recently worked closely with the Clinical Commissioning Group to raise standards. From what I’ve seen and heard Maureen is in safe hands. I need to let them get on with their job: they will get in touch with me if there is anything I need to know!
The news from Ashgrove Care Home yesterday was that Maureen is settling in. Apparently, she’s teamed up with an old friend from a previous visit and they were walking around hand in hand.
We seem to have escaped the worst of the Beat from the East at the moment with moderate snowfall. However, conditions underfoot are treacherous and I’m not going out unless it is essential as I can’t risk a fall. Maureen may well be in the best place during this cold snap rather than being stuck with someone who may be experiencing a touch of Cabin Fever!
I took a proverbial hammering on Monday night’/ Tuesday morning as I struggled to cope with Maureen’s presentation. She didn’t know who I was or why I was locking her in a strange house against her will. I hadn’t seen Maureen in this mode for some time and it took a long time before any of my attempts to calm her down had any impact.
Eventually, music led to a temporary break in hostilities. I chose my moment and called up ‘You Are My Sunshine‘ on YouTube. Maureen broke into song as she remembered sitting on her dad’s knee as he sang to her. I then chose music carefully to ease her into a sleeping on the sofa. However, my respite from hostilities was brief as when she awoke a short while afterward the attack resumed.
As dawn broke Roving Carers from our Care Agency arrived to give support in response to my call to Single Point of Access several hours earlier. Apparently, it was a busy night with their services in great demand. They stayed for a short while observing that Maureen was ‘very awake’ and left me to it. Their efforts to persuade her to go to bed had fallen on stony ground. She had left them in no doubt that she wanted to ‘go home’.
I didn’t surprise me that after the shenanigans of a long night that the lion went into Ashgrove Care Home like a lamb. Our Key Worker, as always played a blinder, led her by the hand and the Manager played her part met her part with a helpful greeting of ‘hello Maureen how nice to see you again.’ Within minutes she was being asked how she liked her tea and we left her to it: even lions like to be acknowledged and offered a cuppa!
We had a lovely time on my birthday: just the three of us. When I danced with Suzie to Stevie Wonder, as Maureen lay in bed she declared it was her birthday as well. Suzie either sits on a chest of drawers or the windowsill of our bedroom. She is really special to us as she belonged to Maureen’s late daughter. There is a lovely picture just behind Suzie (pictured below) of Maureen and Denise’s daughter: Maeve played with her many times when she was younger.
This morning Maureen has been troubled by hallucinations. Very early on, she was concerned that we were going to be eaten by animals. However, she assured me that if they came for me she would chase them off. Later on, she woke up worried that her mother was ill and she needed to get to her urgently. On both occasions, I did my best to reassure my dear wife- not easy when you have been woken from a deep sleep!
I often wonder where Maureen’s troublesome thoughts (hallucinations?) come from. It is possible that her dreams become reality when she wakes up in the night: every couple of hours at the moment. The dangerous animals were in the Arboretum in Nottingham; somewhere that Maureen passed through daily on her way to High School. Her mother was suffering from a sore throat something which Maureen had been troubled with earlier in the week.
Maureen is going into Ashgrove Care Home for a couple of weeks on Tuesday. I’m looking forward to getting some much-needed rest and catching up with lots of people.
When I returned home from my Buddhist Meditation Class last night Maureen gave me short shrift. If looks could kill I would not be Blogging this morning. How fortunate that Neil had been teaching on the delusion of anger and the importance of patience: he couldn’t have chosen a more relevant topic!
There is no point in getting angry that dementia is a constant in our lives: nothing good ever comes from such a delusion. The Buddhist message from last night is to accept what comes your way as karmic seeds ripening and then decide if there is anything you can do about it. I eventually decided that there was little I could do about Maureen’s focus last night: nothing seemed to shift her from my shortcomings. In the end, I made sure she was safe, went to bed and left her to rant.
This morning Maureen has been obsessed with looking for her friend to accompany her to the cinema. It took ages to shift her reality with music once again opening the door to a change in focus. Once I called up one or two of her favourites on YouTube her presentation temporarily became a little more favourable. Unfortunately, she is currently struggling to know who I am and wants to go home.
Girl Thursday will be here in a couple of hours and that will give me a chance to progress some things I can do something about. I need to urgently sort out my next Respite Break: patience is not easily accessible when you are worn out!
Footnote: As much as we loved having a baby in the house yesterday we have decided we don’t want any more additions to our family. As I’m 72 tomorrow we have decided it is sensible to call it a day on that front!
We both got off to a flyer yesterday morning. As I was shutting the door on my way out I could hear our Carer easing Maureen into the shower. A short while afterward I was a short distance away sorting out a missing link in our Care Package.
I’m keeping my finger crossed that Ashgrove Care Home will be able to accommodate our needs for scheduled Respite Breaks. The Manager is willing to book Maureen in for Rolling Respite once she has conducted her assessment.
I’m confident that the new regime at Ashgrove will mean that Maureen is in safe hands. The staff has clearly worked very hard to ensure that the place is now up to the standards expected by our Clinical Commissioning Group. Those days when residents could escape or find themselves lost in an unused part of the building – as Maureen did – are long gone. The other advantages are that all rooms are downstairs and Maureen loves spending time in the internal garden.
Ashgrove is so convenient: it is a short stroll from where we live. It will be such a relief to know that Rolling Respite in a safe place is only an assessment away. How great that it now looks likely I will be on that plane to Australia in April to catch up with my old school pal and his wife. Then if I’m really lucky I might even get to meet Kate Swaffer, Dominique K and Leah Bisiani to thank them for their exceptional support.
From today Focus Adult Social Care has agreed to fund 6 hours of additional sits a week. This means that I will get a 6-hour break (10 until 4) every Monday. There is also a 3-hour sit in place on Wednesday evening to enable me to attend local Buddhist Meditation Classes.
I need to spend some of my time today looking into alternatives for Respite Breaks. No Care Home can ever guarantee availability. I need to have options for those times when Alderlea cannot accommodate Maureen in a downstairs room.