Tag Archives: elderly

A thankless task

It’s 5.15pm and I’ve just dropped my Mum off at Urgent Care in town. I’m feeling woozy and light headed, because I’m usually in bed by 4pm and my illnesses don’t take time off when crises hit. My Dad’s with her, but that’s no consolation. Lovely fella my Dad, but absolutely and utterly feckless.

Last Friday I was chatting to Mum on the phone and she says “I have something to talk to you about when you come on Monday. It might not be something you can help with and I might have to put up with it forever, but I still thought I’d talk to you about it.” What now? I think to myself, fearing the worst.
“I can come through today Mum” I tell her, “you don’t have to wait til Monday.”
“No, it’s fine” she says, then sighs.
“What’s the problem?”
“I’ll talk to you on Monday” she says cryptically, and I wonder if it’s about my Dad but she can’t tell me because he’s there.
“Well, if you’re sure” I reply, concerned.

I worry all weekend about what the issue could be. Has she found a lump? Is my Dad’s dementia worse? The possibilities are endless.

I go on Monday to do all the jobs she lines up for me each week and ask her gently “so, what is it you need to talk to me about?”
“I was wondering if you could switch the sofa and my chair round. I hate seeing all these trailing wires” she points to the cable for her electric chair, plus the cable for her lamp, the plug cable for the phone and the plug cable for the video doorbell handset “but if the sofa were in the corner where my chair is they would be behind it and you wouldn’t be able to see them.”
I’m flummoxed. “Okaaaay……..we can have a look at that in a minute” I say trying not to sound irritated, “but what did you want to talk to me about?”
“That’s it” she says, surprised.
“What’s it?”
“Hiding the cables!”
It takes my brain a few seconds to process what she’s saying. “So that’s what you wanted to talk to me about? Swapping the furniture around?”
“Yes!” she looks at me like I’m stupid.
I inwardly roll my eyes, not believing I’ve spent all weekend worrying myself sick over moving a settee. FFS.

I start sliding the sofa around on the wooden floor. It’s not difficult but I’m sweating like a hog on a spit. I glance at the thermometer which tells me it’s 27.3C. “Did you turn the heating up for some reason Mum?” I ask her “only I’m sweltered!”
“Well it was chilly last week so I turned the green button up on the radiator” she tells me.
“How high did you set it?”
“I DON’T KNOW! I can’t get down to see the dial, so I just turn it right up” she’s irritated I’m asking because she knows I know she can’t see the dial.
“Well, would you mind if I turn it down a bit?” I ask patiently “before we all die of heat exhaustion”.
She humfs and walks off.

Swapping the chair and settee around is the easy bit. The hard bit is re-sorting all the cables. I had them all in a cable tidy next to her chair and had put a 4 socket plug on the wall at chair height so that she could turn her lamp etc. off easily at the wall. Now, I have to unplug everything, pull out the massive corner unit I’d fed the extension cable round and re-plug everything in. So now, instead of all the wires being neatly in the corner of the room by her chair they are halfway across the lounge. And you can still see them. In fact, you can see them worse than before. And to make the situation worse, there is now no way she can turn her lamp on and off as she can’t reach the switch. FFS.

This morning I get a phone call. “Are you busy today?” she asks.
“No, it’s Friday – I never usually have plans on a Friday” I tell her. “Why?”
“My bell’s not working.” Bell. Bell? It takes me a while to figure out she’s referring to the doorbell.
“Ah, I wonder when I unplugged everything on Monday whether it’s upset it. I’ll come through and have a look after lunch” I tell her.

It turns out that the wireless video doorbell had turned itself off at the handset (my Mum has a tendency to keep her finger on buttons too long, and if you do that to phones it switches them off). So I turn it back on and all is well. I can’t explain what the issue was to my Mum, though, because she’s pissed as a newt and won’t even remember I’ve been today let alone any conversation we had.

