WHERE I AM NOW AND HOW I GOT THERE

Photo by Rowan Heuvel on Unsplash

CHAPTER FIVE MORE CHANGE

The doctor looked at me and spoke gently, but he couldn’t hide the gravity of his message. Mum had broken her hip and injured her left leg but fortunately the leg wasn’t broken. For a lady of her age these were very serious injuries. She was in a lot of pain and so she was being given strong painkillers to relieve her discomfort. It was difficult to know how she might progress and the next few days would be critical.

I sat beside her bed, but she was so doped up that she slept for most of the time. The nurse encouraged me to speak to her, to let her know that I was there, so I nattered away about all sorts of things, barely knowing what I was talking about. So, what’s new?

I told work that I needed to take some time to be with Mum and to be fair they were fine about it and encouraged me to take whatever time I needed. I spent most of my time at the hospital, just going home to sleep, wash and change my clothes. I wanted to be there when she awoke. I knew that she hated hospitals and that she might be frightened. I wanted to reassure her and let her know that everything would be all right.

After a couple of days, the doctor told me that she would have to have an operation to repair the hip, putting in something to stabilise and repair the fracture. I stayed with her until she went into theatre and then I sat and fretted, waiting for her to return to the ward. One thing I did know about Mum was that she was a tough old bird. She’d looked after herself and for a woman of her age she was in good shape. I still felt like shit though.

Mum began to wake up more often after three days or so, but I could tell that she was in a lot of pain. A physiotherapist had turned up a day after the operation and she soon got to work on Mum. My mother wasn’t the sort to make a massive fuss and took a dim view of anybody else who did. One woman in the bed opposite to her was complaining loudly that she needed to have a room of her own as she had been very seriously ill. The nurse listened to her and then she said, “We only tend to move people into those rooms who are about to die. If I were you I’d be quite happy to stay here. At least you’re not in imminent danger of meeting the Grim Reaper.” That shut her up.

I had let Fred know about Mum’s fall and one evening I was sitting with Mum when who should turn up with a huge bouquet of flowers but his Lordship? Awkward.

“How are you?” he asked.

“I’ve fallen downstairs and broken my hip,” she replied. “I feel like crap. How do you think I feel?”

Fred laughed nervously until she told him that he was responsible for what had happened. “I’ve been worried sick about Fee,” she said, “so I wasn’t looking where I was going. That’s why I fell arse overhead. It’s all your fault.”

Of course, it wasn’t, and it seemed to be a bit unfair to blame it all on Fred, but I didn’t say anything. I just nodded and looked daggers at him.

Fred said that if she needed anything to not hesitate to let him know and he would do what he could. She told him that she would rather boil in oil. A little dramatic perhaps but I blamed it on the painkillers. I was quite enjoying myself actually.

When I was at home the next morning I received a phone call from some woman who said that she was with social services and they were looking at what help Mum would need once she was discharged from hospital. Would it be possible for me to attend a meeting at the hospital in a couple of days’ time? We agreed to meet at 11am on the Thursday. I told Mum when I visited her, and she was not happy. “Am I going to be asked what I think?” she said. “I’ve still got all me marbles. I’m not gaga just yet.”

They, (whoever they were), were going to create a Care Plan for Mum. She would have assessment to see what she could do for herself. She would probably need help for a few weeks when she was first discharged and a Home Help could be arranged to pop in and help her with washing, dressing and preparing food. I knew that Mum would not be keen on having strangers coming into her house all day. She was funny about that. A lot of people are. She told me that she felt vulnerable. She didn’t know them, and they didn’t know her.

I knew that I was going to have to step up to the plate and I was happy to do so. But I was still going to work, and I was still trying to sort out another job. There was nothing at the moment but there was still a lot of reorganisation to do and something might well arise as a result of that, according to HR Heather.

I had a long chat with Mum about the options. I told her that we had to look at it in terms of a short-term solution, until she could get back on her feet. Mum was not convinced but she agreed to give it a go. What choice did we have? I told her that I would be with her for a few weeks, but I still had to go to work. That would be when the Home Help would call in. Mum said that she didn’t want anybody to call in, call out or call off. She could be very stubborn at times, but I tried to stay calm and not lose my temper. I sort of understood what she meant.

Mum arrived home in an ambulance and we (the ambulance driver and me), helped her out. She was in a wheelchair. Mrs Silver, her next-door neighbour, shouted “Welcome home,” as she descended on some sort of lift contraption from the back of the ambulance. She gave her a Queen Mother style wave and then she whispered to me, “Nosey old cow,” before disappearing into the house, propelled by the ambulance driver. I smiled at Mrs Silver and then chased after Mum.

Staying jolly for weeks on end when your nerves are torn to shreds is not easy. Mum became very demanding and very cantankerous. I couldn’t do anything right. My cooking wasn’t up to her standards, the cleaning was haphazard, the house was a tip. The Home Helps were, as far as I was concerned, a very kind and caring team. Unfortunately, you couldn’t be sure who was going to turn up. There was a succession of people coming to the door, announcing that they had come to look after Mrs Evans. Sadly, Mrs Evans wasn’t always very welcoming, and she gave them a hard time. I felt very sorry for them and very embarrassed too.

