Nursing Home

By Nick Gilmore

Published: 25 Jun, 2024

Tuesday

The day started with the regular check on Lesley’s dad’s webcam.

“Well, he’s up and he’s dressed and he’s asleep in his armchair. I’ll just zoom in a bit….. Yep, he’s still breathing. It does look shallow and a bit laboured though. ” I reported. “He’s got his hat on and his shoulder bag and walking stick are by the chair. I think he’s got himself ready for the day centre.”

There is no day centre on Tuesdays and he’d forgotten that he was being taken into hospital in Oxford for a scan today too. Lesley had already been told that his confusion had become markedly worse in the past few days, that his new trousers were already too big for him and that he’d had a series of toilet accidents that he’d been unaware of. Lesley also found that he’d stopped wearing his hearing aids since she had fixed them.

“They’re too loud now.”

He seemed to have forgotten that it was possible to turn the volume down.

The ultrasound scan was to determine what, if any, action was required to manage the symptoms of his mesothelioma. While the “lining of his chest” was definitely thicker, there was no fluid to be drained. They had done all they could about his precipitous weight loss. He was unaware that his breathing had changed. He said he felt fine. He did decline a trip to his favourite garden centre café for their All Day Breakfast. His appetite has really declined sharply.

And so to The Home. Mum was awake today. Awake and miserable. Was she any more miserable than she normally is on the first day coming out of a Sleepy phase? It was hard to tell. But she was bloody miserable.

I had seen Sean as I was coming out of the lift. He was busy serving out meals. A few moments after I’d got to Mum he came into her room. I asked how he was getting on after transferring from the old home. Things were a bit different, he said, but he was getting used to it.

“Would Iris like a sandwich or the soft meal?” he asked.

“Well Mum?”

No response.

“Don’t worry, I’ll bring both.”

I started with a tuna mayonnaise sandwich and I tried a bit myself.

“This is alright Mum. What do you think?”

“Mmmmhmmm”

“I can’t hear what you’re saying Mum. If you swallow that bit I’ll be able to understand you.”

“Mmmmmmhmm!”

“You’re going to spit it out aren’t you?”

She nodded and spat it into my hand.

She did the same with the ham salad sandwich. And the cauliflower cheese. I didn’t even bother opening the pot of rice pudding. At least I was able to get her to drink something.

Sean had obviously mentioned that he’d seen me because I could hear Reggie’s voice coming down the corridor shouting “NIIIIIIICK!!! NIIIIIICK!!!”. It was good to see him again. He called Sean in to join us so we could tease him about how poorly Christiano Ronaldo was playing. I started…

“You can always tell where he is on the pitch. Just look for the man throwing his arms in the air because the ball didn’t get passed to him.”

“How many goals has he scored Sean? None!” added Reggie.

“He’s 39! He’s older than you Reggie! He’s got one assist. And it was the best assist of the whole Euros!”

Which I thought was a decent reply.

They left us to be busy elsewhere.

“Shall I read to you for a bit Mum?”

She nodded.

After a couple of chapters I heard another voice that I recognised. Mike had come to visit his mum who was in the room opposite. He told me that he thought he’d lost his mum over the weekend. Reggie had spotted that she was struggling for breath. The family were summoned and paramedics were called but half an hour later she was sitting up having a cup of tea. He told me that she’d seen the flashing blue lights outside and had said

“Oh no! It’s the police! What have you done Mike!?”

Brilliant.

“That your mum then Nick?”

“Yep. That’s her. Arrived yesterday.”

“Yeah, I saw her yesterday evening. To be honest, I thought she’d died and been laid out”

“Ha! Yeah, she didn’t like been moved out of bed. Spent the entire day with her arms clenched across her chest. Sounds like she still hadn’t moved when you saw her.”

I like talking to Mike. For 30-odd years, he’d been my GP.

In the hour that I’d spent with Mum, the only words she’d said were “No!” and “I love you.” I took my leave and headed to the lift but was drawn to the TV lounge by the sound of Audrey’s voice. She sounded on fine form. She was having an animated discussion with Sean and Reggie. Her level of animation went up a notch when she saw me. There was a good deal of laughter and all was going well until Audrey started effing and jeffing. It made the nurse on duty wince a bit but it only made me laugh more loudly. Perhaps it’s just me but there’s something innately hilarious about a potty-mouth with a posh accent. Joanna Lumley made a fortune out of hers in Ab Fab.

I explained to the nurse that this was a good sign. Audrey had been very distressed about having to move and her ability to express herself without having to make words up declined the more stressed she got. Hearing her this eloquent was a vast improvement. The nurse nodded to indicate her understanding.

But then Audrey dropped another f-bomb.

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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