Our Hound

By Nick Gilmore

Published: 27 May, 2024

Monday

I mis-timed my visit to Mum today and got involved with ‘assisting’ her with her supper. The whole visit was…. I’m struggling for the right word. Let’s go with ‘atypical’ for now. We had Cheerful & Chatty Mum, Uncomfortable & Uncooperative Mum, Strident & Impatient Mum. I’ve seen all these behaviours before but not all together in the space of an hour. And she talked about Aunts rather than Uncles too. Well, mostly.

“Hello Mum! It’s Nicholas.”

“Hello Mum” she replied.

She started with a long tale about Doris and “The Other One” having been to see her today.

“Who’s the Other One Mum? Do you mean Phyllis or May?”

“Yeah”

Then there was an anecdote involving Uncles Tom and Dick. Tom had done something he evidently shouldn’t have and I couldn’t understand why Dick had got involved either. The punchline was especially indistinct but Mum thought it was funny.

Then it was back to Aunt Doris and The Other One.

“Do you want a drink Mum?

“Yeah. But I don’t want that”

“I’m sure they could do you a cup of tea”

“Yeah. A cup of tea. Go on then! Quick!”

When the tea arrived she had two sips before saying “No. Don’t want it”

Then she had a bit of a moan. Her back, her knees and her “posterior” hurt. And she was cold. “I’m always cold.”

“Looks like you’ve got two blankets though Mum”

She did have two blankets but the bottom one was pushed down round her hips. I remade the bed, adjusted her pillows and adjusted the mattress.

“That’s much better”

“I’m getting the hang of it now”

I got told an anecdote that involved Mum having seen a cat walking past her room that morning. I have seen a cat in the gardens a couple of times – never in the building – so that could be a real memory. It probably isn’t though.

“A cat Mum!? I’ll have to bring Our Hound in to sort it out. Here. Have a look at this photo of her… Isn’t she lovely?”

“Oh yes. She is lovely. Better than that thing you had before.”

This is the same hound that Mum met last time she visited us. To be fair, the hound was a lot more anxious, excitable, bouncy and boisterous two years ago than she is now and Mum couldn’t cope with her.

Then Mum’s Weetabix arrived. She kept up a decent pace to start with but I think she just got bored and was more interested in talking rather than eating. At the half-way mark she just said “No! Don’t want no more of that. Stick it in the bin!”

When Mum first arrived at The Home, I was able to get her to eat more than the staff could as she found it easier to say No to them than me. Ten months later they’re far more successful than I am. I will have to man-up, admit to failure, deal with the guilt at shirking my duty and tell them not to leave the task to me.

Terri came in with Mum’s smoothie and sang “You Are My Sunshine” with Mum. She looked at the half-eaten Weetabix and told Mum if she finished her drink then they could sing again. Again Mum kept up a good pace for the first half but the last 100ml was a real battle.

Then we had the first Other Person of the cycle. Someone came in fleetingly.

“WHO’S THAT!! Joan? Is that you? ANSWER ME!! Where have you gone?”

“It did look like Joan Mum. Probably gone to use the loo next door. Don’t worry. I’m sure she’ll be back in a minute or two”

She wasn’t but Mum had already forgotten. She went on to tell me Uncle Dick was in “that room there”

Mum then started on arrangements for moving. The standard approach is to say that every time I visit I take a little bit away with me so that when the time comes the move will be easy. It also prepares my exit.

“There’s some boxes ready to go in the front room Mum. I’m going to put them in the car now.”

“What!? All that lot!!?? Blimey!”

“Yep. You get some kip and I’ll see you when I get back”

“Alright”

On my way out I could hear Quiet Callum being ‘assisted’ out of his chair to go to the toilet. That takes two people.

“OW! NO!! OW!!!!”

Up until a couple of days ago I hadn’t heard him say a word. As I passed the scene he looked at me and shouted

“CALL THE POLICE!!”

All this was after yet another day with Lesley’s dad. This visit was a mixed bag too. In the “WIN” column we had the central heating. I tried a new tack – take the blame for doing it wrong.

“Every time I come here I reprogram your heating and hot water. Every time I come back I find you’ve changed it again. What am I doing that doesn’t suit you?”

After going round the houses a bit it turned out that if the radiators aren’t constantly warm then he thinks the house feels cold. It also turned out that if he feels the heating hasn’t come on soon enough then he opens the cover to reveal the schedule reset buttons and presses them until everything is roaring hot 24/7.

“If you want a quick boost to the heating you just need to press this big button. There’s no need to touch those buttons under the flap. Just press this big one. The heating will come on without upsetting the schedule”

He said OK and I’m sure he used to know which button to press but I fear his current method is going to take a long time to unlearn.

Also in the WIN column is the milkshakes. He’s been prescribed the same fortified milkshake/smoothies that Mum has but hasn’t had one in ages.

He admits he doesn’t like them. “They’re too thick”

I twigged what he was doing when I saw his washing up. He has a favourite glass that he uses for everything. Being of the generation that doesn’t drink nearly enough, the glass is hopelessly small. It only holds about a third of the amount of milk he should be using. No wonder the milkshake ends up being too thick. Lesley found a measuring jug and drew a big think line with a sharpie at the right level. Then she showed him how to make the milkshake properly. This procedure too will need to be demonstrated a few times before he’s used to it. And that’s if he isn’t overwhelmed by having to drink a quantity as big as 200ml. Even Mum can manage that. On a good day anyway.

The final WIN was preparing for the visit to get his ears cleaned. He needs to spray some oil in his ears every day to soften the wax before he goes for the appointment. I don’t think it’s a memory problem. I think he’s lost the strength and dexterity in his hands to be able to press the button on the bottle. But at least he’s got some oil in his ears today. He should’ve had seven doses. Two will have to do.

The wins were balanced out by big losses. All the changes and equipment installations to make him safe at home that he agreed to on Thursday are now non-starters. “Some lad at the day centre” said he shouldn’t do it and there are a new set of more desperate and more ridiculous objections and excuses.

Bloody hell

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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