Nursing Home

By Nick Gilmore

Published: 8 May, 2024

Wednesday

It was what you might call a roller-coaster day today.

Sticking with the new schedule of an early visit, I arrived mid-morning. I was greeted by Juliette with the words

“Can we have a quiet word Nick? We’re very concerned about Mum.”

Not a great start.

Apparently, when Reggie did his morning meds round, he’d thought that Mum was looking extremely pale and Mum had said she was very tired. Juliette had been summoned for a second opinion. I was also told that after a long period where her weight was stable, Mum had slowly but steadily declined in the past month. It wasn’t much but in the light of the other symptoms it now looked significant. They asked me to take a look for myself to see if I agreed.

When I got to Mum, she was indeed far sleepier than I had expected. If she’d been on schedule she should’ve been far more active. Her Sleepy phase had started on Sunday so this was Day 4 and she looked like she was stuck on Day 2. And she was pale. Ghostly pale.

Juliette joined us and led the conversation. The way she talks to Mum is incredible. Just wonderful. The tests she does to judge Mum’s mood are so clever. She told Mum that it makes her day when she sees her smile. Mum didn’t smile. If Mum sings along to “You Are My Sunshine” then she’s OK. She had done earlier but didn’t then. If Mum would eat a Milky Way bar then she was OK. She took the tiniest bite and had to be persuaded to swallow it before refusing the rest. When Juliette asked Mum if she felt sad Mum simply broke down and sobbed her heart out.

Mum’s on the same antidepressant that I was on when I was at my lowest but she’s on a miniscule dose. Juliette suggested that it should be doubled and I agreed. She thought that Mum would benefit from an iron and a general vitamin supplement too. The GP was summoned.

Juliette told Mum she looked like she could do with some sunshine to get a bit of colour in her cheeks.

“It’s a lovely day out there today Mum. Shall we sit in the garden for a bit? I’ll sit with you so you won’t be on your own.” I suggested, more in hope than expectation.

Juliette said that even half an hour would be good. Grudgingly, Mum agreed. With that, there seemed to be staff everywhere bringing slings, hoists, wheelchairs and blankets before Mum changed her mind. We were in the garden in no time.

Reggie came out and said the pianist had arrived so we went back into the lounge to have a listen. After a number of looks of astonishment from staff that Mum was out of bed and in the lounge, Mum was asked if she had any favourites that she’d like to hear. I’d been asking her that for months so I could play it on her ‘radio’ and had never had an answer. I was gobsmacked when Mum asked for something by Vera Lynn. We had “White Cliffs of Dover” and Juliette sang along with Mum for “You Are My Sunshine”. It was either hay-fever or the unbelievable kindness of all these people that brought a tear to my eye.

Back in the garden in the shade of a cherry tree, we sat and watched a robin searching for food on the lawn and had a cup of tea. Lily was in the garden enjoying the sunshine too. It struck me that Lily was wearing a different suit. She has a range of clothes in her wardrobe but always dresses in the same suit because she doesn’t recognise the others as being hers. She looked good but there was something about it that didn’t look right. It was only when she stood up that I realised she was also wearing the skirt that she wears day in, day out as well. Mum started to get cold so another whirlwind of people and equipment scooped her back inside and into bed. She was already calling for me when I went back in.

Mum asked if I “had any books” and I was a chapter and a half in when Mum’s lunch started to be delivered. Vegetable soup with a swirl of cream. She said it was horrible. I tried it. It wasn’t. I told her it wasn’t but she still refused.

I was rescued by Gina.

“Sorry to interrupt you… There are some people in the Coffee Lounge who would like to speak to you.”

“Back in a minute Mum!!”

These were the people from Beck House. I thought I was going to have to make the case for Mum to them but they’d already made up their minds. She was in and they’d already got a plan for her move. There’s little to say about the meeting. I’d met one of the team before when I was first looking for a home last summer. They liked that I’d remembered. I had no concerns either. I’d spent half a day there already.

What I should have said, if I hadn’t been so overcome with relief, is that in a long career in IT consulting I had seen all sorts of organisations and that one of the main reasons I think I’d been good at it was having the ability to get a strong sense of what the corporate culture was like really quickly. That helped me work out how to tell them what they needed to know and work  out what I needed to do and say in order to fit in. I could tell instantly whether they were keen to improve, to do things better no matter how good they were or whether the picture of  abilty and efficiency they gave barely covered the chaos underneath. The Beck House team were good and solid and I was confident that they had the right values. It’s the values that the people involved held that mattered the most.

You might be wondering why Mum wasn’t there in the first place given that I knew there had been a plan to redevelop The Home at some point. Two reasons: Firstly, I had always intended to visit Mum twice a day while she got settled in and having to cross the river to get there just wasn’t practical over an extended period. Secondly, bluntly, I hadn’t expected Mum to survive that long. 

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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