Nursing Home

By Nick Gilmore

Published: 21 Apr, 2024

Sunday

“You’ve been playing with the dog again!”

That’s what Reggie said as I walked in The Home and he saw the state of my clothes today. He was right. It was the first time in a while that we’ve both been able to take The Dog on Favourite Walk One (extended version). 14,500 steps-worth of sunny, muddy joy. With bluebells too.

“Why don’t you bring her in one day?”

“Because she’d go absolutely mental!”

Actually, I might be doing The Dog a slight injustice now. Even at the back end of last year she would’ve been too reactive to take in a closed space with so many unsteady people. But she’s calmed down a lot recently and after a long walk like today’s she was tired enough to walk alongside Dexter and his Dad without lunging. That was a first. She met some of the neighbours too and we let her greet them and get a cuddle. She behaved impeccably. Also a first.

We can read her body language well enough to know when she’s going to jump so we can brace ourselves or take evasive action. Strangers won’t.

But even dogs that aren’t normally reactive can respond to people who move differently. The first dog we had when I was a kid was as placid as anything¬† but she would always react. It was the 1960s and seeing an ex-serviceman with a prosthetic limb wasn’t unusual. The dog would always bark at them. And our dog is definitely Ableist too. She’s not ready to be introduced to so many unsteady people in one go yet.

The other problem is that with all the staff being in uniform, she wouldn’t be able to distinguish them from a Vet. And she doesn’t like the Vet.

With Mum having been sleepy and totally unresponsive on Friday and barely responsive on Saturday she should have been beginning to wake up.

She was. But only just.

It took a couple of attempts to get her respond to me being with her. She was chattier than I expected and, to begin with at least, I could understand what she was saying. She said that she felt “alright” and that she was pleased that I’d come to see her.

This phase in her Sleepy/Active cycle is characterised by her being a bit melancholy but today she was downright miserable. She was uncomfortable and was clearly stiff and sore after not having moved in two days or more. She repeated “Don’t leave me on me own” and “You will stay all afternoon” a few times and after that pretty much everything she said was too indistinct for me to understand her.

Of the things that I was able to understand, the clarity and enthusiasm for me to read to her when I offered was a bit of a surprise.

“Ooh yes! Yes please!”

While I was reading, her supper was delivered. It was the standard Two Weetabix with cream and sugar. She wasn’t keen.

A few minutes later, the carer returned.

“Is she eating?”

“Yeah. Kind of.”

“Good. There’s a bowl of jelly here too.”

The implication was that Mum hadn’t eaten anything else today.

The routine became two spoons of Weetabix, two teaspoons of jelly, a few sips of squash and a few minutes rest. And repeat.

She said “Don’t want no more” after two sets and said it again after another two sets. Total consumed: One Weetabix, 100ml of squash and she’d barely made a dent in the jelly.

At this point she closed her eyes and turned her head away. I thought she was feigning sleep so that I wouldn’t make her eat any more. But she was totally unresponsive so perhaps she really was asleep.

Or so I thought.

I read another chapter and then said I was going to go and leave her to get some sleep. As I stood up she said loudly and clearly

“And don’t forget to come back later!”

Bloody hell.

Bibliography

Tales from the Parish: 31 humorous short stories about community, family and village life, set in the English countryside

Kindle Edition

by Stefania Hartley

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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