On top of that I was exhausted. I wasn’t sleeping and I was often called in the night by Mum as she needed to go to the toilet. She had a commode, but it was all very undignified for her. One night I was pretty certain that I heard her crying. I wasn’t sure what to do so I listened a little more to see whether the crying stopped. When it didn’t I got up and knocked on her door.

“What is it Mum?” I asked. “Are you in pain? Do you need something?” I went into her room.

Mum switched on her bedside lamp. Her eyes were swollen with crying and she was a picture of misery. My heart ached for her.

“Fee,” she said, “I’ve been thinking about things for a while and I’ve come to a decision. We can’t go on like this. It isn’t fair on you and it isn’t fair on me. I need to be looked after somewhere where I can feel safe. I can’t stay here. I can’t look after myself and you need to get sorted out. I’ve decided that I need to go into a home.”

“What do you mean?” I said. “Just for a while, until you feel better? Is that what you mean?”

“No love”, she said, and she started to cry again. “I mean for good. I’m going to find a nice place where I can stay and be looked after. It’s for the best. For both of us.”

I was beside myself. It was a mixture of relief and terrible guilt. Should I have done more? Was it my fault that she had come to this decision? I knew that this might happen one day, but I’d never expected it to happen like this. I knew how fond she was of her house. She loved it. It was full of memories which were so precious to her. We both thought that she would be there until she died, not in some home for old people, smelling of cabbage, waiting to die. I felt dreadful for her and I didn’t know what to say.

“We’ll talk about it in the morning,” I said. “Maybe you’ll feel different then.”

“No,” she said. “I’ve made up my mind. I don’t want to discuss it anymore. We’ll look for a place in the morning. I’ve got some money saved and if I sell the house there should be plenty for the bills. That’s what we’re going to do, so don’t try to get me to change my mind.”

In the morning I got up early and decided to make her breakfast in bed. I got her cereal sorted and made some toast just as she liked it. Her tea was perfectly brewed, and I placed a flower in a little vase on the tray as I carried it upstairs to her room.

“Morning Mum,” I said cheerily as I opened the door whilst balancing the tray. “I’ve got your breakfast here as a little treat.”

Mum was already awake and sitting up. “I don’t like having my breakfast in bed. I get crumbs in my nightie. It reminds me of hospital. I want to get up.”

That was my plan shot down. I took the tray back downstairs and then went up to help her to the toilet and get her washed and dressed. She always felt really sore first thing and it took a while to get her sorted. The pain was still there, and pain makes you miserable doesn’t it? After a while I managed to get her ready and she made her slow passage down to the kitchen. I walked with her, trying to steady her as she went. I don’t know what I could have done if she’d started to fall. I could never have held her if she toppled. I hoped that it helped her to feel a little safer, but I doubted it. Mum had changed. She’d lost a lot of confidence and she began to feel afraid of falling again. She was frightened to move at all. The thought of hurting herself and ending back in hospital consumed her. She now decided that it was safer to stay put in one place and not to chance it. Nothing bad could happen if you stayed still.

Sitting in the kitchen I made her some fresh toast and brewed some more tea. She decided not to have her cereal as she didn’t feel like it. The vase which I’d used for the flower was not the right one and I shouldn’t have used it for that. All in all, my plan for a cosy breakfast had failed miserably.

“I meant what I said last night,” said Mum. “I haven’t forgotten. I am going to move into a home as soon as I can. I want you to help me find somewhere. There’re loads of places round here that will be ok. It shouldn’t be that difficult to find something.”

I promised Mum that I would start the search, but I had to get to work. When I got to the office I switched on my computer and began to search the Internet. I was clear that wherever it was would have to have a nice garden, comfortable rooms and plenty going on. I didn’t want Mum ending up sitting in her chair all day and fading away.

I spoke to Dennis, one of my team, about the search and he offered to drive Mum and I around a couple of places if we wanted to see them. That was very kind of him, and I told him that I would be happy to take him up on his offer. I spent my whole day on the computer and making phone calls to different places, asking questions and finding out as much as I could. If I didn’t like the sound of someone’s voice or if the answers were not to my liking I crossed the place off of my list. I finally found three places which I thought might be suitable. I asked Dennis if he would be able to take us round them on Saturday and he said that he would be delighted and so we made a date.

When I got back to Mum I showed her the ones which I had picked out and I told her that I had made appointments to visit all three on Saturday. She looked at them but didn’t seem to be too bothered.

“Who’s Dennis?” she asked.

“Dennis is one of my team,” I said. “He’s offered to take us around the places we’ve picked out as he knows that we don’t have a car.”

“What’s he after then?”

“Nothing,” I replied. “He’s just being kind.”

Mum looked at me in a pitying way. “No man does anything like that for no reason. He’s after something. You mark my words.”

