The Final Goodbye

On Friday 17 February at 4:30 in the afternoon, I watched my Ma take her last breaths.  I felt relief that she was no longer in pain.  I was lucky enough to be able to say my goodbyes and to say ‘I love you’ before she slipped away from me.

I’m focusing on the fact she is no longer suffering.  I’ve been saying goodbye to pieces of Ma for the last couple of year’s as bit by bit dementia and other illnesses took their toil. My life has revolved around her care and now it doesn’t.  I’m a bit lost as I shake off the haze of surrealism that clouds your senses when you lose somebody close to you.  I’m in no hurry.

I will write more later.  At the moment it’s raw yet new.

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A different kind of Christmas

This Christmas was my first by myself, with Ma in care.

Since Dad died, Ma and I have planned the menu and prepared it together.  We would go ham and pork shopping.  Turkey was off the list and chicken was in… only because I pleaded.  The Christmas cake would be made and wrapped in foil until the right moment came to ‘open’ it.  The massive Christmas pudding was no longer an option and we resorted to a recipe that made individual microwave puddings that we froze and ate during the year. We’d cook and prepare way to much food but it never went to waste.

Christmas Eve would find us sitting around the kitchen table preparing the different foods and listening to Christmas music.  Christmas Day would find us doing the finishing touches, with more Christmas music, while having coffee and Kahlua. We then unwrapped presents together while sipping on sparkling wine and nibbling on chocolate coated peanuts and smoked almonds.  Last year Ma attended Christmas Day services with me and my sister which was special… even though she dozed off during the sermon.

Last year I had to show her how to cut things up and how to construct the Trifle.  For years, Ma’s Trifle has been the piece de resistance. Christmas was held at our house and my siblings with their families would all descend for lunch.  After my Dad passed, everyone went their separate ways but the family didn’t miss out on their Trifle fix.  Ma would construct individual Trifles for all the men in the family. For some reason men love Trifle.  This fact belongs with, men don’t know how to hang washing.

This Christmas, everything changed.  I woke to an empty house, except for hungry kitties.  It all felt wrong.  I decided to get out and go to the gym and then took myself to Maccas to pick up some breakfast.  I felt I had to change everything.  I came home, showered and went to church where I cried on the way in; during the service; and when I came out. Everything felt wrong and I felt very ‘off-quilter’.  My sister and her family visited Ma and I arrived around 12 to go to the dining room for lunch with her.

Unfortunately they were still dressing the bad pressure sores on her bottom and I walked in to her crying and struggling, as she’s always convinced she’ll fall off the bed.  Staff then couldn’t work out how to get her out of the bed into her wheelchair.  Asking me whether they should use the lifter or whether she could stand.  The more they discussed, the more agitated Ma became until I told the staff to leave her and I would sit with Ma in her room. They organised a tray for her which was beautifully decorated, unfortunately I didn’t get anything.  She only ate a few bites and gave up.

My sister had left four 200ml bottles of pink ‘champagne’ and Ma sat up like the queen enjoying her treat, with morphine attached, sipping her sparkling while watching David Attenborough DVDs. My man arrived around 4pm and after visiting with Ma we tried to leave.  Ma started to cry and couldn’t understand why I was going.  She wanted to come with us.  We sat some more and I kept saying how hungry I was… She settled down some and we left her watching Carols by Candlelight.

My last Christmas with Ma? I don’t know.  I treasure the times we had and found this Christmas to be very difficult, the time spent with her was bittersweet.  I’m glad I changed the way I do things.  I’m glad I got up and left the house.  If you can’t have what’s familiar, do something different. I know that got me through.

Guilt and Vigilance

It’s been a long time since I’ve written.  Every time I thought about writing I felt sick. Why? I don’t really know. Maybe I just poured too much of myself out in writing this blog and maybe because I just didn’t know how to express myself anymore.  My feelings were very raw like a scab you continually pick.

I put Ma into care on 4 July 2016.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  I’m now the decision maker of her life and death needs.  It’s a hell of a responsibility and one I wasn’t prepared for…. but then again, how does one prepare for that?  The legals, the financials, the need for constant vigilance as well as the need for constant vigilance (yep, I repeated myself). Ma has had a number of issues since she went into care. If I wasn’t vigilant she’d slip through the cracks.  Pressure sores, pneumonia, flu, sores from urine burns, infections, skin tears, not eating or drinking… the list goes on.

