OK, let’s recap:
I’m a very competent, out of condition newly retired woman of 62, who could do with losing weight and needs to sign up for the gym. I live with a guy in his 80s who’s an athlete and an excellent historian, but otherwise hopeless around the house. Everything he touches breaks. His shirts develop ink stains, his suit pockets develop holes. He’s IT illiterate to the point that there’s a computer crisis every other day. If I send him for groceries, he’ll return with something absurd, like the time he brought home olive oil spread instead of toilet rolls. Dirt is invisible to him so, although he’s now confined to disposing of the rubbish and doing the washing up, the latter can be haphazard, at best.
The only family I have that I’m still in touch with is my 89 year-old father, who lives ten minutes’ walk from me and has made himself completely dependent upon me and my OH for company or to be rescued from all the bad decisions he makes. I didn’t particularly care for my childhood as I didn’t want to raise two children in place of parents. I stayed out of the house as much as possible during my teens, and got out as soon as possible. Finding the system expects you to sort out your aging child-dad leaves me profoundly unimpressed.
That stage all began 6 years ago, almost to the month. He’d been getting increasingly ill but wouldn’t go and see the doctor. My pleas, as they say, fell on deaf ears. So I went off visiting friends for ten days and within a day or so he’d been carted off to hospital and I had Social Services on the phone to me. Welcome to a new world!
We went through it all again 4 years ago. And now again, this last week or so. yes, I could see he was getting increasingly frail. I didn’t know he wasn’t earing because he hides or lies about anything he thinks might force him back into hospital. Well, that didn’t work well – that’s exactly where he is. Mind you, it took three ambulance call-outs, several phone calls to his surgery and two home visits to get there.
In a nutshell, it went something like this:
Tuesday – I go round for the twice weekly coffee and find him on the floor. Dial 999. An hour later, the paramedics arrive and put him back in his chair.
Wednesday – he rings me to say he’s fallen over again. I dial 999. These ones arrive within five minutes and put him back in his chair. OH goes round and arrives in time for GP’s visit. She says Dad needs more potassium. OH buys him bananas.
Thursday – his daily care assistant reports back that she doesn’t think he’s left his chair all night. Instead of wheeling himself on his walker into the kitchen, he asked her to bring his breakfast to him. He also asked her to empty his pisspot beside the chair, though no one mentions that to me. I go round, dig out a meal for him, discover he’s been chronically undercooking his meals for goodness-knows-how-long, and watch him eat most of it. Later, OH pops in to heat up some custard to tempt Dad to eat bananas with custard.
About an hour later, Dad rings OH to ask him to come round to turn out the light for him, as he can’t reach it. OH rings me to relay request, as he’s trampolining. Dad rings me to beg and plead with me to go round to switch off the light, as though I’d refuse. I ask him why he doesn’t do it and he tells me he can’t get up. On way round, I catch the GP’s surgery just before it closes. GP tells me to ring 999. I ring 999 and they give me the third degree. They put me through to a paramedic who repeats the third degree, then suggests ibuprofen. I point out father not eating, so ibuprofen not a good idea. Neither can he remain in the chair, as he can’t go to the loo. Paramedic tells me I have two choices: either summon an ambulance, which may take up to 4 hours to arrive (as it’s not life-threatening) and cart Dad to A&E, where he’ll have to wait until they have a moment. Or ring the surgery. I point out the surgery now closed. “Try the out of hours doctor” the paramedic suggests. “He can get your father placed on a ward if he feels it’s necessary.”
I ring the OOH doctor and am told that one will turn up sometime in the next six hours, and to be at the house, ready.
No, I shall not wait at the house. The only chairs are in the same room as my father and the TV, which he doesn’t watch. No radio and I find reading tiring. Stare at the walls time. For six hours. I tell Dad to ring me as soon as the doctor turns up. The doctor arrives only four hours later. The doctor is very efficient and tests whether Dad can even stand. He can’t. He decides Dad cannot possibly stay in the chair and rings 999. He warns OH and me that the ambulance may take up to 4 hours to turn up. So anytime between midnight and four am. The doctor asks us to stay with Dad. There aren’t enough chairs. As it happens, I’m also at the end of my tether. OH, who reads a lot, volunteers to collect a book from home and stand guard duty. Ambulance turns up before he leaves.
I prepare a bag to go to the hospital with Dad. I remove all his cards and money and add in things he wants but doesn’t need, such as a nightgown. I ask about his only form of amusement – his puzzle book. No, he doesn’t want it. I ask him twice, but he doesn’t want it. I put in his shaver and a pen.
Friday – I visit Dad in hospital. Skin doctor says he has terrible rashes. I point out he’s too frail to wash himself and too embarrassed to let the care assistant wash him. Skin doctor prescribes lashings of ointment, four times a day. Concentrated banana is being fed into Dad’s arm. He wears a hospital nightgown. He begs me to go to the hospital shop and buy him a puzzle book as he’s desperate for something to do.
Sunday – I visit Dad in hospital. It’s a bank holiday weekend and very hot. Dad is cold. They have put him in a different ward. He asks me to get his puzzle book out of his locker. As I do so, I smell something. It’s his clothes, which the nurses have bundled into a plastic bag. I tell him I will take them home to wash, as they stink. He confesses he hasn’t been washing his clothes for weeks, and not eating for months. He tells me Everything Will Change once he’s back home. This time he will follow the doctor’s orders and exercise and he will do everything he’s told. He will listen to me. I am unimpressed. I’ve heard it all before. As soon as he is home, he’ll forget all this. His pen has disappeared, He can’t do his puzzles without one. I borrow one from a nurse. She is not impressed. he tells me his medication has changed. I go to the nursing station to ask why the change in ward and medication? I am told Dad is now in a ‘loan’ bed i.e. he’s on a stroke unit that keeps four beds to loan out to general medical if they’re not required for stroke patients. she will look at the medication and come round to tell me. There is something going on with a patient in the bed opposite and she doesn’t get round to me while I am there.
Monday – I have my first panic attack. All I am doing is trying to sort out a dispute about something I bought on eBay that doesn’t work. I find I can’t face dealing with this. However, there is no one else who can manage it for me. I post on Facebook and gain much good advice from friends, who have been supportive this last few days.
Tuesday – I have the day off, as OH is visiting hospital. I’m still catching up with sleep, which is disrupted due to knowing that this will go on for a while and that everyone will expect me to be responsible for everything to do with my father. Friends I have arranged to visit in less than 2 weeks ask me if I still intend to visit them? It’s not as though I spend my whole time visiting – it’s more that my father’s timing is brilliant. (sarcasm). I cross my fingers and say yes.
The monitor I returned as defective was delivered to the eBay trader this morning, but he has gone silent on me. The computer I still have to return is sitting upstairs, waiting for me to arrange a courier. I have sent two messages to the seller asking him to confirm his address. It is now too late for me to sort that out today and it will have to wait. It lurks in the bedroom, threatening to trigger another panic attack. I am very, very unimpressed.