Friday, November 06, 2009

The Hokey Cokey

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.


Gina said...

I'm sorry to hear this, Steve. Your grandfather has sounded as if he, himself, has felt ready to die for sometime now from what you have been saying.

The misinformation thing seems endemic in the NHS - the medical treatment is generally good it's everything else that fails to work.

All my family members live far away so if ever anyone is ill I am dependent on the phone to get information and, like you say, they are cagey about giving anything away and then the story you get varies from one person to the next and one phone call to the next even if you are lucky enough to get the same person. It makes it very stressful indeed.

What is all our technology used for if we cannot even glean, store and pass on basic information in a relatively secure way?

I despair of it!

But I am sorry for your grandfather and for the stress it must be causing you.

Big hugs x

The bike shed said...

Sad story, and kind of worrying too. I'm prone to 'will it happen to me, sort of thinking. Truth is, it may well - but how nice to have someone who cares looking out for me if or when it does. Well done.

Steve said...

Gina: he's been ready to go ever since my gran died 5 years ago. I think finally his body has caught up with his wishes. The misinformation thing is maddening and not at all helpful. It certainly adds to the burden of stress when you start wondering if the hospital's left hand knows what its right hand is doing...

Mark: yes, you can't help but project yourself 50 years into the future and wonder what if it happens to me...? It's a sad end to a great man. The worst thing about it all is the slow but steady erosion of all dignity.

Old Cheeser said...

Yes, great that you are looking out for your grandafter, Steve. Not trying to rub it in, but it always seems to be a classic staple that when one elderly partner dies, the remaining one finds it hard to cope and starts to deteriorate. I'm sure you're doing the best you can.

But yeah, are we all going to end up like that one day?

Steve said...

OC: I can remember my gran saying she hoped my granddad would die first as she didn't reckon he'd cope without her whereas she would! As it is she's been half right. He hasm't coped well but he has coped for 5 years which has surprised us all. His youngest daughter (my aunt) dying last year though has just pushed him too far. He's had enough.

Hopefully by the time we're 60 they'll have found the aging gene and worked out a way to not only halt it but also reverse it! Ahem.

Clippy Mat said...

this is so sad, but your devotion is very touching and a lovely tribute to him. I hope all goes well. for him, and for you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear this Steve and shocked that the hospital can't get it's shit in a pile and give you the information you need.
I'm glad your grandfather has you, your post made me wonder how many people don't have anybody.

The Sagittarian said...

Sad to hear this Steve, the slow decaying of someone we love is so hard to deal with (and made harder by the hospital system it seems?)
Am watching my own mum with unease at the moment, after the recent death of our family friend she seems to have suddenly got mentally 'older'...she's a tough ol' boot but she seems to have the stuffing knocked out of her at the moment.
All the best to you and Grand-dad! xx

Löst Jimmy said...

Sorry to read about your Granddad, I don't have any grandparents left but I can remember the pain of seeing my own Granddad reach something of a similar stage as you describe here.

Best wishes to you

Steve said...

Thank you all. Amanda, so sorry to hear about your mum. I hope she finds her strength again soon.

KAZ said...

Many sympathies Steve - you're a brick!.
But - now you've had all this valuable experience - can you come and look after me in a few years time.

Steve said...

Kaz: I'd be delighted. Would you like a bed bath every day or just three times a week?

KAZ said...

er - on second thoughts Steve - perhaps I'll just top meself.
But thanks anyway.

Steve said...

Kaz: I can recommend a good clinic in Switzerland. You can have the room next to my mother-in-law.

Selina Kingston said...

Oh I'm so sorry Steve. Your grand-dad has been in a bad way for a while now. It must be very difficult to watch his deterioration. Thinking of you xx

French Fancy... said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. It sounds depressingly familiar - the mental and physical decline, hospital ineptitude and the tick tick tick until the end - my father was just like this.

I hope I have someone as caring as you when my time is running out.

Steve said...

Selina, FF: thank you both.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I hate to say this but he could be suffering from hospital malnutrition.

On the plus side he may perk up when he is home and eating proper food with proper vitamins in again. A significant level of dementia is actually caused by vitamin deficiency as their diet narrows and lack of water to hydrate the brain if all they will drink is tea. And even side-effects of the drugs they are on.

All the best with him anyway - I can see you have had a stressful time of it lately. Lx

Steve said...

Laura: I suspect you may be right. Alas he has suffered an immense drop in (what used to be a good) appetite so building him up again is proving very difficult. I've been told that the antibiotics he's on to fight his urinary tract infection may also be contributing to his confused state. It's possible but I really do feel it is something a little more fundamental. I'd welcome reality to prove me wrong.

Suburbia said...

Oh Steve, that's so sad, I'm sorry. I hope he is comfortable, and at least you know he is safe and you can rest a while.

Thinking of you


Steve said...

Suburbia: thank you for your kind thoughts.

-eve- said...

*nodding, somber*
I can see how things are with you. I believe he CAN make it back home, but as you put so well, mentally, he may well be on his way to another home...

Steve said...

Eve: it's so hard to judge at the moment - he seems to spend every "waking" hour asleep...!

Valerie said...

Steve, I'm sorry to hear about your grandfather. The words you used were what I felt ... he's had enough, God bless him. But the medical staff should be horsewhipped for the way they've behaved. My prayers are with you and your grandfather at this difficult time.

Steve said...

Valerie: you sound like you've been here too. Thank you for your words of support.

Joe Bloggs said...

Hellokayola, Steve/Bloggertroplis

Your "Hokey Cokey" post sounds familiar... same sort of things were going on for my Nan over here a few years back in jolly old DK - Denmark... capital of Sweden... pornoland... bacon? Oh, well I wasn't listening in Geography, either.

DK has a habit of being rather large in its opinion of its/myself when it comes to measuring how grand they/we treat everybody and how good they/we are at everything in comparison to how small a country it/we are.

But I(am)(k)no(w) better cos I'm a Danglishman and even though I'm not a gambler - odds are we're prettyugly even.

I've read a handful of your postings and I really like your style. I've just mad me first blog and if you happen to keep your sanity - if you should be so careless as to read it - I would really appreciate an X marks the spot, or something, to see if it works.

Off course!it probably does, but I'm a paranoid 41 year old with all sorts of hang-ups (and downs) and very few IT skills.

If you need more scope, or cheap laughs, there's some noise and pixels here:

cheers & best

Jokay Ola (not really, but my handle is not to my liking so I change it all the time)

The Crow said...

Steve, I'm sorry for your grandfather's decline. I can imagine you this hurts you. You are fortunate, as I'm sure you know, to have had each other through the years - you, because he helped you become the man you are today, and he because in this difficult time, he has you there to help him through his passage.

I hope, when it is my time, that my grandson and I have developed the sort of relationship you have with your grandfather that he will be able to help me into the next room.


Steve said...

Jokay Ola / Joe Bloggs: what can I say but welcome and hope you'll return?! I shall certainly travel over to your place and check out the topography!

The Crow: I don't know what else to say but thank you.

The Joined up Cook said...

All quite sad. I say very little over this sort of thing because we all go through it at some time and it is so personal.

Words are inadequate so I will finish by sending you some nice thoughts and wishing you well over all of this.

Steve said...

AWB: Thank you.

Savannah said...

You are a truly wonderful person Steve and I'm glad your grandad has you to look out for him. I hope there is a good resolution in the future for all of you. Big hugs xxx

Steve said...

Gypsy: that's very sweet of you, thank you. We've in limbo a little bit at the moment as the hospital are keeping him in for observation and aren't being very forthcoming with information.