I’m there every day and sometimes twice a day.  I can’t afford not to be.  The facility is supposed to be one of the better ones.  I’ve been lucky that the Manager is very response when I raise issues and Ma’s doctor is wonderful… I’m sure they hate the sight of me, but I don’t have to be liked, I just need Ma taken care of.  I pity those that don’t have an advocate or can’t speak for themselves.

I always laugh when people say to me that I must have much more time now that Ma’s in care.  In fact I now have less.  Yes, I now have freedom to go out for more than an hour and I get to sleep all night but my days are longer now.  I cook up batches of food on the weekend so I can spend more time with Ma.

I see Ma slipping away.  Every day I feel regret for having ‘given up’ and placed her in care. Every time I find a problem, like a pressure sore, I feel regret.  Every time, Ma tells me she doesn’t like it there, or somebody didn’t treat her right, I feel regret.  I look back and wonder how I could have been so weak as to have given up.  It’s now hard to remember how I struggled.  All I feel now is guilt as she slips away before my eyes.  Difficulty swallowing, not eating or drinking and sitting in her chair 24 hours a day.  I never know what I’ll find when I visit.  Sometimes I’ll tie myself in knots contemplating what she’s going to be like when I get there.  I dream of other solutions and ways of bringing her home… although home ceased to be home to her before she went into care.

Would she have been like she is now if I hadn’t placed her in care?  I don’t suppose I’ll ever know.  All I can do is live with my decision and be vigilant.

 

The things that go bump in the night…

“Macbeth does murder sleep—the innocent sleep, sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care. The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath.  Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”

Oh Mr Shakespeare could you have been describing dementia and sundowning syndrome?  Ma’s sleeping or should I say, lack of sleeping is starting to make me into a cranky old crone. I can’t remember what a full night’s sleep is like.  I seem to sleep like a mother with a newborn, lightly, waking with every whimper and moan that Ma utters.  If Ma is having a hard time with her bladder she will be up and down more times than I care to recall.  Other nights it’s because of ‘people in her room’ or fixations or just her interpretation or her surroundings (like my poor housekeeping in not pulling up the bedding or leaving clothing hanging up!).

On a BBN or Bad Bladder Night as I call them, we can be up every 2 to 3 hours.  I feel like I’ve no sooner fallen back into bed before I hear the clunk clunk of Cyril the wheely walker heading down the hall to the toilet.  I stumble out and assist with my back turned dreaming of my nice bed while I wait for her to finish, pull her pants up and show her how to get back to her room.

Now the weather is colder I need to make sure I tuck her back in as she feels cold nearly all the time and can’t pull the bedclothes up by herself.  I have flannelette sheets on her bed and two fleece blankets and a doona but she’s still cold.  Lately she’s asked for me to put her ‘bluey’ on, which is a neck to knee fleece dressing gown which makes her all snuggly warm, or her poncho.

Recently she was fixated on her handbag.  She carried it everywhere she went, even into the toilet.  She would open it and count the money, she’d take the purses out and hide them.  So in the middle of the night she’d get up to count the money or look for the purses which she’d forget she’d hidden.  The money would always be missing, not that she could tell me how much money was in the bag or how much was missing.  Sometimes the money and purses were still in her bag but she just couldn’t see them.  At 3am I’d hear her shouting to ‘the man’ to give her back her money!  I finally couldn’t take it anymore and confiscated her bag telling her I was keeping it safe.  I also told her if she thought there was any money missing, I’d reimburse her.  She hasn’t mentioned the bag since.

Some nights she wants to sit on the side of the bed reading.  I will go back in to find her asleep with her head in her lap or lying backwards across the bed.  There is usually an ulterior motive such as a ‘person’ in her bed so she can’t lie down.  I will never put dark coloured sheets back on her bed again!  The week I had them on her bed she needed me to show her there was nobody there whenever she returned to her room of a night.

