Nursing Home

By Nick Gilmore

Published: 17 Jun, 2024

Monday

I’ve said before about how contagious emotions are within The Home. Today’s theme: Bloody Awkward.

Before leaving to visit Mum I had talked with Lesley about the amount of time it takes to sit with Audrey on my way through to and from Mum and how I had toyed with the idea of taking a detour through the gardens to avoid the lounge.

“But I just don’t have it me to ignore her when she’s obviously struggling and gets so much from talking to me and being taken seriously.”

“No. You shouldn’t avoid it. You really shouldn’t.”

The question became academic when I got to The Home. With so few residents left, there are fewer staff around and the doors into the garden are shut so that it’s easier for staff to keep tabs on everyone.

It was noticeable how quiet The Home is now. I also noted as I was signing in that of the last four visitors, three of them were me. Obviously, the lower number of residents will be a factor but those who haven’t been transferred yet are seriously unsettled and need more support from their family. 

Audrey’s face lit up when I entered the lounge and she cleared the chair next to her so I could sit down. Her stress is now so bad that she can hardly express herself at all. I doubt you’d find more than 25% of the words she’s using in a dictionary. What was clear was that it’s stuff being moved about that’s upsetting her. And understandably so. In a moment of clarity she asked

“May I ask you a question?”

“Of course you may. What is it?”

“What the f*ck are you doing about it?”

I had no idea she was such a potty mouth. I had no answer for her.

I did my best to reassure her that wheels were in motion and that a resolution was being organised. She looked sceptical.

On my way to Mum’s room I could hear a commotion coming from Quiet Callum’s room. And that was with the door shut. I could hear two carers in there with him. Whatever they were trying to get him to do he wasn’t having any of it and was protesting loudly.

And then I went in Mum’s room…

“Hello Mum! It’s Nick”

“What are you doing sitting down!? Go and tell Tony {something indistinct}. Go on! Quick!! QUICK!!!”

The whole visit was like that. I spent as much time outside the room on urgent errands as I did listening to her nattering away. There were a couple of Other People in the room with us. They weren’t answering her questions though

“Are they asleep?” she asked

There had been the first signs of Impatient Mum yesterday. This phase never lasts long and I was expecting to have passed today. I was wrong. This was far longer and more intense than I’d seen before..

There were a lot of Other People moving around just outside the room. There were constant urgent demands to go and find out who they were. Or what they wanted. Or to tell them something. Or to take them something. Or find out what they were doing. Or find out where they were going. Or move the suitcases that only she could see to another room.

“Go on! Do it!! Quick!!! QUIIIICK!!!!”

Mum’s level of impatience grew with each set of instructions until she said

“Go on! Hurry up you great fat… Oh!”

“Yeah, exactly”, I said, “Oh.”

She started laughing.

Having calmed down a little, she started doing some packing for herself. She brought up her knees and fashioned a ‘bag’ out of a fold of blanket in her lap. She picked invisible bits of something or other out of her bed and placed them in her ‘bag’.

“Here. Take this.”

“Why don’t I take that stuff and put it in a proper bag Mum?

I mimed taking things out of her ‘bag’ and put them in my ‘bag’ under the bed before pulling her sheet and blanket straight.

“There. Are you happy with that Mum?”

“Yeah”

There was a Q&A section. Inconveniently, the vital part of every question she asked was indistinct. She got increasingly frustrated as I struggled to work out what she’d asked and how to reply. In the end she just said

“Oh Christ!! I’m talking to me flipping self here”

I gave up at that point. Frankly, I think we both did.

All that now remained was to negotiate my way back out past Audrey. Staff were preparing for the handover to the night shift and had gathered all the residents who weren’t bed-bound together to make them easier to manage. There was no free seat next to Audrey and the area round her was crowded with tables and foot stools. I couldn’t see a way of sitting close enough to her to have a proper chat without disturbing everyone else.

“Don’t worry Audrey. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Really!?”

She looked crushed and I felt like a complete shit. I won’t make that mistake again.

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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