Nursing Home

By Nick Gilmore

Published: 5 Apr, 2024

Friday

Most days when Mum’s nearing the top of her Sleepy/Active cycle you can listen to her talk for ages and leave having hardly understood a word because her speech is so indistinct. On other days, her speech can be really quite clear but you’ll still leave not understanding much. Today was one of those days.

Gina was in her office again when I got to The Home.

“How are you Nick? You look tired…. Overwhelmed…”

“Yeah, Overwhelmed is a good word. Lesley’s really struggling with the compensation claim for her dad and the outcome of the OT visit and I’ve been looking at the notes from when Mum first went into hospital last year. It’s a tough read. So I’ve come here  for some peace and quiet.”

She told me that she’d found the link I’d sent yesterday and that both she and the manager had sat for ages reading these posts. She was very complimentary and encouraged me to keep going.

The next person I met was Reggie.

“Hey Nick! Is that a new kilt?”

“No, just a clean one. I got so muddy walking the dog this morning that even I was too embarrassed to go out in that blue one.”

He laughed and asked how Lesley’s dad was.

“He still says he feels fine and doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. I don’t think he appreciates how ill he’s going to get or how quickly it’s likely to happen.”

We talked about how good the OT was and how invaluable it was to have Lesley with him to correct his answers. There was one OT visit recently where he achieved a 100% score. 100% wrong that is. Even when he hadn’t heard properly and was answering a question he hadn’t been asked he was, shall we say, ‘economical with the truth’.. Things like denying he’s had falls and denying he’s having problems looking after himself.

“This OT might be different though. She’s from the same tiny village Up North that Lesley’s dad is from and her Grandad ran the shop. There’s a good chance he knew both Lesley and her Dad!”

“Wow! Small world!”

As I pass through the rear lounge, Terri calls out.

“Hey! It’s Nick! You’re on a diet!”

“Sorry, what?”

“You’re on a diet! Iris says you’re on a diet”

“Ah. OK. I see”. 

There was loads of food about. It was teatime. I crossed my fingers hoping that Mum had already had hers. But one of the staff had a loaded tray and he was heading out of the lounge. Was he going to Mum’s room?

He was.

I followed him into her room and we found Mum laying across the bed. Duvet and pillows everywhere. With bed rails on both sides this was no mean feat and she was curled up with her feet on the wall.

We looked at each other and he said

“I think I’m going to need some help”

Help arrived and I left them to it. I headed back to the lounge.

“Here,” Terri said, “take a seat. Would you like something to eat?”

A plate of sandwiches and fried chicken appeared in front of me. I was sitting with Madeline and a resident I haven’t seen before. Madeline left us though as there was an argument brewing behind us and she’d gone to calm things down. Eleanor was clutching one of her soft toys and that’s never a good sign.

“Will you just bloody-well SHUT UP!!  Going on and on and on…” she yelled at, well, it could’ve been anybody.

Madeline was brilliant. She defused the situation quickly and talked to another resident I hadn’t seen before. But she came back looking defeated.

“That’s why I gave up studying Law. I didn’t know what to say to respond to that. Now I do people’s nails and trim whiskers.”

Bloody hell. I was supposed to have come in with my razor to do Mum’s whiskers and I’d forgotten. It was time to go back and take over from the young lad who was feeding Mum so I stood up.

“Are you Scotch?” demanded Eleanor.

That’s a drink, not a nationality, but I went along with it.

“Yeah, I’m a little bit Scotch. My great Grandma was.”

“Thought so! I could tell by the kilt”

The lady that Madeline had been talking to then piped up.

“My husband was Scotch!”

She proceeded to tell me her whole life story. Eleanor didn’t appreciate the conversation being monopolised by someone else.

“I’m talking to my bloody self here!” she said.

“I find talking to myself is the only way to get any sense sometimes Eleanor!”

That went down as well as expected.

I did get to see Mum eventually. Instead of helping Mum finish her Weetabix I arrived to find she’d already eaten the entire bowl and finished her milkshake. I congratulated her assistant and thanked him. Mum said something to him as he was leaving.

“What was that Iris?”

“It’s OK. It was something about the people in bed with her.”

As I sat down she said indignantly

“Where did you go!? Where did you get to!? Come on! Hurry up! Tell me!!”

I told her.