She is usually very restless of a night nowadays.  You tuck her in and 5 minutes later she is sitting up.  If she goes to sleep, it’s only for an hour and then she’s awake crying or doing what I call her ‘Moaning Myrtle’ (Harry Potter).  It’s not exactly crying it’s more of a weird kind of whimper.  I’ll ask her what’s wrong and it will be that she’s all alone, or that she wants to go home, or she wants to get dressed (which is weird because she’s been spending all day in her ‘Bluey’ and nightdress as it’s the only way she’ll feel warm). I can never tell when it’s going to be one of ‘those nights’.  She can seem perfectly alright going to bed but within a couple of hours she’s awake and restless.  The other night she called me into her room because there were flames shooting out of the bookcase.  Thank goodness she was wrong!  She settled down once I’d checked it out.

Last night was ‘one of those nights’ and now she has dozed her way through the day.  I feel like waking her up every time she drifts off… but that would be mean… but sometimes I feel like being mean. Ah sleep…….

7.5mg of Hell

I took Ma to her Urologist, or as I call him ‘The Wee Man’, on Monday.  After discussions around Ma’s problems of pain, sleeplessness and urinary incontinence, he decided to prescribe Mirtazapine to help Ma with her pain, sleeplessness and depression.  Mirtazapine is an anti-depressant used to treat major depressive disorder.  Knowing how fragile Ma has become to any medications, I was reluctant to get them for her…. And then I thought, “what if they worked and I got to sleep all night?”  I did some research and asked my Memory People™ family if they had had any experience using this on their loved one.  Experiences were varied with some having great success. As each person reacts differently it’s something that’s hard to predict so with great trepidation I gave her 7.5mg to go to bed.

I tucked her in and she was soon snoring.  She slept for five hours straight.  When I checked on her she was lying across the bed in a horizontal position with her legs on the floor sound asleep.  I’m not sure how she got there.  She was restless from then onwards… up and down every couple of hours.  In the morning she was like a zombie.  She ate some breakfast but I couldn’t communicate with her properly.  She sat there on the side of the bed with her eyes closed rocking slightly.  She spent the day like that.  Not making any sense, not understanding anything I said and drifting in and out of sleep…sitting up as she wouldn’t lie down.  She also seemed to be having increased difficulty getting off the side of the bed.

I rang her doctor for advice and in the end I decided not to give her any more tablets.  I finally got through to her in the evening when I roused her enough to eat some dinner.  She was very confused and sat there at the table after she had finished eating until I asked her what she was doing.  She responded with, “you know I’ve only been in the house a short time and I don’t know where the toilet and shower are”.  I got her washed and into bed and she was out like a light.

She roused enough during the night to find the toilet but couldn’t find her way back.  The ‘people’ were also back in her bed so I had to convince her each time that there was nobody there.  In the morning I could see she was more awake but still very dopey.  Her confusion (more than usual) continued, she also seemed very depressed and unhappy and continued to be very disorientated throughout the Wednesday.  She was also very angry at me.  She told me she wanted to go home to her house, that none of her clothes were here and the bedroom I made her go in was different from the bedroom she was in before.

Thursday was more of the same, still confused, still disorientated, still angry.  The doctor visited and checked her over and gave a script for a mild sleeping pill.  I’m not sure I dare give it to her as yet!  The carer came and I was glad to get out for a few hours to go to work.  As usual, Ma was on her best behaviour for the carer.  I walked through the door and it was ‘game on’ with her talking about her imaginary ‘friends’.  Papers that were on the table had been placed there by ‘the boss’ who had come home… She said she had to tell me in case somebody got hurt.  I’m still trying to work that one out.  The radio was on, but she hadn’t put it on… and she wasn’t going to turn it off in case ‘they’ were listening to it. She wouldn’t go in her bedroom as there were ‘people’ in there.  After spending a few hours at work and pretending that my life was normal her behaviours hit home worse than usual.

On Friday she was as cranky as a bag full of cats.  I was trying to do some work when I heard her start talking (my office is next door to her room).  “I want to go home to my house, although I suppose nobody will be there.”  When I went in to see her she said, “why am I here”?  That stopped me in my tracks.  For the life of me I couldn’t think of how to answer her question.  To stall for time, I asked her what she meant.  She repeated her question.  It was then I went for the big ‘D’ for Distraction, and asked her if she wanted to go out for coffee.  She couldn’t get out the door fast enough.  I took her up the street where she bought new slippers. We then had coffee and cake where she looked at me and said, “I feel better now”.  After a shop through the supermarket we came home and she laughed and joked.  It was like somebody had thrown a switch.

