Nursing Home

By Nick Gilmore

Published: 26 Apr, 2024

Friday

The first person I saw to speak to at The Home was Eleanor. She was standing outside the bathroom shouting at someone inside and wasn’t getting the answers she wanted. She heard me coming up the corridor and then said to whoever it was in the bathroom

“Here’s a man who will tell me why!”

As the door to the bathroom closed she explained to me what the problem was.

“They keep messing me about! They make you go in there and take all your clothes off and then make faces at you!”

“Ah! That doesn’t sound good Eleanor! What I suggest we do is we go to the lounge just here and you take a seat and put your feet up while I go to see if I can sort this all out. How does that sound?”

“Oh, would you? That’s so kind!”

We walked up to the end of the corridor and she was sobbing within two paces. After another two paces she was back under control. I got her seated, exchanged a glance and a nod with Terri and carried on to Mum.

Mum was still half asleep when I went in her room but she did acknowledge me first time with a nod.

I did the routine pillow and duvet rearrangement and she said that she was more comfortable.

There was a row of half finished and untouched drinks on her table. She declined all of them.

I told her about my day.

“We took the dog to the vet to get her used to going in there again. And I got my hair cut”

And that was me done.

I offered to read and she said “Yes please”

Half way through the second chapter, Reggie came in.

“Just to let you know, Shirley passed away this morning. She had a stroke yesterday. And Pat, the lady who told you to write a book, she passed away on Tuesday. She didn’t eat anything in the last month.”

“FUCK!!… And what’s happened to Pauline? I haven’t seen her for ages either.”

“She’s not coming back. When she first arrived the assessor said they’d fund one-to-one care. But then they reassessed her and because they said she wasn’t going to come to any harm if she fell over they cut the funding. We can’t meet her needs now.”

“Fucking government cuts!”

I knew that Pat’s condition was terminal and I hadn’t seen her for weeks so it was no surprise. Sad, obviously, but no surprise. But Shirley!? That was a surprise. I barely knew Pat but Shirley was someone I spoke to every day and had done for months. Sure, she often didn’t know who I was but I’d got to really like her.

And Pauline! The last time I saw her she had a row of fresh stitches in her head and her arm in a sling. I saw the ambulance that took her away when she fell and dislocated her shoulder. How could anyone have said she wasn’t at risk!? 

“Anyway Iris,” Reggie said, “how are you?”

“I’m alright”

“And how’s Nick?”

“I’m waiting for him to come in”

“But he’s sitting here holding your hand!”

She turned to me and said

“Who are you!?”

Bloody hell.

I didn’t read after that. I just sat in silence and held Mum’s hand until the night shift arrived to change her pad. I’d been thinking that if Shirley hadn’t gone into Pat’s room and refused to leave all those weeks ago, if I hadn’t gone to Pat’s rescue and waited with her until help came, if Pat hadn’t said someone should write a book about all the odd goings on there, then I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it. And now they’re both dead.

“I’m just going to step outside for a minute Mum while the girls change you.”

I didn’t think she was asleep but she didn’t respond.

In what seemed like no time at all they emerged from Mum’s room again.

“Your Mum’s calling for you.” they said softly as they passed me in the corridor.

I returned to find Mum laying on her side, facing the armchair where I sit. Hair brushed, bed remade. She was wide awake.

“I’m pleased you came to see me”

She took my hand and put it under her cheek. She drifted off to sleep.

Glenys arrived with the evening meds so I stood up to give her room to work. Mum jolted awake in wide-eyed panic.

“UNCLE NICK!! UNCLE NICK!!!”

“It’s OK Mum. I’m here at the end of the bed.”

She relaxed immediately. The tablets and eye drops were swiftly and efficiently administered and I returned to my seat. I said how shocked I’d been at the news about Shirley. Glenys explained how she had found her. She’d known straight away that she’d had a stroke.

I took Mum’s hand and we sat in silence. The Alexa routine that plays her soft, calming music for meditation started. The team that had just changed Mum passed the room with Callum who was being taken to bed. They looked in and smiled.

Mum let go of my hand as she fell asleep. I pulled her duvet up and stroked her head for a while.

“I’m going to go now Mum. The dog needs to go out for a wee.”

No response.

The front lounge was being swept as I walked towards the way out. Eleanor was the only resident there.

“Goodnight Eleanor! I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight dear!” she said cheerily, the upset earlier clearly long forgotten.

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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