Nursing Home

By Nick Gilmore

Published: 22 Mar, 2024


All seemed peaceful at The Home today when I arrived. The senior nurses were in the Pre-Shift-Transition-Handover-Briefing Meeting so only waves were exchanged as I passed their office.

Audrey greeted me cheerily and felt compelled to offer me some advice as I passed through the rear lounge.

“You will behave yourself won’t you?

She gave me a look and we both laughed.

“I think the chances of that are fairly slim, don’t you?”

That made her laugh even more.

Mum greeted me with “Ooh, I’m pleased you’re here” and she reached for my hand. She recoiled instantly though.

“Cor blimey! Your hands are cold!”

She was well on her way out of her Sleepy phase but wasn’t fully in her Calm & Lucid phase yet. The visit started with a few repetitions of “Don’t leave me on me own” and “You will stay with me” before moving on to “I’m nearly done with this place” and “I’ll be leaving soon”. And with that, she’d reached the limit of intelligible speech. I couldn’t understand a word after that.

I did the routine pillow rearrangement and she agreed it was much better but she still wasn’t comfortable. There was a short guessing game to work out what was wrong and it turned out to be her legs. They’re stiff and sore. Hardly surprising as hasn’t moved at all for three days. In fact, aside from being weighed every week, I doubt she’s been out of bed more than a handful of times since August.

I asked her if she thought a little physiotherapy would help and suggested that I speak to the senior nurse on the day shift in the morning. She nodded firmly in agreement. Just a bit too firmly for my liking. I know what that means. “I agree that it sounds like a good idea and you can ask if you like but if someone turns up to mess me about I’ll tell them to sod off”. Just like she did in hospital and at the previous nursing home.

She was responsive though and seemed to enjoy hearing about my day. She likes to hear how well The Dog is doing. Twice this morning we were complimented on how well-behaved she is now and we were even asked for training advice. This was from people who knew what an absolute handful our hound was when she first arrived.

With Eldest Sister due to visit on Sunday and a trip to Father-in-Law planned for tomorrow we had to plan ahead.

“Today was a cleaning day Mum. Couldn’t believe how much mud there was on the floor just inside the front door. And I think most of it was dropped by me!”

She smiled a ‘You’ve always been like that’ smile.

“But the dog hair Mum! You wouldn’t believe how much there was. It bunged up the vacuum cleaner. I pulled out enough hair to make a new dog!”

The night shift were by then scurrying around getting people ready for bed and a carer I hadn’t spoken to before hovered at the door. Before she could go, I beckoned her in.

“Just so you know, never be afraid of interrupting if I’m here. If you’re ready to change Mum then I won’t get in your way. I don’t mind stepping outside for a few minutes.”

With the change completed, I went back in to Mum. She confirmed she was comfortable but we were joined by Shirley before we got much further.

“Hello Shirley! Are you alright?”

“I don’t know where I’m supposed to go. Everywhere looks like the wrong way”

“Well why don’t you come in here and sit down? You look worn out”

“But that’s your chair”

“That’s OK. Sit down and get your breath back”

“Ooh, I don’t know. I don’t know”

She sat down but I knew it wouldn’t be for long. Shirley’s default state is Restless.

“This chair’s too low. I can’t get up”

I was going to have to break one of my cardinal rules: Not to touch a resident that isn’t my Mum. But I do know how to lift safely and she got to her feet. Only she didn’t know where to go. I suggested the lounge but she didn’t know where that was.

“It’s alright,” she said, “I’ll follow you”

Not that I was going to the lounge or anything but what does that matter?

“Back in a minute Mum!”

Audrey’s face lit up when she sees me come in to the lounge but it turned to a scowl when she saw Shirley right behind me.

“That’s your chair there, isn’t it Shirley?”

Before she could say anything, Audrey told me it’s the one covered in spiders. I sat down next to Shirley to get her settled and straight away she took my hand. Audrey was now fuming. And I was stuck. A couple of the staff came into the lounge to collect the next candidate to be put to bed. They saw me and after laughing heartily they asked if I was alright.

“Yeah. I’m fine”

I eventually extricated myself and went back to Mum. She was nearly asleep. I stroked her head, told her I’d be back tomorrow and she smiled weakly back.

She wasn’t especially happy but at least there hadn’t been any hallucinations today.

I met the other half of the night shift in the front lounge on my way out.

“Are you on your way home now then?” the team leader asked.

“Yeah. At last.”

“Alone!?” she said, sniggering.

“What? Oh, yeah, well I think Shirley would come with me”

They collapsed laughing like they’d already heard what had happened. But how? It’s that hive mind thing again.

I turned to go and almost clattered into Eleanor who had crept up behind me.

“Don’t worry,” she says happily, “I wasn’t going to shove you!”

She proceeded into the lounge and was about to head towards her chair. There were protests from the cleaners who had just mopped the floor, increasingly insistent requests for her to go back to bed and increasingly strident rejections of those requests.

There was going to be a row and I left them to it.

Bloody hell.


Author’s Note

My Mum is in a nursing home in a small village in the Thames Valley. The photo is not of the home. I used an AI image generator to give the reader some idea of the home she’s in.

All, some or maybe even none (you’ll never know!) of the names have been changed to protect privacy and hide real identities. If you think you recognise someone then let me know and I’ll edit the post or remove it entirely

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1 Comment

  1. Bill Dring

    I love this work – heartwarming, sad, funny, eye-opening, informative, educational. It beautifully describes what many of us have been through or will go through. We may end up sitting by one of those beds ourselves one day, or even in one! Whether as other ‘inadvertent carers’, or just having a healthy interest in the inevitable human condition, you will enjoy Nick’s writing; he captures all the shades and nuances of a bedside, care home visitor, with a first-person narrative that will leave you emphasising, smiling, and thinking about a subject we all try to avoid.


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