We get on talking about wheelchairs and how the footrest on Mum’s keeps flopping down and hitting her leg. “I’ll take a look at it while I’m here” I tell her, going and getting it out of the boot of their car. The footrest arm is bent so I’m not surprised it’s not staying up. Plus it isn’t locking into position properly.
“It’s never been serviced since you got it Mum” I tell her “so why don’t you and Dad have a tootle through to the city next week and you can have a look round Dunelm Mill for an hour while they fix it.”
“Good idea!” she slurs, so I ring up the service centre and book it in. But they aren’t providing courtesy wheelchairs due to Covid, so I then have to ring shopmobility and book them a courtsey wheelchair from there.

By now it’s 4pm and I’m getting groggy and really tired. So I put the dog’s harness on ready to leave.
“Before you go, would you have a look at my arm?” Mum asks.
“Why? What’s wrong with it?”
“I banged into the door this morning and chipped a bit of bark off” she laughs merrily. “It’s bloody sore but”. She rolls up her sleeve to show a bruise the size of Kent and a humongous blood soaked plaster. I’ve been there for 3 hours and she waits until I’ve got my coat on to mention it.

I try to get the plaster off and it’s stuck to the wound like cement. Not only that, but her skin is so fragile it’s ripping it off as I pull. So I take a lonnng time gently prizing it off her arm and she actually screams aloud in pain when I take off the final piece. Below the plaster, nearly 2 inches of skin is rolled back to reveal bloody, raw, gaping flesh.
“Oh my God Mum!” I exclaim horrified.
She leans back in the chair and moans.
“Dad, get your car keys. She needs to go to Urgent Care to get this wound dressed. If it gets infected anything could happen, plus the skin needs to be glued back on”.
He starts flapping around in a panic and the fact Mum doesn’t argue with me about going to the hospital speaks volumes.

They tell me they’ll be fine on their own, but I go ahead of them anyway. You can’t just waltz in to A&E these days. They stop you at the door, you have to put on your mask and use hand sanitizer, then you ring a bell. The receptionist then calls you via a phone on the wall. I book Mum in (there’s no way either of my parents would have been able to hear what the receptionist was saying on the phone) and they arrive shortly after. Only then do I come home, trying not to be embarrassed about how Mum will be acting with the nurses as she’s clearly drunk.

As I’m typing this final paragraph the phone has rung. It’s Mum to say that she’s had several butterfly stitches, a sterile dressing put on the wound and her arm bandaged. She has to go back on Monday for a new dressing and to check for infection. I can relax a bit, but feel too stressed and sick now to eat any supper.

It’s just been an ordinary week as a Carer of old, frail and confused parents. There are always jobs to be done and crises to deal with. The sad part is, my Mum won’t remember a damned thing I did for her today so it’s a good thing I don’t rely on praise or thanks. Just love.

Covid-19: can I just…?

I am as stunned as everyone else at the pictures and videos appearing of crowded public spaces this weekend.  People were arrested for having a b-b-q on a beach, while others couldn’t see anything wrong with sunbathing or busking.  3,000 souls visited one London park which has now been closed, meaning the people who use it for their permitted daily exercise in the concrete jungle we call our Capital now can’t.  FFS.

The Government website lists 4 reasons why we can leave our home:

  • shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  • one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home

Despite this, some people are deliberately flouting the rules while others are doing so unwittingly because the rules are ambiguous and open to interpretation.

1. SHOPPING FOR NECESSITIES

There is no ambiguity here.  You can collect a prescription or visit a pharmacy for medicines.  You can visit the shop or supermarket for essential food items.  End of story.

Despite that, some people still aren’t getting it.  On my daily run out on my mobility scooter last week, I met an elderly chap in my village out on a walk.  He was telling me he still drives a mile in his car to the next village each morning to buy his newspaper and couldn’t see anything wrong with that.  He wasn’t being defiant or malicious, he just didn’t get that this wasn’t an essential journey for necessities and I think many folk are making journeys simply because they’re not grasping the concept of essential.

Early on in the pandemic, before lockdown, my Dad was also walking daily to the supermarket for his newspaper.  He liked the exercise, enjoyed the social interaction and sitting with the paper and his breakfast was his favourite part of the day.  I had to be very firm with him to stop doing that once lockdown was announced and arranged to have his newspaper delivered instead.