Her confusion remains worse than it was before her disorientation the same. It will be a week tonight since she had the pill.  I don’t know whether her mental state will recover.  Her mood seems to be more stable although her ‘friends’ continue to visit.

I’ll just take it one day at a time…

Ma’s way with words (part 1)

Ma’s always had a way with words.  She was a reader and great doer of crosswords.  If she had a spare moment her nose would be stuck in a book.  Growing up she’d have us kids confused or in stitches with her various sayings.

I had curly hair as a kid and whenever I was naughty, which was quite often, Ma would start reciting, “There was a little girl, that had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.  When she was good, she was very very good… And when she was bad she was horrid!”.  This would always make me cranky!!!  If we pulled a face we were told if the wind changed our faces would stay like that  (I was always afraid of that one).

One of my favourites was, “up in nanny’s room behind the clock”, which she used whenever we wanted to know the location of something that she didn’t want us to know.  If she didn’t want us to know where she was going… or was just being contrary, she’d respond with “I’m going there and back again to see how far it is.”  There was also the “wigwam for a goose’s bridle” in response to us asking what something was… again used if it was something she didn’t want us to know.

Kids being kids, we were always getting into things we shouldn’t and Ma was always finding us out to our complete astonishment (us thinking we were so clever).  When we asked how she knew, she’d always tell us, “because I’ve got eyes in the back of my head”.  My sister one day decided to find out whether this was true and checked the back of Ma’s head very thoroughly.  I think she was very disappointed when she couldn’t find anything. If we were being particularly painful (which was probably often) and asking why?… but why?… why? She’d respond with, “because ‘Y’ is a crooked letter and you can’t straighten it!”

If Ma was making a phone call to somebody she knew well she’d announce herself with: “It’s only me from over the sea’, said Barnacle Bill the sailor” or “is that you, because this is me” followed by a laugh.  To describe somebody who was very happy, she’d say they were “as happy as Larry”… I never did find out who Larry was or  “Billy Johnson’s black pig” for that matter.

I always remember Ma reciting a rhyme about Thor, “The Thunder God went for a ride, upon his favourite filly.  “I’m Thor!”, he cried. The horse replied, “You forgot your thaddle, thilly!”  This would cause me untold glee.

But my favourite saying of hers would have to be “better an empty house than a bad tenant!” in response to a belch… or we’d get, “beg your pardon Mrs Arden, there’s a chicken in your garden”.

I know this is about Ma but I couldn’t not write about my Aunty, who we always thought was the very epitome of a lady, describing somebody as the ‘town bicycle’! (I’ll let you work it out).

These sayings I treasure because they remind me of Ma and my childhood.  She still uses some of them to this day.  I thought I’d make an attempt to capture them before they get lost.  She has also coined a few new ones in recent times which I’ll cover in Part two.

The Ma I used to know

As Mother’s Day approaches I’m reminded of what I’ve lost, and found in my own Ma.  Looking back over the years I look at what we’ve shared together. We were like two peas in a pod.  We loved to go walking together until her arthritis won and walking became too difficult and painful.  She would teach me the names of the different flowers that crossed our paths and from this I developed a love for gardening.

Growing up I wasn’t interested in cooking.  I didn’t bother as the rest of the family were good cooks so I didn’t consider it necessary.  When the family get togethers stopped, as people went their separate ways and got caught up in their own families, I started to take an interest.  Dad, who was a baker by trade, and I would make Easter buns from scratch every year.  I haven’t done this since he passed away.

As my parents aged I took over more and more of the cooking and started collecting cookbooks and hoarding dozens of pull outs from magazines.  Ma and I would pour over the recipe books discussing the merits of recipes and what we were going to cook.

Recipe books are still something we share together.  Ma can’t operate the stove and can no longer remember where any of the ingredients are kept but she can still sit at the table and help me cut things up.  She can roll a mean Lamington in the coconut and help me with sausage rolls.  We taste test and argue about what needs to be added.  Her secret ingredient is Sweet Chilli Sauce for anything that just doesn’t taste like it should. It works!  She has trouble knowing how to cut some things up and can no longer remember her tried and true recipes.  I’m so glad I took it on myself to write my favourites out a long time ago, some of which I’ve shared on here.

