Nursing Home

By Nick Gilmore

Published: 24 Jun, 2024

Monday

Moving Day. Just Mum and Lily left at The Home now. Like The Fighting Temeraire, The Home was being picked over as salvageable equipment was dismantled and removed before the whole building got flattened. A maintenance team member I hadn’t seen before apologised for the undignified disruption.

I saw Gina first. She looked like she was struggling. She said she was struggling. Her stress was so bad she was getting stomach cramps.

“I just want to thank you for all you’ve done for Mum and me. You’ve given me such great insights and guidance and so much to think about,” I said. “My father-in-law is a constant worry. A proper 24/7 worry. But while Mum’s been here I haven’t had a single moment’s concern. Not one thanks to you and your team.”

“Thank-you,” she replied, “you don’t need to say anything else.”

Then The Manager’s door opened. I thanked him too.

“I was talking to one of your team one evening late last week. It was his last shift,” I told him, “and he was explaining how good it had been to work here. How stable the team was and how low the staff turnover was. He described how supportive you all are of each other and how that team ethic comes from the top. You should be proud of that.”

“Thank-you for saying that Nick”

Juliette and Madeline were in the front lounge being busy. Madeline was in an “All good things come to end end but life goes on” mood. Juliette just seemed to be doing anything to stop having to think about it being The End.

Mum was sound asleep and unresponsive when I got to her. A team of carers arrived to get her changed and hoisted into a wheelchair. I left them to it and went to sit in the rear lounge with Lily.

“They’ve given me this book. They said I can keep it but I don’t know what it is”

“Looks like a diary Lily”

“Oh”

“Is there anything written in it?”

She flicked through the pages.

“No, there’s nothing in it”

“That’s a shame. Other people’s diaries are always an interesting read. Politicians and celebrities publish theirs”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that”

And then literally two minutes later…

“They’ve given me this book. They said I can keep it but I don’t know what it is”

We went round that loop a few times before Mum was wheeled in to join us. She did not look happy but that is normal if she is ever got out of bed. She wouldn’t respond when I spoke to her, wouldn’t respond when I held her hand and wouldn’t lift her head when offered a drink.

The taxi arrived and Mum was wheeled out to it. After a few more good-byes, hugs and “Nick! Wait! Can you take these too!?” moments, we were off.

Mum had already been unloaded and seated in a lounge by the time I got to the new home. I was laden with boxes and help to let me in emerged in an instant.

The first thing I heard when I walked in the lounge was

“Coo-ee! Hello!”

“Eleanor! Fancy seeing you here!”

We talked for a bit. She wasn’t that happy and was worried about how she was going to get back to her room. I’d already heard that she kicked up a fuss on the way there. I tried, but probably failed, to convince her that she’d be better off just putting up with being there for a bit.

We sat and listened to a lady giving a talk on science and how it’s relevant to the Bible for a bit. Astrophysics came through unscathed but evolution didn’t. She only got away with it because she’d brought a cute little dog with her.

Mum sat motionless all through this. Eyes tight shut, head down, arms clenched across her chest. Eleanor turned to me and said

“Who’s this then?”

“This is my Mum.”

“Is it!? Oh dear.”

And then…

“I don’t like these biscuits. Do you want one?”

The Manager arrived to tell me that it would be a good couple of hours before all Mum’s stuff could be moved into her room. She suggested that we get Mum into a comfortable recliner armchair and have a  bite to eat while we waited. I eventually caved to all the invitations to have some lunch but Mum didn’t. Mum sat motionless. Eyes tight shut, head down, arms clenched across her chest. The carer who’d escorted Mum in the taxi and I sat discussing the General Election and watching the residents getting help with their meals. We watched one restless lady wander round and help herself to the cake off other people’s plates.

“Do you remember Shirley?” he asked me.

“Shirley? Of course I do.”

“Shirley used to do that too.”

“I know. She used to come into Mum’s room and help herself to Mum’s chocolates”

“Well she would help herself to other people’s meds too. We tried meds that we’d dissolve and give as a drink. We had to stop that because Shirley would drink anyone’s!”

The conversation turned to the other transferees. We headed off to find Audrey. I found her in front of a TV in a lounge upstairs. I wasn’t 100% convinced she knew who I was but it didn’t stop her talking to me.

I went back to Mum. Tried, and failed, to get her to drink something. Tried, and failed, to get any sort of response at all. Mum sat motionless. Eyes tight shut, head down, arms clenched across her chest. It had been five hours at least since Mum had had a drink and she’d only eaten half her breakfast. A team arrived to hoist her back into a wheelchair to take her up to her room.

Mum didn’t open her eyes until she was back in bed and even then it was only for a couple of seconds. But she did start to relax. Within a few minutes she was properly, genuinely asleep and snoring loudly. She’d been faking it the whole time she was out of bed. She’d just shut down and blocked out the sheer horror of not being in bed.

A couple of nurses arrived to get some details about Mum. I started my routine about her medical history and condition since her strokes. They nodded appreciatively until one of them said

“Are you a doctor?”

I’m going to like it here. The New Home is now The Home.

The question is how long it will take for Mum to settle in and accept that. She has a bigger room and can see both out of the window to the farmyard next door and into the corridor to see people passing by. I just hope that the staff can at least get Mum to drink something because it was ferociously hot today. I have no doubt they’ll manage.

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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