Bugwoman on Location – The Hardest Week

Dear Readers, last week I described how we had found a nursing home for Mum and Dad. This week, things moved at an extraordinary pace. Mum was rapidly deteriorating – as I travelled down from London, I got a call from the District Nurse who had been visiting Mum regularly to dress her pressure sore.

‘ I think something has changed in your Mum’, she said. ‘I think that her poor body is worn out, and that maybe she doesn’t have the energy to go on for much longer. She might rally, but she might not. There’s nothing medically wrong with her that she doesn’t normally have, but I just wanted to warn you’.

And when I arrived, Mum was wrapped up in blankets in bed, refusing to eat, refusing to take her medication. She was always cold, and her hands shook whenever she tried to hold anything. She had to be helped in and out of the bed to the commode a few steps away.

On Tuesday, the people from the nursing home arrived to do an assessment of Mum and Dad’s medical needs. They asked Dad how he felt about moving in.

‘I’m looking forward to it’, he said, and they were flabbergasted and delighted.

Mum was in no condition to answer anything. When they popped in to see her, she just looked at them with those huge green eyes and went back to sleep.

The admission date was set for Thursday.

‘The sooner the better’, said Dad.

I had a chat with him afterwards.

‘You seem very excited about going into the nursing home’, I said.

‘Well’, he said, ‘it’s for your Mum. I want her to be properly looked after. I wouldn’t be going for anyone else’.

The next few days were a flurry of packing. What do you need for a nursing home? If you’re Dad, you need a couple of blazers, your best shoes and your aftershave. He will be the smartest man in the place. He also brought his beard trimmers. Mum was largely in denial, but she rallied to make her feelings known.

‘I don’t want to go’, she said. ‘I  love it here. I love the house. I love the garden. I love Milborne St Andrew. ‘

‘Mum’, I said, ‘I know you do. But you need more care than we give you in the house now.’

‘Me and your Dad have looked after ourselves for 83 years’, said Mum. She is laying on the sofa, and I have adjusted her pillow position half a dozen times because she isn’t comfortable and can’t do it herself. ‘We’ll be alright’.

And then we have a row, and I tell her that the only reason she’s still in the house is because I’ve been up and down from London like a yoyo, and when I’m in London I’ve been organising everything, liaising with carers, sorting out medical appointments, making online food orders.

She blinks. ‘Well, what else would you be doing?’ she asks.

And that, I think, is it in a nutshell. Mum’s world has shrunk until there is nothing in it but her and her needs. Pain and fear have made her self-centred.

Anyhow,  there is more argy-bargy and I promise that if she hates the place I’ll do something about it, and she promises that she’ll give it a good go.

The morning of the move seems to last forever. We are all packed and ready to go and waiting for our lift. Every so often, Mum tells us that she doesn’t want to go, but she is asleep for most of the time. I wonder for the thousandth time if this is the right thing to do, but we have pretty much run out of options. The clock  ticks, and we sit around and avoid meeting one another’s gaze.

Our lovely neighbours come to give us a run to the nursing home with our suitcases. Dad has his beer and gin packed. We have photos and toiletries and the zimmer frame. Mum sits next to me in the car with her head on my shoulder, holding my hand. I know that she is absolutely terrified. Over the past few days she has developed a horrible infection in one arm, which started as a couple of blisters and turned into a mass of medieval sores. This has been bandaged from top to bottom to try to protect it for the journey. Every so often she winces.

The journey is only about twenty minutes, but it’s the longest ride I’ve ever taken.

And then we get there, and Mum and Dad are shown their rooms. At the moment they’re on different floors, but as soon as a room becomes available Mum will be moved  up. The rooms are purposely small to encourage the residents to use the communal areas, but Dad has special dispensation to sleep in the reclining chair in Mum’s room. One of the reasons that I liked this home was that it was very flexible and treated people as individuals. They know how important it is that Dad and Mum can be together.

On the other hand, Dad is very independent. He’s already reconnoitered the place.

‘There’s a fish tank on my floor, they were cleaning it out this morning’, he said, as we went for an exploratory walk, ‘And there’s music and dancing!’.

I could see him eyeing up the proceedings. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he joined in next time.

Someone asked him if he wanted to be part of the Christmas talent show. To my surprise he didn’t turn it down because of course they wouldn’t be there at Christmas, but merely out of modesty.

‘I can’t do anything’, he said. ‘I haven’t got any talents’.

Mum, on the other hand, is resolutely unconvinced.

‘ I don’t like it here’, she said to me after she’d been in the home for thirty minutes. ‘It’s got Bad Vibes’.

I left them at 6 o’clock, Dad in his pyjamas in the reclining chair with a can of San Miguel in his hand. I went to the guest flat where they were staying and plonked on to the sofa with a mix of emotions. Should I just have left Mum where she was and employed nurses to look  after her in her last days, if indeed this is what they were? Should I have found a different nursing home?

I went out for a curry and a beer, fell into bed at ten o’clock and slept like a log for the first time in six months.