We were cutting up onion and garlic the other day and I used the flat of the knife to crush the garlic so the skin would flake off, this was something she taught me many years ago.  She told me she’d have to remember that trick for next time.  That’s when you feel sad, sad for what she’s lost.

My Ma is a wonderful cook. Over the years I think she has managed to create a jam, pickle or relish out of any ingredient you care to name.  The big saucepan was always bubbling away on the stove emitting odours of vinegar or the sweetness of sugar.  Those jars were sold to raise money for various local charities.  I now make Ma’s famous Tomato Relish and last year potted up a few jars of Strawberry, Ma’s favourites.

The Christmas pudding, cake and mince tarts are no longer part of her repertoire, I have taken up the mantle.  Occasions like Christmas and Easter create a fixation and confusion in her.  For weeks beforehand she wants to cook the Good Friday fish or buy the Christmas ham.  It prays on her mind, nibbling away at her psyche until finally I give up.

The Mother’s Day and birthday cards I have given her over the years were from a daughter paying homage to a mother, supporter and best friend.  Every card I used to give her would reduce her to tears.  It was always my mission to find the card I knew would make her cry. Over the last couple of years, I’ve struggled to find a card to express our changed relationship.  I can’t bring myself to buy the cards of old.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love my Ma to the moon and back, it’s just that things have now changed, she is different from the Ma I used to know

I’m now more like the mother than the daughter.  I now take responsibility for her health and well being.  I now take her everywhere she needs to go.  I now spend nearly every waking hour with her.  So yes, I don’t feel like I can give those cards any more.  I’m sad for the mother I’ve lost.

But I’ve also found another Ma.  Over the years whenever I’ve asked Ma if she wanted to go out, 9 times out of 10 she would say no.  Now Ma will nearly always go out with me.  She is more outgoing.  She asked me for purple highlights (we’re talking bright purple) before Christmas and has been rocking them ever since.

My Ma has never been very demonstrative.  She hugged me the other day of her own accord for the first time I can remember.  I was blown away.  She now uses a term of endearment to address me… she has never done that.  (Not sure whether it’s because she can’t remember my name or?)  Anyway I’m basking in the glow.

While I’ve lost the Ma I knew, the new Ma is just as loveable albeit different.  So this year the Mother’s Day card will be different from previous years and as always I will try and pick the card that makes her cry.

During the month of April I am running/walking to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Australia. If you would to support me please go to my fundraising page.

Life of a carer

Time for a pity party!

You know when you’re just tired? Just tired to the bone so that you can’t think straight and your motivation just dries up? You sit there knowing there are things to do and yet you don’t do them.  You just want to curl up in a corner and not exist any more… well at least not for a few hours or days or?  The responsibility of somebody else’s life weighs heavy. Mothers and fathers will know this.

Life beckons… I used to travel, I used to be able to go out to dinner, I used to be able to go out for a few hours without worrying, I used to go to work 5 days a week.  When you become a carer these things disappear.  Your life revolves around bowel movements, dressing, showering, medications, incontinence, doctors appointments, wound dressing, mental stimulation, reassurance, and trying to grant their every wish and desire.

You love them so much it hurts yet resentment crawls in.  My life has disappeared and I’ve now become a satellite which revolves around my Ma making sure her every need is met. But I’m burning out.  I know this.  Every time I lose my cool because of something; I know this. I never saw myself as a bad person in the past but those days are gone.  Every time I yell at her, I really yell at the disease called dementia.  The thing that will ultimately take her away from me if some other health issue doesn’t take her away first.  Every day I see small changes which take her further away from me.

For the last few days she has been fixated on scones and talks about making them.  She then asks questions about the stove and how long it take to heat up etc. Today scones called too loudly to her and she went into the kitchen with the purpose of making some. Knowing she can’t turn the oven on, has forgotten where all of the utensils and ingredients are kept AND that she’s never been able to make a decent scone, I go into the kitchen with her and make them while she looks through a recipe book.  I didn’t know what else to do.  I didn’t want her to realise she didn’t know where anything was and how to turn the stove on.  So I just did it.  What else do you do?

