Saturday, 11 April 2009

The Community Hospital

She arrived at Witney Community Hospital yesterday morning. We arrived there in the evening and found her deranged. We've seen her deranged before, but this seemed more complete and final somehow. She found it difficult to focus on either of us and spoke drivel non-stop, but every now and again focussed on thin air, lit up and said 'Oh, hello!' I see dead people. . .

She's in a bay shared by three other ladies, each of them friendly enough if a bit withdrawn. The little old lady all shrunken and toothless in the next bed was the only one who had any conversation. You have to keep reminding yourself that this person has a past, was once a lively, robust woman. As for our little crone, she fought hard not to eat, but we got some icecream down her, the inside of a custard tart and half a jam sandwich. The food at Witney is incomparably better than at the JR, and when we looked at the menu card filled in for the next day, we couldn't have done it better ourselves.

The staff nurse introduced himself as John. He's a scouser and sounds just like Derek Acorah - the psychic in 'Most Haunted'. I hear dead people. . .. He's a bundle of jokes and laughter and spent a lot of time with us trying to get to know Mum better. Now, that's how to do it. Are you listening, JR? The staff were really concerned about her lost glasses. The JR had insisted it would be best to get an optician to see her once she was back home; she wasn't back home for two months, and then the optician was away for a fortnight. The appointment is next week. They were concerned and they were helpful. I know exactly what to do now.

God bless community hospitals, and let's curse those buffoons dedicated to their demise, convinced that health provision on an industrial scale is the best way forward.

Friday, 10 April 2009

On the Road Again

She was home for a week and a bit. In that time we had the benefit of the best home help service we've ever had: a small team in uniform who always arrived when they said they would, were cheerful and efficient. I positively looked forward to their coming. But then on Thursday Mum stopped making sense, slept all day and went droopy on the right hand side. I confess I dithered. I knew that as soon as I lifted the phone, they'd be taking her back. I wanted to go off to the allotment and just leave things to nature, but it wasn't possible. I lifted the phone and ten minutes later da-da da-da an ambulance arrived and we were back on the road again.

It turned out not to be a stroke. The paramedics had revived her from a hypoglacaemic attack with a glass of sugary milk on the way to hospital. So, it should have been easy to get her home again, but no. They wanted to keep her in overnight for observation, so they did. Yesterday we had a series of phone calls asking us if we thought we could cope. Why not? Aren't we used to it? But then someone let it slip that they couldn't release her if they thought we couldn't cope. After one hysterical phone call saying 'You have two minutes to decide!' I agreed she should be transferred to Witney Community Hospital. Almost our greatest grief was the potential loss of our hard-won care package.

Frankie saved us. Frankie saved us over and over again. In this whole nightmare, Frankie our Care Manager has kept us sane and most lucidly informed. She's been magnificent. Last night she stopped off on her way home late from work to put a letter through our door detailing everything that had happened over the day and all the contact details we needed for the new agencies now involved. We've lost her now, with the move to another hospital, but we'll be sneaking round this morning to leave an Easter egg on her doorstep. All being well, Mum will be back within the week, slightly more mobile, and the care package will resume. Meanwhile we continue work on the big present we've bought her, a summerhouse to be called 'Sybil's Cave' where, we hope, she can sit over the coming months and enjoy the garden.

Anyone watching last night's harrowing Panorama on home care will have been grief-struck. I have no doubt these things happen - we've experienced some of it ourselves with a past agency. Never grow old but if you must, don't grow old alone.