“DID YOU!!?? BLOODY CHEEK!!” and asked the Other People if they’d heard what I said too. They were equally annoyed apparently.

“Sandwiches!!??”

“Do you want a sandwich Mum?”

“No, but they do!”

“Who are they Mum?”

“Rosie and Tony”

“Have they been with you all day then?”

She didn’t know so she asked them. They had.

“Are you going to get their sandwiches or not? Go on! Quick!”

I deployed the usual tactic of going out into the corridor, counting to ten and returning.

“The Chef’s making some special ones for them. They’ll bring them up soon”

Mum was happy with that answer. I thought she’d forget about the sandwiches but she raised the subject intermittently throughout the visit. Sometimes it was on behalf of the Other People but towards the end of the visit she thought it was a good idea to have sandwiches with us for the bus home.

“How about a Malteser Mum?”

I held the box while she took one and then told me to offer the box to Rosie and Tony. I wasn’t sure where they were so she took the box off me and held it for them. We did that several times. I thought she did well not to drop the lot on the floor to be honest. She got tired of them not taking any after a while. The usual tactic is to say

“I’ll just put the box here on the table Mum. They know where it is and if they want one they can help themselves. Alright?”

It wasn’t alright.

She talked for a bit. To Rosie and Tony I think. Then she held her hands up and talked to me

“They came round this morning and cut all my fingers off!”

It was fortunate that Madeline had spoken about doing nails and whiskers.

“They did your nails? That’s good. Looks like they’ve done your whiskers too.”

“Yeah” she said, stroking her chin.

She talked some more and then paused for thought.

“That’s all closed down now. All the big ships, all the big….. things. All gone.”

I hadn’t seen Audrey for a couple of days. She’d been holed up in her room and her gang had been sitting in a row on her bed. I couldn’t see her, but I could certainly hear her now. Somebody had done something to displease her. We watched as Callum came down the corridor and went to his room, came straight out again, walked halfway back to Audrey’s, turned round and went back to his room, opened the door but didn’t go in. He didn’t know what to do or where to go. He hovered outside Mum’s room.

“Are you alright mate? Do you need somewhere to hide and keep your head down while she calms down?”

He really struggled to find the right words to express his distress. The words “Bloody woman” and “Serious nagging” did get used though. He declined a seat and stood at the end of Mum’s bed until he had composed himself enough to go out again. Mum talked to Rosie and Tony all through this episode.

“Have you got any books?”

“Of course I have Mum. Do you want the one about the village priest?”

“Yeah”

I did start reading but I was fighting a losing battle. Shirley came in to tell us she was going to the back door and then came back again to tell us it was locked. Lily then came in to see if we needed anything and to ask for directions to the way out. There was more commotion from Audrey’s room as she wanted to be taken to the lounge. And all the while, Mum talked to Rosie and Tony.

It wasn’t a bad visit though. Mum was really cheerful and was laughing a lot. It was just that that hadn’t had anything to do with anything I said or did I didn’t think.

Her mood took an abrupt turn for the worst when I told her it was time for me to go and have my tea.

“Aren’t you taking us with you then?”

“I can’t Mum. You haven’t had your evening meds yet. You have to stay for that.”

“BLOODY CHEEK!!”

“If Rosie and Tony want to go anywhere I can give them a lift. Tell them they can meet me in the carpark. Otherwise, I’ll see you all tomorrow.”

“Aren’t you coming back later!!??”

Bloody hell.

On my way back through the lounge I got spotted by Audrey.

“Ooh! Wait there! I’m going to get up and then you can call.”

“Er, OK” I said hesitantly.

It took her four attempts to get out of her chair.

“Go on then! Call!”

The staff all looked at me. I looked at them. We all shrugged.

“HURRY UP! CALL!!!”

The staff ran forward to get her seated again before she fell over.

“NO!! NO!! NO!! He’s got to call Andy. He’s up on the heath!!”

“Oh, I see! Sorry Audrey. There’s no need for me to call him. I’m going that way myself. When I see him I’ll tell him you want him to come back.”

I didn’t hang around to find out whether that answer satisfied her. I took a chance on her not realising it was me she was talking to or not remembering later if she did recognise me.

Another “Bloody hell” moment to add to the collection.

Bibliography

Tales from the Parish: 31 humorous short stories about community, family and village life, set in the English countryside

Kindle Edition

by Stefania Hartley

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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