After spending much of the summer in hospital my grandfather was sent back home again about three weeks ago with a “home care package” put into place to look after him. Two healthcare visitors four times a day to get him up, clean him, feed him, put him back to bed, etc. Not ideal but as he has adamantly refused all suggestions of going into a nursing home (which I don’t blame him for) this was the only option.
The family had reservations over the proven effectiveness of this package but had to roll with it.
Some of you will be aware of the logistical nightmare that ensued just getting a hospital approved bed and a key safe installed into his home to make this package viable.
Over the last few weeks the carers and the hospital – for all they have my admiration for their hard work and dedication – have slowly driven me up the wall with their continually mounting requests for my grandfather.
I’ve had phone calls and found notes requesting a microwave, a washing machine, a new razor, new trousers and shirts, new underwear, drinks beakers with lids, plug extension cables, etc, etc...
I don’t begrudge any of these items. Plainly they are necessary to make looking after my grandfather easier and therefore to make his life more comfortable. What I do begrudge is the assumption that I can just drop everything instantly to get it all sorted out. But I shall let that go. In the bigger scheme of things it is not important.
On Wednesday I visited my grandfather at lunchtime as usual. He wasn’t right. I’ve noticed him slipping away mentally for a few months now but Wednesday was the worst I’d seen him. He was very confused and wasn’t even sure who I was when I first arrived. He also kept talking about a parade that we’d watched that very morning on a bench over the road. Well, I needn’t tell you that there is no bench over the road, there was no parade, I’d been at work all morning and my grandfather is 80% blind.
I felt a huge sadness settle over me.
Even without having worked in a nursing home for 10 years in my twenties I know this is the beginning of the end. My gran got this way just before she died 5 years ago... spending most of the time asleep the mind drifts in and out of memories and dreams and everything blurs into one long stream of semi-consciousness.
He is loosening his grip on the world one finger, one thought at a time.
I dropped off the purchases I’d made on his behalf, made a note of the new requests, made sure he was comfortable and, at the end of my lunchbreak, headed back to work. I left a note for the carers who were due to visit in a couple of hour’s time detailing my concerns at how confused he appeared to be.
At 5.45 that evening I had a call from one of the carers to say that they’d found him sprawled on the floor. In his confused state he’d tried to get up out of his chair – possibly forgetting that he can no longer walk very well – and had fallen onto the wooden surround of the fireplace and hit his head. He was now back in hospital once more. Thankfully not too badly injured – the cut to his head was very superficial. He’d been very lucky.
A flurry of contradictory phone calls then followed from the hospital and various family members. The hospital seems to be big on spreading misinformation. He was coming home. He has a urinary tract infection. He has a chest infection. He has a chest infection but the doctor isn’t aware of it. They were keeping him in. They were releasing him. They were keeping him in for observation due to irregularities in his heart scan. On and on. And around it all the hospital’s bizarre reluctance to go into too much detail or to give out too much specific information over the telephone.
What? In case Al-Qaeda are listening in and might be tempted to recruit my grandfather as a suicide bomber? He wouldn’t have the strength or the mental wherewithal to press the detonator let alone have the physical strength to walk anywhere with half a tonne of explosives weighing him down.
By Thursday morning, once the dust had settled, they were all finally singing from the same hymn sheet. They’d admitted him to a ward and are going to keep him in for “a few days”. They’re giving him antibiotics to combat his various infections (their records of which seems to be alarmingly ephemeral) and are doing their best to correct his very low potassium levels.
So he’s “safe” for a few days at least.
But to be honest I’m wondering if he’ll ever come home again. Even if his physical health ever allows it, mentally he is already in the next room.