Of all the changes, I think the spatial displacement thing is the worst.  Night and day don’t exist in her world as we know it.  At 2pm in the afternoon she is saying it’s night time and that she needs to get ready for bed.  She comments on how dark the night is.  I can’t convince her otherwise.  The other day she left her bedroom with her book on ‘Cyril’ (her wheeled walker) and I asked her where she was going.  She told me to her room and turned around and went back in to her bedroom.  She will lose her bedroom and the toilet. Yet find them other times.  If I take her out driving locally she will not remember many places even though she has lived in the area for over 50 years.

I can cope well with the physical stuff but the mental stuff is a real challenges.  One that I’m not coping with well.  Carer’s of dementia sufferer’s have a set of ‘rules’ that I read periodically.  I think I break most of them every day.  “don’t say they’re wrong”, “don’t say remember” blah, blah, blah.  I know these rules are supposed to make our life easier but unfortunately they just make me feel more guilty when I break them!

Caring for somebody with dementia is a day to day thing.  It’s like riding a roller coaster. On some days or hours, you may have sane moments and others… well and that’s just me!

Lessons learnt in respite care

As I’ve found out in the past, nursing homes are never going to deliver the same care that you do. Unfortunately this is something a caregiver has to accept, as hard as this is.  The reason why there is a couple of year’s gap between Ma’s stays in respite care is because of the bad experience she had the first time.  Hopefully with some preparation and preparedness your loved one’s stay in care will hopefully be uneventful.

These are some of the lessons I learnt and thing to be aware of from Ma’s couple of stays.

  • If you are going away while your loved one is in care make sure you allow a couple of days before going away to visit them and iron out any problems…
  • Make sure your loved one is having regular bowel movements. The staff assured me they logged (no pun intended) Ma’s bowel movements on computer.  Ma didn’t go for six days as they hadn’t written her up for a daily laxative even though I had informed them of her dosage and what she used.  Constipation can lead to confusion in the elderly so it’s important this is under control.
  • Make sure their teeth/dentures are being cleaned. I would usually wash Ma’s dentures when I visited her.  Ma said that the staff had only done this a couple of times (can’t prove or disapprove this because of Ma’s mental state) but she did came home with a sore mouth.
  • If they have an ulcer or any other medical condition that is usually seen to by a community nurse you will have to rely on nursing home staff to see it is dressed as you can’t access two services at the same time. Unfortunately on both occasions she’s been in care, her ulcer has suffered from not being adequately cared for.  Make sure you provide as much detail as possible on its care.  We had to provide her special silver dressing but wasn’t told this until the day she checked in.  Make sure you ask up front whether they require your loved one to supply their own dressings.  Take a photo of the ulcer so you have a comparison of how the wound is doing.
  • Ensure your loved one is being dried properly after their shower, especially under folds of skin. Ma suffers from chaffing under her breasts and stomach.  I asked them to ensure this was done and provided a zinc and castor oil cream to treat any sores.  When I got her home, I found red welts where they hadn’t dried her properly or used the cream.
  • Make sure they are getting their proper medications. Going into care you have to use the doctor the nursing home has.  This doctor may have a different idea on whether your loved one should be on the same medications.  Ma ended up having her pain medication cut by the doctor at the nursing home as he thought he knew better.  She spent a miserable time in pain.  If you don’t think they are getting the right medications ask to see the list and speak to the assigned doctor if you aren’t happy.
  • Make sure you keep copies of all the paperwork including the application form.
  • Make a list of questions you want to ask:
    • What does your loved one need to bring?
    • What does the nursing home provide eg. incontinence pads, dressings for wounds, Panadol (I must admit that I ended up giving Ma her own to take when she wanted as she wasn’t getting pain relief)
    • Can they bring alcohol (Ma so loves a brandy)?
  • Have a look in the room they will be staying in. Are there mirrors that could cause a problem, depending on their mental state?  Ma still wonders how the lady is going she shared the room with…
  • What can you bring to make your loved ones stay a bit more comfortable? Ma had her big numbered clock, pictures of her kitties and her kitty calendar (sigh, I didn’t get a look in) as well as books, magazines, and munchies (the food wasn’t very nice) AND of course her brandy.
  • I’m sure there are plenty of other considerations that I haven’t thought of… feel free to add.

