For some time now, I’ve been trying to persuade my father to get a hearing test. He finally promised me he would, just before he went into hospital. As soon as he went in, he began telling me how much he appreciated everything I did for him and how he would change his ways in the future and act on what I said, instead of brushing it off or ignoring me. Having heard this all before, I told him that what was needed was action. That he needed to do things, not just say them. Oh yes, yes, he would! It really will be different!
He’s been in the community hospital now since Thursday night. For those who haven’t experienced this UK system, someone goes to a main hospital to get their critical condition sorted. Once that’s OK, they’re sent home, if they’re well enough, or else end up in a community hospital to have physio, medication resolved etc. Our community hospital is a great resource for everyone – I’ve attended physio there. They also have an opticians, a pharmacy and a few other resources.
As the first consideration about my father is whether or not he’s capable of walking, I asked the nurses on Saturday if he’d walked at all. They said he’d declined the offer that day as his knees hurt. (He does have severely arthritic knees). On Sunday I asked him and he said he’d asked that day for physio but there wasn’t a physio on duty. He claimed he’d taken a few steps on Friday but went vague when I asked for details. He’ll duck and weave. “Oh, I can’t remember”. Or repeat “A few.” That’s the pattern when he doesn’t want me to know something. so I told him he had 2 weeks in the hospital to walk. They might even do the social services assessment before then. If he’s not walking far enough, they’ll classify him as non-mobile or restricted mobility. That might mean he’ll end up spending most of the day sitting on a commode at home or, if home is unsuitable, they might suggest alternative accommodation. He was appalled.
This isn’t done to scare him. This is the only means I have of motivating him. Otherwise, he’ll give in to however he feels, like a child, and then beg and plead when the crunch comes. But, by then, it will be too late.
Noticing how bad his toenails are, I also suggested he ask for the chiropodist. Note this, because it explains my behaviour later on.
So I pop in to see him today and note he’s on the “bicycling machine” which is designed to make him exercise his legs by paddling them on the machine. I ask if he’s walked. “A few steps”. I ask for details and get the same vague answers.
This is not a man with any form of dementia. When the catering assistant comes by, he asks for coffee in a special (non-tip) mug and could she kindly move a piece of furniture in the adjoining bathroom to beside him, and place the mug on there. No flies on my father.
We’re back to my having to repeat myself all the time, so I suggest a hearing test while he’s in here. “Oh, that can wait until I’m out of here,” he says. “One thing at a time.”
Then he complains of boredom. I say he has his puzzle book. No, that’s not enough. He’s bored. “What can I bring you?” I ask him.
“Is there anything at all? Would you like the TV?” (That’s on the wall.)
“Oh, I can’t stand that.”
“Would you like a book?”
“Oh, I can’t read. My eyes get blurry. When I’m out of here I must see the optician.”
“There’s an optician here.”
“I can’t do that. There’s too much going on. The nurses are always in and out of here.”
“So what about your toenails?”
“I told the nurse yesterday, when you’d gone, and he said he’d leave a note so someone can come and do them.”
“If you can do the toenails while you’re here, you can get the optician to look at your eyes and get a hearing test.”
“No, I don’t want to do that. I’ll wait.”
Now, I’ve thought about this long and hard this time, since hearing all those promises about heeding me. Very reluctantly, after hearing this twice before and being ignored, I’ve decided there’s only one way to do it – CBT. In other words, give negative and positive rewards for behaviour. So I got up.
“OK, if that’s what you want, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The begging and pleading starts. “Oh no, darling – don’t do that! Please don’t!”
It’s hard, but I really can’t think of any other way to change his behaviour. After all, the message about walking seems to have worked. And, as long as I reward him by staying there, he’ll ignore my wishes. So I went.
We’ll see if it makes any difference at all.