On Saturday Dennis arrived promptly at 10am and we started our voyage of discovery. That’s how I described it to Mum. She just looked at me and said nothing. The look was enough — shut up Fee and let’s get this over with.

It was, thank goodness, a nice day. We visited each of the places we’d picked out. None of them were entirely satisfactory as far as Mum was concerned. Dennis found a nice pub and we had a lovely lunch sitting in the garden. Mum said very little, other than offering criticism of one thing or another. She was quite rude to Dennis and I began to get cross. When Dennis went to get some more drinks, I had words.

“There’s no need to speak to Dennis like that. It’s very kind of him to help us out. You could at least say thank you from time to time.” She didn’t reply but at least had the grace to look sheepish.

After our visit to the last place on the list I asked Mum what she thought. Were there any places that might be suitable? If not, it didn’t matter, and we would look for something else. There was no need to rush this. It was more important to find somewhere where she could be happy.

“I quite liked the first place,” she said.

“But you said that the room was too small and that it smelt funny,” I reminded her.

“Well, it did smell a little funny, but the man was nice, and, after all, I don’t need that much room do I? It’s only somewhere to sleep.”

“Mum, this is a very important decision. Once you’ve done this there won’t be a chance to go back. Your house will be sold to meet the cost of care. You’ll have to stay there. You must be sure that this is right for you.” I spoke slowly and clearly. Poor Dennis looked a little uncomfortable and he said that he would go for a little walk whilst we had our chat.

“Can we go back and have another look Fee? It will help me to decide.”

So, I gave the home a ring and the man said that it would be fine, and he’d see us in half an hour. Dennis came back and we clambered into the car to visit “The Elms” for a second time. John, the manager, greeted us warmly and showed us around again and answered Mum’s questions. She seemed to be more interested now. He then gave us time to have a look around on our own and to have another chat.

Once John had left us we sat down with a cup of tea and discussed what we had seen. Mum liked the large garden, which was well kept, had plenty of seating and all sorts of nice, quirky touches, such as little statues, a fountain and gnomes doing all sorts of things, most of them legal. There was a greenhouse where the gardeners in the home could grow their own plants and flowers. In the sunshine it seemed to be very pleasant. John had told us that the room available looked out onto the garden and the occupant could open the French windows to walk into the garden that way if he or she wished.

The food seemed to be varied to suit all appetites, well cooked and nicely presented. We saw some sample menus and spoke to some of the other people who already lived there. Mum kept calling them “inmates.” I told her that it wasn’t a prison and she said that was what I thought. Anyway, the people who lived there all told us that it was very nice and that they were happy. There was plenty to do and lots to join in with but if you wanted to be quiet you could be. Nobody bothered you. A well- stocked library offered varied reading on all sorts of topics as well as a couple of laptops to access the Internet. There was even a Cocktail Hour every evening for people to meet and have a tipple before dinner. I thought that was a nice touch.

I had already organised for me to have Power of Attorney to help with the management of mum’s affairs. That had been done quite a while ago, not long after Dad had died. It was in place to ensure that I could help in sorting things out if Mum became incapacitated and decisions needed to be made. As a result, I could organise for payment of the fees, sell the house and ensure that her money was safe. I think Mum was really glad that we had done that now although at the time she hadn’t been so sure. Now she knew that she could leave all of that sort of stuff to me and she wouldn’t have to worry about anything.

“I think that this place will do”, she said. “How soon can I move in?” she asked John when he returned.

“There’s some paperwork to do and a system of payment will have to be set up. The room will be freshened up and new curtains will be put on the windows and we’ll also put in a new carpet. If there is anything that you wish to have changed, such as the bed or the chairs I can sort that out too. I reckon that you will be able to move in in about a fortnight. How does that sound?”

“Just get on with it then,” she replied. “I’d like it to be sorted out as soon as possible.”

“Fair enough,” said John. I told John that I would come over on Monday to finalise the arrangements and we agreed to meet at 4pm. I would go to work early so that I could finish and meet him as agreed. There was masses to sort out still but at least a decision had been made and it was time to get Mum comfortable and settled. At least, that was the game plan.

Dennis drove us home and helped me to get Mum back into the house. I thanked him for being so kind, but he said that it was no trouble and that he had been glad to help. I offered to pay for his petrol, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Then he left. Mum was wrong. There wasn’t an ulterior motive behind his help. He was simply a good person. There were still a few of them left in the world.

Mum was tired. It had been a long day. I reminded her that we hadn’t fully signed up to anything and there was still time to change her mind if she was unsure.

“No Fee,” she said firmly. “It’s sorted. I’ll move into “The Elms” in a fortnight. There’ll be no more fannying about. I’m tired and I’ve had enough. Let’s just get on with it.”

Once I had helped Mum into bed I sat down and made a list of all of the things that I had to do. It was a long list. Maybe Fred would be able to help me with some things. I’d give him a ring in the morning.

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Book lover and creative writer. The world needs cheering up. I’m on it!

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Jan Keegan

Jan Keegan

Book lover and creative writer. The world needs cheering up. I’m on it!

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