Nursing Home

By Nick Gilmore

Published: 9 May, 2024

Thursday

“Hello Mum!”

“Eric?”

“No, it’s Nicholas.”

“Oh, Nicholas. I’m so glad you’ve come to see me. Don’t leave me on me own!”

“I’m here every day Mum. Rain or shine.”

“I know.”

Mum was all over the place today. I got a full set of Sleepy & Weepy, Unhappy & Uncomfortable, Calm & Lucid and Surreal & Hyperactive – a full week’s worth of phases – in the space of an hour.

One minute, she’d be laughing and waving at people as they went past. The next, she’d be sobbing, wanting to leave and pleading not to be left on her own.

Each time she asked me to stay with her I tried to reassure her that I had loads of time and didn’t have to rush away, that Lesley didn’t have to go to her dad, that I didn’t need to do any shopping, that The Dog had already had her Big Walk for the day and that the workshop could wait.

She had no memory of what happened yesterday at all. I would’ve thought that being out of bed for the first time in months, going to the lounge and singing along while a lady played the piano and then sitting with a cup of tea in the garden would’ve created more of a lasting impression than it had.

Having said that, Mum did say later that she would be more than happy to sit in the garden “all day” if Juliette would sit with her so perhaps my account of the day did trigger something to fit back into place in her memory. I wanted to let Juliette know what Mum had said before I forgot and while I knew she was still around.

“I’m just going to pop out for a minute Mum. I’ll be right back.”

“Are you going shopping?”

“Er, yeah.”

Juliette’s response was “Are you serious!?”

“Totally. But I think you’ll have to sit with her all the time she’s out there.”

Mum’s reaction when I got back to her was

“What did you buy?”

“Sorry Mum?”

“What did you buy at the shops?”

“Oh. Yeah. Lesley’s friend is having an operation on her knee so I got some flowers”

 That was half true and luckily she didn’t ask to see any flowers. Is it wrong to lie to her? Probably. Is it less distressing for her if I’m not contradicting what is clearly a vivid reality for her all the time? Definitely.

Then Mum became quite serious as she had some important news for me.

“This place is going to change… Some bits are going to be taken away… And it’s going to go private… I want to move somewhere nearer you…”

This was interesting on all sorts of levels. Juliette had told me that none of the staff were going to say anything to the residents about the redevelopment as that was going to be left to the families. I knew that when staff had private conversations in the corridor outside Mum’s room they didn’t speak in English and I certainly had said anything to Mum so I had no idea how she knew. Juliette had said that she thought some of the residents “sensed something was going to change”. 

Also, Mum’s thought that The Home was “going private” was interesting. I have never told her that she was in a private home because I didn’t want her worrying about how much it was costing. She obviously thought that this was all being covered by Social Services and we’d all have to be careful to make sure she continued thinking that whenever the subject came up.

Lastly, her wish to be somewhere nearer me was unusual. Right from Day One I’d told her that she was only round the corner from me so that I could see her every day. On the many occasions when she had said she wanted to leave The Home she had meant she wanted to go to her home. She never meant a home.

“How about if I ask Juliette if she can find you somewhere a bit newer and smarter?”

That made her feel a bit more settled but she was clearly uncomfortable with the thought that she’s going to be moved miles away from anybody and it was going to need some serious reinforcement all the way up to when the change does actually happen.

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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