Ma’s respite care diary…

…not the most exciting read in the world.

So, what to write?? I was going to condense all of the following into a shorter version and then I realised that it doesn’t give a full picture.  If you are needing to put your loved one into aged care you need to be on the ball.  I’ve been called a pedantic b*tch in the past because I like my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed… that’s just the way I am.  It’s my mother and I know that nobody will be able to care for her as good as I have but I need to know that somebody is going to care enough to try… So here you go… warts and all.

Day 2 – I see Ma and find out that she’s had a bad night, no surprises there.  Apparently she woke during the night asking for me and of course I wasn’t there.  She tells me that the nurses take too long to respond to her call.  Indeed I take her to the toilet as soon as I get there and a nurse comes in 20 minutes later to see what she wants.  I talk to the nurse again about Ma’s bowel habits and how to dress her leg ulcer.  I take Ma out into the courtyard for a breath of fresh air where she meets a couple of the ‘inmates’ and watches the BBQ lunch being cooked while having a brandy.  I ring that night to see how she has settled and mention her bowels again.  The nurses have a cordless phone they can take to Ma so we can talk but unfortunately the nurses can’t find it…  I never do get to talk to her on the phone during her stay.

Day 3 – Early visit this morning she had breakfast in her room which she didn’t eat.  I’m able to bring her a cappuccino in an insulated mug and she is very very happy.  She was waiting to go to the toilet after pressing her buzzer but all of the staff were busy collecting breakfast trays and didn’t have time to take her so I take her.  The aide comes in and wants to know whether I also want to dress her as well!  Ma has a ‘lady’ in the bathroom that copies everything she does.  If Ma lifts her hand, the lady lifts her hand.  I point out the mirror which Ma says she knows is there.  The mirror on the wardrobe door also shows a lady in the room… and even in her bed!  (Sigh, I knew it would be a problem).  Ma tells me that the lady wears the same clothing that she does AND she also has a stuffed toy kitty just like Ma!  Ma is frustrated and upset because nobody lets her move without assistance and when she presses the buzzer nobody comes.  She still hasn’t had a bowel movement and nobody is giving her the medication that we use to keep them going.  I mention this again to staff and ring again that night and tell the nurse.  The nurse says all the right things to me and I have hope in my heart.  But I should know better.

Day 4 – No poo – I talk to staff again about her bowels….

Day 5 – No poo

Day 6 – No poo – Repeated discussions I have with nursing staff fall on deaf ears although they respond nicely to my concerns…

Day 7 – Ma has poo but not the kind to get her excited… I text my sisters and boyfriend to tell them of the ‘arrival’… we have all been waiting for.  I ask to speak to a nurse…. Again.  Ma’s leg ulcer is leaking and I’m worried about her bowels and the lack of ‘movement’.  You talk to them and they agree with what you’re saying and then do their own thing.  Before Ma went into respite she was achieving a bowel movement every 1 to 2 days.  The nurse tells me that Ma wasn’t written up for a laxative every day… she acknowledges that my notes told them about the need for every day but still they didn’t do anything.  She tells me that they are now going to give her Movicol every day.  Not what I’ve been giving her or what I’ve supplied or what has been written up on her medication sheet attached to her doctor’s report.  I also ask the nurse about Ma’s ulcer and she informs me that they’ve changed the days the leg is being dressed on… and that they’ve ordered the stuff to do Ma’s leg with.  Deep breaths…

She speaks to Ma like a child saying in front of me ‘she really enjoys her meals, don’t you?’ Ma looks to one side and doesn’t respond to her.  She has already told me that there has only been a couple of good meals and the rest is inedible.  Sometimes the whole table doesn’t eat the food and they complain.  I can’t see that they get much if any fibre in their diet.  Ma says its tinned fruit with artificial cream. Ma doesn’t know anybody there and doesn’t feel like she ‘clicks’ with anybody that she’s met.  I go to take her outside and to get her hair cut but she doesn’t want to move in case my brother visits…. He doesn’t turn up.

