Nursing Home

By Nick Gilmore

Published: 22 Apr, 2024

Monday

A long day today. And not an easy one. For anybody.

The Home was very quiet when I arrived.

“Hello Mum? It’s Nick. How are you?”

“I’m so sorry. So, so sorry.”

“Eh? What’s the matter?”

“I’m so sorry it had to end like this.”

Mum was close to tears as she apologised for being so much of a burden.

She was as lucid as she’d been in quite a while. She knew who I was. There were no Dead Uncles with her. No Other People at all. Being so much in the real world lets her know just how poorly and helpless she is.

I spent most of the rest of the visit holding her hand, stroking her forehead, trying, and mostly succeeding I thought, to talk her round. Explaining how we don’t all get to choose how we go and that we just have to make the best of the situations we find ourselves in; how this might not be the smartest place but it’s the people that count and that I’d never met a group of nicer and more caring people in my life; how they work round the clock to keep her comfortable; how the place was near enough to me that I could visit every day “rain or shine” and that I hadn’t seen this much of her since I left school.

She got all of that and agreed with me about how nice the staff were.

As she became less despondent she spoke at length about a number of people. Real people. People like her ‘Lady That Does’ who helped her keep on top of housework and the garden. People like the vicar from her church. It seemed like a good time to mention that one of the other members of the congregation had been asking after her and might like to visit. She seemed content for him to come if he wanted to.

All this was very unusual. Some of the people she talked about hadn’t been mentioned at all since she was first ill nearly a year ago. And considering visits from people who weren’t family was also a first.

By that stage I’d noticed that her cough was a bit more what you’d call persistent. I knew she didn’t have a fever and asked if she had a headache. She said not. She said she didn’t feel at all unwell.

“So you feel alright in yourself then?”

“Yeah. I’m alright.”

“Just utterly fed up.”

“Yeah. Fed up.”

I’d say she was a bit more than fed up.

The day had started long before that though. Long before.

Monday is Bin Day here. And all the local foxes know it.

So it’s not unusual for The Dog to be disturbed in the middle of the night and want to go out in the garden. Sure enough, at 3am, she’s up. Whining and crying and raking her claws down the back door. When I let her out I could hear what sounded like every dog in the neighbourhood outside barking. I couldn’t get back to sleep afterwards. She’d woken me in just the wrong part of my sleep cycle. I lay there for an hour, flicking through Instagram and Threads on my phone before giving up and getting up.

When everyone else got up, the pressure started in earnest.

There were lots of problems with the kit that had been delivered to Father-in-Law. Phone-calls were made to the Occupational Therapist, the company that delivered the kit and Adult Social Care. There were people only working three days a week and a company that had fallen victim to a cyber attack involved. Kit that was incomplete and not installed correctly. Kit that was taken away in error. Father-in-Law was in danger of having a fall that might finish him off.

But there was more.

Father-in-law had been telling his GP for ages how he had difficulty going to the toilet. The GP assumed he meant he was constipated. Anybody would. Senna was prescribed. But the great advantage of Sister-in-law staying with him for a week has been that she’s actually seen what he means when he said what he said.

He’d been having a lot of accidents recently. Almost daily. 

The assumption was that he was struggling with the new equipment that had been delivered. The frame around the toilet especially.

What was actually happening was that having had his senna in the morning, he was desperate to go to the  toilet in the evening.

But he’s lost a lot of weight and his trousers don’t fit so he wears braces to keep them up.

And even though his house is as hot as a furnace, he has a sweater and a fleece jacket on. He wears these over the top of his braces. 

And because he’s in so much of a hurry when he needs the toilet and has lost a lot of dexterity he can’t release the catches on his braces so he needs to slip them off his shoulders.

But to do that he needs to take off his fleece jacket and the sweater.

And he’s popping the buttons off all his trousers because he’s in so much of a hurry and they’re so fiddly that he just yanks his trousers down.

And after all that, he’s often too late.

So when he says he has difficulty going to the toilet, what he actually means is he has trouble getting to the toilet. Once he’s got there he has no difficulty going. Quite the opposite.

He’s been having difficulty expressing himself clearly for a while. But he hadn’t been getting things so obviously wrong that they made no sense whatsoever so no clarification was sought.

With the doctor’s consent, he’s not being given senna any more. The doctor also pointed out that this isn’t just a dementia thing. It’s a generational thing too. People his age just don’t like talking about going, or getting, to the toilet. Their language is all indirect and euphemistic.

Poor old devil has been suffering like this for weeks. All because he didn’t think to say his clothes didn’t fit and constantly soiling himself was “humiliating”.

He only got found out because there was someone with him 24/7. Can’t help thinking he needs someone with him 24/7.

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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