The morning was bright and clear. The staff told me that ten o’clock was a good time to go in, as all the medical stuff would have been done by then. I wandered about in the grounds taking the photos for this piece. I was struck by what I thought at first was a magnificent holm oak,  but then realised that it was two trees growing next to one another, one tree leaning backwards as if they were dancing the tango.

I walked into Mum’s bedroom, expecting a litany of complaints. But Dad had had a good night, and Mum was sitting up. She took all of her tablets. She ate some porridge. She ate half a piece of toast and jam. She looked tired and frail, but not at death’s door, at least not this morning.

‘I don’t like it’ she said. ‘I want to go home’.

I reminded Mum that she’d said that she’d give it a proper try, and that 18 hours was hardly enough time to decide.

‘Alright’, she said, ‘But I still don’t like it’.

‘But there are alpacas coming for a visit this afternoon’ said Dad. The home is visited by therapy alpacas. Who knew there was such a thing?

Mum gave him a look. She is clearly not impressed by the alpacas.

And so we go on. This has been such a quick transition and most people don’t like change, especially as they get older. Mum will need time to get used to the idea of being looked after permanently, and to mourn the loss of her independence and her home.Mum tells me that I don’t understand what those losses mean, and she’s right. What I do know is that this is the best chance that Mum and Dad have to stay healthy, together and out of hospital for the time that remains to them. Whether that will compensate for the loss of autonomy that goes with it, I don’t know.

In a way, so much of Mum and Dad’s ability to make decisions for themselves has already gone. In an ideal world, we would have decided on the future together, and would have gone to visit lots of nursing homes to decide on the right one. Instead, when the crisis came it was an emergency, with the GP saying that they were no longer safe in the house because of Mum’s medical and mobility issues. What Mum did say to me a long time ago was that it was more important that they were together than that they were at home, and that she trusted me to find them somewhere good to live out their days. I hope that at some point, she remembers that conversation. In the meantime I will have to bear the fact that she doesn’t like where she is and that she thinks I’m a terrible daughter. I shall have to harden my heart and rest in the knowledge that I’ve done the very best I can. For now, that will have to do. At least they are safe, warm, comfortable and well-looked after.






21 thoughts on “Bugwoman on Location – The Hardest Week

  1. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    I think you have done, and are doing, a fine job. It sounds like your mum’s medical needs outweigh anything else and they are both together and well looked after. I love the thought of your dad sitting there with a can of beer. That’s exactly how I’d want to be. 😊

  2. Daisy Solomons

    Of course you’re not a terrible daughter, and your Mum knows it, too. Now that you know your parents are cared for and not in any immediate danger, why not take some time for yourself, and let your Mum settle? Soounds like she is rallying already, and the longer she is there, the more she is used to it, the less appealing moving back home will be.

  3. ravenhare

    You are the most amazing person, and a fabulous daughter – don’t ever doubt that, please. You’ve found yourself in an unenviable position and you’re being kind and sensible to your parents (even if at the mo you’re mum doesn’t agree!) I do hope that your mum settles and that you can sleep better in the knowledge that they’re both safe and care for. The home sounds very good and looks wonderful.
    Sending you biggest hugs from the hills, and a wish that your mum soon settles. xx

  4. Gail

    You are doing your very best, as you have for a long time. I guess that your mum like you is scared and it’s hard at times of worry and exhaustion not to express that angrily or accusingly. It’s hard to bear – I had a couple of angry tussles with my mum that I still regret. There will be time to overcome those words said in tiredness and sorrow, remember that you are grieving too. I remember with my mum that there were a couple of times when she seemed barely present, friends had come to see her and I chatted to them about how proud I was of my mum and how much, despite our several disagreements, I loved her and knew that she’d always loved me. I didn’t think she was present enough to hear, but after the friends had gone, I saw a few tears on her cheeks. Hold on to the love and remember you are doing an amazingly hard job.

  5. Fran & Bobby Freelove

    You have done this purely for the right reason and that is the welfare of your parents. You have always done everything possible for them so you have absolutely nothing to reproach yourself about. We remember when our father went for respite care for a while what a huge weight it was off our shoulders to know someone was there 24-7 for his needs. I’m sure your mum will soon adapt to her new surroundings and it sounds like your dad will be fine. We wish you and your parents all the very best and we’re sure we’re safe in saying so does everyone who reads your post and feels like they have been on this journey with you.

  6. Katya

    It’s the ultimate test of one’s devotion and courage to, in essence, become a parent to one’s parents, and something no child is really prepared for. How well you continue to do that! I think once your mum realizes how safe and cared for she is, and with your dad at her side and continued visits with you, she will settle in and give little thought to returning home. Your inspired accompanying photos tell a touching and bittersweet story.

  7. Jan Drinkwater

    Have been there and felt all the emotions you and your parents are going through. Hang on in there! You can only do what you think is best and when it is done with love for those involved you will have nothing to reproach yourself for.