Day 8 – No poo. I arrive to take Ma for her hair cut and find her still sitting at the lunch table along with the other ladies.  They are all staring at each other with no conversation.  I have brought Ma ice cream which she devours back in her room and then has a brandy.  She asks me every 5 minutes whether it’s time to go for her haircut.  My brother arrives just as we are leaving… great.  I’m sure we won’t see him again.  Ma is upset but leaves to get her hair done.

Day 9 – No poo.  I could tell them that using the Movicol doesn’t work but what’s the point when they don’t listen?  Walked in to be handed a statement for her stay.  $1,627.24 for 34 days… she is only there for 19 days.  Deep breaths times two… When I ask administration they tell me that they always take the money out in advance and refund it later… Really? I wasn’t told this… of course.  She tells me that she can’t see the sense in it and that many people complain… really? SIGH, I just walk away.

Ma tells me she has spent most of the night in her chair as her back was hurt getting out of bed.  The night staff apparently found her sleeping there during the night and moved her into her bed.  Not sure of whether this is true but she is sitting in the chair when I arrive and a bit confused.  Apparently somebody turned a bus over in front of the facility.  She asks me to see whether the ‘old lady’ is still there.  The ‘old lady’ has been absent since I moved the opaque door forward of the mirrored door.

Day 10 – No poo.  I decide to give Ma her own ‘movement’ medicine – two lower bowel stimulants and one Coloxyl with senna.  Ma’s leg ulcer is leaking and is looking very messy. SIGH

Day 11 – We have poo!  Arrived to find Ma has had a movement and is sitting on bed looking very pleased with herself.  She said she couldn’t get help so cleaned herself up mostly before help arrived.  There is poo all over toilet and basin and poo on her quilt.  How anybody could not see it and walk away is beyond me.  I’m very very angry.  I clean the bathroom and ask the aide where I can get another quilt for Ma’s bed.  I’m given a bag to dispose of the other quilt and after requesting a quilt twice from two different staff members, I leave.  My brother-in-law succeeds in getting her a quilt when he visits in the evening.

Ma tells me that she had soup for dinner the night before with no bread and she asks for some as she is still hungry.  She tells me she doesn’t like it there at all and that some of the staff get angry with her when she needs to go to the toilet during the night.  I can get up with Ma three and four times a night.  She can’t help it, how dare they get angry with her because she needs to go to the toilet.  She had the same problem in hospital.

Day 12 – I arrive to find her trying to get her heavy dressing gown off as she’s too hot.  She has been pressing the buzzer but nobody has arrived.  I take it off and dress her for the day.  The aide arrives and gets very defensive explaining herself.  Ma tells me she’s pooed again as she took more stimulants last night.  Nurse came to ask about Ma’s bowel movements and I had to bite my tongue as they reckon the Movicol is working!

I notice her dressing is leaking and her leg is very swollen.  The aide comes to take Ma to lunch at 11:45 and says she will be back in 5 minutes, 25 minutes later and we are still waiting and press the buzzer for somebody to take her to dinner.  When the aide finally arrives I tell them about Ma’s leg.  I check later and find that the dressing has been re-done… my sister was informed as soon as she walked through the door… oops I’ve seemed to have made my presence felt!

Day 13 – I’m going to work for five days this week!!!  It’s the first time since I can’t remember when.  I don’t shut up all day.  It’s like I’ve been let out of a cage… there is some normalcy which I haven’t experienced for a long time.  I don’t visit today… I feel incredibly guilty but my nephew is visiting along with my sister…. I decide I need to stay away.  It doesn’t stop me sitting and worrying.

Day 14 – I visit after work.  Ma is sitting on the bed half asleep slumped to one side.  She tells me what a horrible time she is having.  She says she is ‘leaking’ more than usual and that she’s very sore and that her ulcer has been throbbing.  I notice that her leg is looking quite swollen although not red.  She tells me again how horrible the food is and that there were sirens going all night and she’s being walking the corridors.  The tv show, ‘The Farmer Wants a Wife’ apparently turned into guns and shooting…. So she doesn’t what to ever watch it again.  I notice she hasn’t got her slippers on (the floors are very slippery… go figure in a new aged care facility) and she tells me that her feet have been sore.  As I go to put her slippers on I see she has a blister on her toe and ask if she can have a band aid.  The aide tells me she will tell the nurse… Ma tells me that the nursing staff keep asking her when she will be leaving…