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Untitled: Opus Minimus No 16


COFFEE? YES PLEASE. MILK AND TWO SUGARS. The nursing home manager bundles off and returns with two standard instants. This is it. Time for the pitch.

“My 89-year-old father has been… confused since a couple of operations, and after a fall nearly four months ago has been basically bedridden. He had a seizure of some sort three months or so ago and has been in hospital since. His infections have been cleared, my 87-year-old mother wouldn’t be able to cope with his care at home and I need to find him a place of safety, comfort and sanctuary. Will you help?”

Damn, that was awesome! It actually didn’t sound rehearsed!

“Yes, we have places available, let me take some details.”

And I just went with the flow from there. If this woman and her team are going to be looking after my father, I need to begin to build a relationship right here and now… and also let her know, without stating it, that I will have her under the closest of scrutiny at all times. There are things I cannot bring myself to say. To answer one particular question, I simply say,

“He’s been mostly bed-ridden, and hasn’t actually been inside a lavatory all that time. I’m afraid I can’t bring myself to say the words. I can only say it like that.”

We chat about this and that about my father in business-like terms, yet we have a building twinkle; a little spark. We warm to each other. I tell her about me and the family and our needs – and how the most important thing is to get my father close so we can have contact… lots of contact… it’s important for him to have us close.

The doing done, she passes me on to a deputy for a show and tell. I see the place for what it is; a working building. Parts are being done up, I’m told with honesty about the work in progress and how things have improved – I respond with the report I read, drawing attention to the improvements noted in it and that it was some time ago… and followed up with the customer reviews I found. Then I mention the full-on 5 star food hygiene rating on the door, and there’s a little pleasant bristle of pride. Good.

Tour done, I ask to see the kitchen. She goes to ask chef… who grants access. I enter a short way in and a glance is all I need; it’s the willingness to show this inner sanctum that was important. I don’t interrupt, congratulate the chef on her kitchen and rating, then we return to the office. All is… not good, but workable. With the manager and the deputy, we chat with a bit of banter.

Our mutual conclusion: subject to confirmation and satisfactory reports, we have a place. We have a provisional green light. Funding? I look them in the eye and tell them that the important thing is to get my father close to home, in sanctuary and worry about everything else later. I give them the details of the team involved and tell them this needs to be done yesterday – for my father’s wellbeing. We banter and joke to the door.

Outside, I phone the social worker immediately and tell her (all these women!) my decision and to go ahead and set it all up… then I take a walk in the sunshine. At a friend’s for coffee, a short while later, I hook up to his wifi – strange new world, where once in the door of a friend’s place, you get beverage and the password to internet server! – and email my sisters.

Messages of support for the progress made come back. We are on a roll. Then, round to the house, and discussion with my brother and mother. I debrief them about the meeting a few days ago and why I didn’t include them or make much of a noise about it… besides, it was the kind of thing I can do. Plus, it was easier for me not to have had them there – it was exhaustive and distressing and there were things I could not have done otherwise. Things that did actually make quite a difference.

My brother told me that word had got back to him, through our mutual friend, that the informal contact I had made at the other nursing home had made a very positive impression; that I was free to renew and make fresh contact if I needed. I smile and tell of my morning’s activities – when I get to the part where I got to see the kitchen because I asked, my brother and mother exhale sharply with relief. They understand why I wanted to have access behind the scenes, and knowing that I’d got there so easily erased any doubts they had… so I deliver the news: I made The Decision, I have placed the call and the ball is rolling. All being well, assuming they’re happy with the reports and the meeting, they’ll be bringing father home… ish.

It’s been worth it.

The anguish and agony; the anger and underlying angst. The manoeuvring and nudging and plotting and planning. Everyone gets it. We all know that we can’t handle him safely at home, we all need for this limbo-like void to be crossed and we can finally see an end to it.

It’s been worth it.

For in that room, the place of much pain and torment, for the first time for a very long time…

There was joy.

#eldercare