  8. gertloveday

    I loved the alpacas! We were worried about our dad when he had to go into a nursing home – he was a very eccentric, ramshackle sort of man – but he thrived on the attention and even got into armchair aerobics and aromatherapy. It was not one of the modern glamorous homes – in fact, the more glamorous, the more suspicious we were – but as in your case there was real heart in the care.

  9. penthompson

    Don’t lose confidence in your marvellous daughtering or in the joy of nature which you celebrate so well. Your parents different reactions to moving from home is so familiar. I feel I’ve been on your challenging journey with you. My poor old dad has been failing since nursing the love of his life ( my stepmother ) to her death at home from Alzheimer’s on Valentine’s Day 2015. Since then he’s had a stroke, steadily lost all faculties , and spend the last 22 months in a wonderfully caring NH close to our sister. I’ve taken on the material organising and my sister the bulk of the visiting/caring responsibility . We’ve had a few false endings necessitating speedy drives north to south . Finally,the real ending came last weekend. Sad and a relief in equal measure. Now we will try and celebrate a long life of 87years and 10 months, not the diminishing over a few tough years.
    Keep blogging !

    1. Bug Woman

      So sorry to hear about your Dad, Pen – such a difficult time for you and your sister. Sending you lots of hugs and yes, it’s important to remember the whole of a life, not just the last few years xx

  10. Anne Guy

    Oh dear what a dreadful week and hard to hear such unkind words when you are doing your best to make everyone safe and happy. Hopefully your mum will begin to accept her new surroundings especially if she sees your dad trying to fit in and adapt. It all sounds so familiar to the situation we had with my elderly father two years ago…. hang in in there you know you are doing the right thing for them despite what they may say and think. Take care and get some well earned rest, they are in safe hands.

  11. Alyson

    This was a tough read for me as I am just about a week behind you in this whole process – I have identified a care home with an available room for my mum, but now in a holding pattern in hospital until it is ready for her. Of course, like with your parents, she thinks she can manage fine back at home, but of course even before her fall she only managed at home because I micro-managed every aspect of her day.

    This really is one of the toughest things you will ever have to go through as a daughter isn’t it, because unlike with most other big decisions in life, this one can never have an outcome that all parties are really satisfied with. Hopefully in time they will both settle in well (which I know does happen) and you will be able to visit as a daughter and not a carer who is drowning with the weight of responsibility. There should be no guilt as it sounds as if you have done everything in your power to help them through this difficult time, as have I with my mum. Much more difficult to put into practice however I know. One thing that’s keeping me going is that not a single health professional/friend with experience of such things, has told me there could be any alternative to the care home. I have never known of a family who have had poorly parents coming to live with them, where it has worked out, and after much anguish the care home solution it had to be anyway. Good luck with it all and in the meantime, enjoy all those wonderful autumn colours.

    1. Bug Woman

      Wishing you all the luck in the world with your Mum, Alyson – I hope that your Mum settles quickly. You have done everything that you can, and your Mum will need 24 hour nursing home which you can never provide at home, just as we were unable to. Keeping everything crossed for you during the next few weeks….

      1. Alyson

        Just wanted to let you know that today was the day I took my mum to the care home we had picked out for her – Only one with spaces as it turned out so not much of a choice really, but it is a nice one (with really nice prices to match).

        I am hoping she settles in quite quickly however there will no doubt be a few ups and downs during this initial phase. I wish you all the best with your parents as it really is the toughest thing you will go through in your life. (I thought having a baby who needed 24 hour care was tough but nothing compared to this). Like you I will get a lot of my life back and like you I love heading out with my camera taking pictures of the lovely countryside we have around us up here in The Highlands of Scotland.

        I will continue to enjoy your wonderful blog.

      2. Bug Woman

        Hi Alyson, I really hope all went well with your Mum earlier this week, it really is a tough, tough time. My parents are gradually settling a little, but I suspect it will take a while. In the meantime, I am just racked with grief every so often, when I least expect it. We shouldn’t forget that it’s a loss for us too. Let’s keep in mind that we did the very best that we could, and that we had run out of other options. I only hope that someone will care enough to make such decisions for me if I haven’t made them for myself already. My parents resisted getting help at every step of the way – if they had accepted more help earlier, it would have made this transition a lot easier for everyone. Thinking of you, and wishing you peace, and strength, and the time to put yourself back together x

  12. Veronica Cooke

    The home looks lovely and sounds brilliant. I’m sure your mum will come round especially as your Dad is keen.

    Such a relief for you and how lucky you were to find such a great home.

    Fingers crossed it will all work well for all concerned.

  13. Robin Huffman

    Dear Vivienne, you have so many of us rooting for you. Again, thank you for sharing your journey, and with your eloquence, we can all learn so much from you, Brave Soul. Much love.

  14. Toffeeapple

    I can only echo what others have said already and to thank you for sharing your story with us; also for taking the time to post beautiful nature photographs. Wishing you Peace. x

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