2. DAILY EXERCISE

While on the face of it this appears a simple instruction to follow, it’s actually caused huge confusion and I think the government needed to be much more clear on what this entails.  The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, appeared on Question Time last week to clarify the position and ended up, in part, muddying the water further.

He said that a walk for an hour, or a cycle ride for half an hour, in the area where we live, would seem sensible but that if we’re up to it we can exercise for longer.  NO Mr Hancock.  You give clear instructions and the instructions should be we can walk for up to an hour, or cycle ride for up to half an hour, in the area where we live, and that should be it.

Much confusion has arisen over whether we can drive short distances, park up and exercise on, for example, a public footpath.  In our rural village this has caused aggression and vigilanteism, with people putting notices on parked cars, ranting on Facebook and me personally being verbally attacked.  This, at least, was clarified by Mr Hancock who states very clearly that it is permissible to drive up to 5 minutes in the area where we live, park up and then walk with our pets or household members.

This instruction is really important for someone like me.  I am in the vulnerable group, and caring for parents in the shielded group.  I have been very strictly self-isolating for 3 weeks now so that I can continue to provide face-to-face care for people who can’t manage on their own for the next 3 months.  I have mobility problems of my own and can’t walk for up to 5 minutes some days, let alone a mile, but I still need to get fresh air and let my dog have a poop.  However, I want to exercise in very quiet parts of my area to avoid coming into contact with other people, so I have been driving maybe ¼ mile outside my village and parking up to walk my dog, either on the way back from an essential trip to care for my parents, or on the way to.  It’s great that the Health Secretary has now clarified that this is permissible.

3. ANY MEDICAL NEED, INCLUDING CARING DUTIES

This seems straight forward, but it took a lot of reading and reassurance that I was still allowed face-to-face visits to care for my parents.  You can’t just pop in to check your elderly relatives are OK.  You can drop off shopping and prescriptions, but these need to be left on the doorstep and the relative should then take precautions when bringing supplies inside the house, ie disposing of plastic bags, then wiping down cardboard or other packaging then thoroughly washing their hands.

Where you can provide face-to-face care is if the person has an essential daily need they cannot perform themselves.  In the case of my parents they can’t change beds, do heavy laundry, my Mum needs help with bathing and neither can bend to do things like clean the toilet (vital during my Dad’s recent bowel infection).  I am, however, limiting my visits to once a week (I usually go much more than that) and taking the necessary precautions, eg. I am strictly self-isolating myself, when I visit the first thing I do is wash my hands and dry them on a towel kept especially for me, and I keep 2m away from my parents unless I’m performing personal care.

Having said all that, I am technically breaking the rules.  You are only supposed to provide face-to-face care if you fulfil all of the following criteria:

  • you are well and have no symptoms like a cough or high temperature and nobody in your household does
  • you are under 70
  • you are not pregnant
  • you do not have any long-term health conditions that make you vulnerable to coronavirus

And there’s the rub.  ME is classed as a neurological disease, and therefore I am on the Government list as a vulnerable person.  So I shouldn’t really be visiting my folks.  Here’s where common sense kicks in though.  I have been in strict self-isolation for 3 weeks.  I have not been shopping, or out in the community other than a short walk each day in the countryside where I live, and I am taking strict precautions when bringing items into my home so as not to bring the virus in on packaging.  A paid carer from an agency, OTOH, would be visiting other people as part of their job, would be mixing with their own families at home and would be out in the community doing their food shopping etc.  The safest person to provide face-to-face care for my parents is, therefore, clearly me.

Other family members are cooking meals for my parents and leaving them on the doorstep, and going to the pharmacy to collect their medication so that I’m not having to do it which would mean me coming into contact with the outside world.  It’s a team effort.

 

4. TRAVELLING TO WORK BUT ONLY IF YOU CAN’T WORK FROM HOME

This is the worst piece of advice by far.  The Government hasn’t said you can only go to work if that work is essential, they have said you can work if you can’t work from home which applies to half the flippin’ population!  So some folks are carrying on work as normal, which is really angering the other half who are stopping at home and suffering huge financial losses as a result.  The anger, and resentment, is only going to build as the weeks drag on.

In my very rural area, we have a large mine and factory which provides work to thousands of local people.  None of them can work from home, but the factory is still shut because it would be impossible to social distance.

