Nursing Home

By Nick Gilmore

Published: 6 Apr, 2024

Saturday

The Home was peaceful when I arrived. The residents had just had lunch and half the day shift were having theirs.

I passed Eleanor in the corridor between the front and rear lounges. She was lost and didn’t know which to go. When I asked her where she wanted to be, she didn’t know that either. What was clear though was that she thought I was another resident and she didn’t know why I was asking her how I could help. She didn’t seem to be in any distress or danger so I left her to work things out for herself or get rounded up by one of the staff.

Audrey was in her usual seat in the rear lounge. The custom is that we exchange jolly pleasantries and have a laugh before I head off to see Mum. Today, however, she didn’t appear to recognise me at all and couldn’t understand why I was talking to her.

It wasn’t until much later that I got an inkling why they didn’t know who I was. It was Shirley who gave me a clue when she commented how nice my jacket was. With the milder weather I had chosen a thinner jacket. Was it just that I was wearing blue rather than black that caused the confusion? It could be. I know it’s caused confusion before. When the weather was cold I wore a jacket that was the same colour as a senior nurse’s tunic. That drew all sorts of strange requests for help and they all stopped when I wore a different jacket. It also highlighted a hidden value of staff uniforms. Each of them looks the same day in, day out. Nobody gets them confused.

Given the level of Mum’s activity yesterday, I fully expected her to be sound asleep and totally unresponsive.

She wasn’t.

She was a lot less fidgety and restless though. She was still very talkative but an awful lot less distinct. There were a lot more Other People in the room with her. When I arrived, she went round the room and told each of them that I was her son. Other People were coming and going all the time and she laughed and joked with them the whole time I was there. The Other People are normally children. Her visitors today seemed to be mostly adult women. Some of them had their daughters with them.

She’d been like this all day. Steve told me that she just talked and talked when was giving her her morning meds. He didn’t think he was going to be able to get away to finish his round. Reggie said that Mum had told him to keep his voice down because the Others were asleep and he might wake them.

Mum’s coordination wasn’t great today. She was able to hold her cup of tea and bring it to her lips to drink but when she went to pass it to one of the Other Ladies she dropped it in her lap. I was impressed at how effective the cap and spout that they use here was as hardly any came out and there wasn’t much mess. It did put her off trying to hold the cup for herself though.

The only time Mum stopped talking was when I read to her. There was a new behaviour today. I’m not sure if she was just completely involved in the story or just wasn’t aware that I was reading but when the dialogue in the book included a question, Mum was trying to answer.

We only had one interruption. We’d watched Shirley go to the back door and try to open it. It’s always locked and has a keypad. When she failed to open it she came into Mum’s room to ask for directions to the way out. I told her which would be best.

“Ooh, that sounds like a long way. I’d better pop in here.” she said.

Before I could convince her otherwise, she’d gone into Mum’s toilet. Having seen her round the home before, I was fairly certain that she could manage on her own and I let my finger hover over Mum’s call button. A couple of minutes later I heard the flush and Shirley emerged. Now I was concerned because dangling out of the bottom of one of her trouser legs was what looked like a urine bag. Did she have a catheter fitted!? Had she pulled it out!?

She headed off in the direction of the lounge and I followed. She carried on through the lounge and when I let the staff know that she’d used Mum’s toilet there was a collective response of “Oh, Christ!” They all sprang into action to gather Shirley and settle her down and to¬† check what state she’d left the toilet in. Fortunately, no harm had come to anyone or anything.

I returned to Mum and read a little longer before telling her that it was time for me to go and have my tea and that I’d see her tomorrow.

“What!!?? Aren’t you coming back later!?”

That was the clearest thing she said all day.

Bloody hell.

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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