When you are faced with the reality of your actions the doubts come flooding in.
Could we have managed Dads erratic behaviour for longer? Where there any alternatives to a nursing home? Were we being selfish in our own need for a ‘Solution’?
By WE I probably mean MUM because she was the one dealing with this situation on a daily and nightly basis, we could visit then go home but poor mum was home and some nights she shared her home with a devil. It basically came down to a simple choice, mum coped till she gave out, which would be totally unfair as she was still a lively 70 odd, or dad was placed in a nursing home and mum got part of her life back. I say part because although the physically exhaustion would improve the mental anguish would not.
In an ideal world, a one that acknowledges the immense problems faced by those caring for someone with Dementia, then maybe there would be the help and supported needed. Real support not the haphazard, disjointed and often funding driven support available now.
The truth is though that for the best part carers are given no help or even advice. It is a steep learning curve and they’re very few experts to show the way.
I have thought long and hard about my Dads illness and our management of it. I have been filled with self-doubt and guilt. Yet I know that Dad would have agreed with our ultimate decision to place him in a nursing home, had he been able to.
The problem wasn’t that he was in a nursing home, the problem was the nursing home he was in!
Even the phrase’ Nursing Home’ can conjure up images of elderly residents sitting aimlessly in high back chairs in large day rooms, the chairs placed along the walls facing the centre of the room. A literal waiting room, waiting for the inevitable – Gods waiting Room. On this Willow Court did not disappoint.
In truth we probably buried our heads in the sand, we hadn’t dared to look seriously at the care homes available in our area, so we had no idea what to expect. On reflection I wish I had taken the time and checked out some care homes, I had been very pro-active when looking for schools for my children. I had visited a few in the area and spoken to the head teachers, this was of course pre Ofsted Inspections, but had they been available I would have certainly read them in detail.
So here we were in this god damn awful situation. You would think that it would be easy to just move dad to a home we were happy with, but no, ‘The System’ just doesn’t work like that. As I have already said in a previous blog we were given no option. Dad was an emergency and we were told it was Willow Court or nowhere.
The whole family were voicing their dislike of Willow Court, the smell, the dated appearance and especially the way dad looked so mum and I requested a meeting with the acting manager and set out our issues, many of them small but together they became a bigger and bigger problem.
The small things included dad not being changed on a daily basis and even when he was changed the staff would dress him in mismatched clothing. My dad was of the old school, he was always immaculately dressed, shirt and tie or a shirt and jumper and freshly pressed trousers and he always smelled of wood spice aftershave. He also bathed and shaved daily and now he was going days without washing or cleaning his teeth. I remember his ‘Social Worker’ was there at the meeting and she had an excuse for every issue we raised. They couldn’t force dad to get changed or have a bath nor could they tell him to shave and clean his teeth. Really!! Were they not supposed to be trained in dementia care, was this not a problem they faced every day. Mum had managed to keep dad clean and tidy with no help or training. My dad had the right to refuse, ‘Really’!!! he had dementia for goodness sake. What he refused one minute he would happily agree to the next. Had they bothered asking him more than once or was once enough to be able to tick a ‘Refused his bath’ box?
Another bug bear was the way his clothes kept disappearing. Every time we visited we had to sort his drawers and wardrobe. Underwear that clearly wasn’t his in his drawers, his missing. Soft top socks we had bought him because his ankles swelled all disappeared, his coat, shoes and slippers all went walk about without him. His trousers and shirts would be on any old clothes hanger, I mean who puts shirts on trouser hangers. All his belongings were labelled, mum even hand stitched his initials into his socks and underwear, but still it vanished. Worse still his watch and glasses kept going missing. Dad always wore a watch, it was part of him and he would ask us if we had seen it. We in turn would ask the staff who would make a cursory search and just say it would turn up at some point but they never did and after losing 3 watches we had to admit defeat. His glasses, which he needed didn’t last very long at all, so we started buying off the shelf glasses. Not ideal but cheaper and easier to replace.
We were told that his things were insured but when we tried to claim we were informed that his watch wasn’t on his inventory so we couldn’t claim for it. Apparently we were supposed to inform them every time we bought him something so it could go on his inventory, shame they hadn’t thought to tell us this bit of information sooner, and although he was wearing a watch when he entered unfortunately it hadn’t been put on his list of items!!
Dad loved pottering around his garden and although Willow Court had an enclosed garden it obviously hadn’t been attended too for a very long time. The sitting area consisted of broken and old wooden chairs and planters that even the weeds had given up on. Even if we did want to go out into the garden we couldn’t. The patio doors were always locked and someone somewhere had the key but hunting them down wasn’t easy
His social worker asked us to give the home time to sort things out. Then she stated that we actually couldn’t move dad as he was still being assessed and we had to take into account what was best for him. The upheaval and distress it would cause him, after all he had just got used to his new surroundings was it fair to put him through that again? For whose benefit were we moving him? She actually made us feel selfish and guilty. Cleverly done by an expert. She had done this before.
Patience is a virtue, but only if you have the time