Nursing Home

By Nick Gilmore

Published: 29 Jun, 2024

Saturday

I didn’t get to visit Mum until just after 8 this evening having been unavoidably held up by events elsewhere, more of which later.

Judging by the row of barely touched drinks on her table, Mum had had a quiet afternoon. Her bedding hadn’t been disturbed much so she hadn’t been that physically active. She appeared to be asleep and wasn’t aware of me being in her room.

The standard test to determine whether you’re in an Unresponsive Mum situation is to say loudly “HELLO MUM! IT’S NICHOLAS!!” three times. Variations which include touching her hand or her shoulder are also valid tests.

Mum opened her eyes and smiled at the second attempt.

She nodded positively to the routine initial questions:

“Are you alright?”

“Are you comfortable?”

“Are you warm enough?”

I told her Eldest Sister would be visiting with one or more of her kids tomorrow. That got the most positive response of all.

“Do you want me to read to you for a bit?”

Another nod.

Before the first chapter had finished she was undeniably sound asleep.

Time to return to the reason I was so late getting to Mum. It was, inevitably, Lesley’s dad. We knew that he’d been assisted having a bath on Thursday so he was clean then. We also knew he’d been taken for lunch at his day centre yesterday and no particular issue was reported back to us. When Lesley got to him at lunchtime today, however, there was an obvious problem.

“Dad? Is that poo on your trousers?”

It was. And on his shirt. In fact everything he was wearing had to go in the washing machine. With him all changed and a laundry load going, Lesley allowed herself time to go to the loo herself. Not for the first time, she found, and let’s not mince words here, shit on the toilet seat, shit on the floor, shit on the walls and shit on the toilet roll.

With that all cleared up, Lesley got on with the regular tasks of dealing with his mail, preparing his meds for the week, clearing food that had gone off in his fridge and making some lunch for him. Two poached eggs on toast was what he usually had but today he only wanted one egg.

The fridge clearance meant that he needed a few bits so Lesley went down to the shop at the bottom of his road. While she was out, she bumped into someone she’d known since her first day at secondary school. They stopped and had coffee. On her return to Dad she found him struggling and distressed.

“Help me! I need to go to the loo again. My back hurts and I can’t get up.”

She got him up out of his chair and loaded him onto the stairlift. She could hear his stomach churning above the noise of the stairlift. She stayed upstairs with him while he did what he had to do. Minutes later, he opened the bathroom door.

“Can you help me? I’m in a bit of a mess.”

“He’s forgotten to take a pair of incontinence pads in with him” she thought.

She found him standing half dressed. There was shit on his hands, shit on all his clothes, shit on the toilet seat, shit on the floor, shit on the walls and shit on the toilet roll.

She cleaned him up and dressed him again. Her description of his stick-thin arms and legs and huge pot belly sounded like a victim of malnutrition and the mention of back pain was key too. It’s a symptom of advanced mesothelioma. Poor old bugger.

Another load went in the washing machine. It might be a low running cost eco model but it’s so slow. Especially so when she felt she had to get back home to take care of The Dog so I could visit Mum. She had to wait for the cycle to finish because Dad doesn’t have the strength to unload it himself.

And that, dear reader, was why I was so late.

I passed Eleanor’s room as I was leaving Mum’s room on my way out. She was sitting in her chair with an empty water cup on her table and a huge puddle all around her.

“Hello m’dear! Are you alright? Is someone coming to clear that up?”

“I don’t know”

“Let me go and find someone and chivvy them up a bit.”

“You can carry me with you if you like!”

She seemed quite cheerful in spite of her predicament.

I found the carers. I knew both of them. They had transferred across a few days before Mum did and said they were settling in satisfactorily. They were in the cleaning equipment store room.

“Is that mop for Eleanor’s room”

“Yeah”

I left them to it.

I hadn’t stopped to talk to Audrey yesterday. I didn’t have the mental energy so had gone straight home. I was worried that 48 hours might be ample time for her to forget who I was. I crossed my fingers and carried on to the TV lounge.

“Well hello!” she said, “Come and give me a hug!”

“Are you sure? Will I be safe?”

“Haha! Just come here!”

She seemed in good spirits.

“Do you know, I’ve had SUCH a busy day. What do you think of my study?” she said, waving her around regally across her realm.

She talked at length, more or less coherently, about all the trials and tribulations she’d had getting stuff moved in and arranged just so.

“Well, you HAVE had a busy day. I’m worn out just listening to you talk about it!”

It’s worth pointing out here that there was nothing new in the lounge. It looked exactly the same as it did the last time I was there. Her tale continued, albeit with less clarity, and involved some difficult chap who was trying to take some of her staff away. It sounded like a scene from a small consulate in a far-flung outpost of the British Empire.

“And this fellow handed me a note and I said ‘Thank-you, I’ll put that in my knickers!'”

“For safe keeping? In there? Really?”

“Ah, yes. I see now. That explains the look on the face of the chap when I said it!”

While this was going on, I could see the lady sitting next to Audrey struggling to get out of her chair. Despite being 101 years old, I know this lady is quite mobile. I got up and moved her table to one side to give her a better chance. Audrey approved of the thought, but the struggle continued and frustration increased.

“Please, please, will you help me up?”

I couldn’t, could I? Not touching the residents is a cardinal rule.

“I’m just on my way home. If you just sit tight here for a moment, I’ll fetch someone to help you back to your room. I’ll be right back to wait with you until they come.”

The deflection seemed to work. I met the team coming back from Eleanor’s room and let them know what their next task was.

As we went back to the TV lounge, Audrey looked at me and said

“Aren’t you going to help me to my room?”

“Audrey!? You’re a terrible woman! I’m not getting involved!”.

I made my exit to the sound of Audrey and the carers laughing.

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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