Next door to me, a couple are having their house renovated.  They aren’t living in it, so it’s empty, and the builder is coming as usual to work including having deliveries of supplies.  There were 2 of them there last week and I have no clue if they were adequately social distancing.

Why should the builder be allowed to work and have his usual income, where all the factory workers can’t?

As you know, I have a furniture upholsterer who has a business at the end of my drive.  The day after lockdown was announced he was there as usual, with 2 of his employees, all traipsing up the drive to my and my neighbours’ homes when we are all in the vulnerable group and strictly self-isolating.  He even still had customers, walking up the narrow driveway just feet away from where I and my neighbours live.  I emailed him to say he was not an essential worker and could re-cover a chair in his own home, but he replied saying he couldn’t and he was still allowed to work.  I’m not sure who is right or wrong!  He feels justified to be at work and I feel he is putting our health at risk having a business which uses our domestic properties for access, literally less than a foot away from my 80 year old neighbours’ front door.

The Government should have drawn up a list of essential workers and banned anyone else.  I still can’t believe they haven’t done that.  We are not “all in this together” if some are being given preferential treatment.  I understand the economic arguments but it’s no good having a strong economy if a quarter of its consumers are dead.

So while Mr Hanocock feels he’s been “very clear on this” he absolutely has not and IMHO this needs to change.

 

 

Covid-19: discrimination

My parents are 80 years old.  They were poor as children and both left school at 15 without much of an education.  They are not au fait with technology and struggle just to use their cordless phone – they don’t have a tablet or the internet.

My Mum is severely disabled and my Dad has mobility issues and mild dementia.  They both wear hearing aids so even speaking on the phone can be challenging.

Most of the information regarding the pandemic is being made available online.  From important new laws, to Government recommendations on social distancing, to whether or not their recycling is being collected as usual.  They have access to NONE of it.

Each day, the British Government do a televised daily briefing.  The Scottish briefing is signed for the deaf.  The English briefing is not.  Apparently, deaf people don’t need to know what’s happening.

There are NO home delivery slots available for groceries for the next 3 weeks (shame on you if you have booked a slot but are under 70 and healthy), forcing the very old, the disabled and the chronically sick onto the street for food.  I don’t know if you’ve ever gone round a supermarket on a mobility scooter or in a wheelchair, but 80% of the items on the shelves are inaccessible.  You can only reach the food on the shelves at eye level, so often have to ask others to pass you stuff.  But of course, we are social distancing and this can currently not happen.  How, then, are these vulnerable people supposed to shop?  Or get through a checkout when the operator is behind a screen?  (which obviously they have to be, I’m just pointing out the situation from a disabled person’s perspective).

I’ve lived for nearly 20 years in a tiny hamlet in the Lake District.  I’ve spent the week dealing with a very poorly 80 year old parent, so forgot to put my mobility scooter on charge.  I need to be strict with social distancing, as I am caring for very ill parents, so am taking my daily exercise on the edge of my village (I can only walk short distances on the flat).  Normally I’d go out on my mobility scooter, but as the battery was dead I drove ¼ mile to the edge of the village in order to get fresh air and walk my little dog (the only companion I have as I live alone).  I was hollered at by a neighbour for making an unnecessary journey.

My genetic disease, and brain injury, aren’t going to suddenly disappear because there is a pandemic.  I may not be able to live exactly by the rules all of the time because I am not healthy or fit.  Does that mean I should be verbally attacked in the street?

We are only 10 days into lockdown and already neighbours are becoming vigilantes.  It reminds me of the Jews in the war who were turned on by their communities and dobbed in by neighbours they’d known all their lives.

It’s already becoming dog eat dog.

Some people think they’re being good neighbours by offering to shop and help the vulnerable in their communities.  And while this is admirable, these people didn’t get sick or old or disabled last week.  They have struggled and lived in isolation for years, while you have busily gone about your life and ignored them.  And when the pandemic is over, you will ignore them again.

We are not a “community”.  We are the sick and the healthy.  The young and the old.  The able-bodied and the non-able-bodied.  We live totally separate lives and none more so than now.