Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bad week

It seems to have been one of those weeks that is as grey as the weather.
My mood wasn't great on Monday after the Sunday bus not a train fiasco, and then went downhill when I heard that Mike Gregory had died. Although I only met him fairly briefly, running the Great North Run with his wife Erica to raise money for him left me with a great deal of respect and sympathy for the whole family. You could tell that Erica would have done anything for him to get him back how he used to be, and that they still believed that there was a chance of a cure. Some of the details she told us about their daily life were heartbreaking, and you knew that Mike's brain and personality were still there, but trapped inside a body which was shutting itself off bit by bit. The news shook me up more than I expected.
Then on Tuesday I made an ill advised attempt to escape for an hour or two by means of alcohol. We had arranged a cocktail making experience with some clients at work, and I drank rather more than I was intending. Which also led me to eat more than I was intending, which was not good on a number of levels. Why do I still try to deal with stuff by trying to drink myself into oblivion? And because I was spending my time behind the bar shaking cocktails I'd dumped my bag, with my phone in it, in a corner. Which was also a bad idea.
It's probably the thing I hate most about modern technology, the fact that people can reach you whenever they feel like it. There are times when I want to be contactable (and I got a new phone so I could be contacted in New York), but also times when you would prefer to be able to switch off. I had made a big mistake. I hadn't told my mother I was going out, and what time I would be back. You would have thought, given that my mother lives in Spain, that she doesn't need that degree of information every time I step out of the house, but yes, she does at the moment. She tried to phone me at home, then on my mobile. Which I didn't answer. She then sent increasingly frantic text messages, and managed to convince herself I was lying in a ditch somewhere. When I could have just switched it off because I'd gone to the cinema, or might have been stuck at work.
To be fair to her, she was rather flustered, and possibly not thinking straight, but I am 29 and more than capable of going out without getting permission from her in advance. So I got into a taxi and called her back on the way home to see what was so urgent. A clearer head would have helped, but I got the gist of it. They'd let my grandmother out of hospital. In other circumstances I suppose that would be really good news, but as things are at the moment, it's the last thing that anyone, apart from her, wanted to happen. She didn't like it there and wanted to come home, but without support structures in place there is no way my grandfather can look after her.
My mother was furious about how it had been handled. The nurses had told her she could go home, and she was dressed and packed by the time my grandfather arrived, leaving him in the position of accepting a fait accompli, or trying to reason with her and explain why she couldn't have what she wanted. They hadn't carried out any proper assessment of what help they needed once she got home, or given him the chance to have any real input into the decision.
They left him to struggle with getting her home, working out how to get her to and from bed and the toilet (the first time they attempted she couldn't get off it, decided to crawl back to the front room and then couldn't get up again - they were considering calling the fire brigade at one point). Although he had been promised help for half an hour twice a day, no-one came yesterday because she had been discharged in such a rush. And today when one person did come, she decided it was a two person job. So it takes two people to help her get out of bed when they're trained in it, and spend their working life doing just that, but a 79 year old man who uses a walking stick is expected to do it on his own when they're not there? Is he meant to just leave her lying in her own shit until they come to clean her up?
She probably doesn't need medical treatment as such, and she's not strong enough any more to try to escape from the house (at the moment she's barely strong enough to get out of bed), but doesn't she deserve a bit of dignity, and to be looked after by people who are capable of dealing with her? It feels like the system is trying to wash its hands of her, with no consideration of her, or my grandfather's needs.
Trying to deal with the flurry of emails and phone calls from my family about all this wouldn't have been easy at the best of times, but with a hangover, Wednesday wasn't fun either. And I can't even count down to the weekend because I'm going over to St Annes and I dread to think what horrors will await me. I feel utterly unqualified and unsuitable to deal with this sort of stuff, but then I realise that none of us exactly have a choice, so what right do I have to try to shirk my share of it?


Blogger Dana said...


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8:15 PM  
Blogger K said...

Oh dear.

I don't know what to say, really, except that I hope more suitable arrangements get sorted out for your grandmother, and that you feel a bit better about things soon.

My grandmother felt much the same about the prospect of having my grandfather home from hospital, although (fortunately?) it never actually came to it because he was never well enough. It is a huge worry.

10:50 PM  
Blogger old_black said...

I'm in a situation where I share some of your feelings. My widowed mother is 83 and reasonably disabled by a variety of musculoskeletal problems, but is coping OK by herself at her home. The problem is that her older, also widowed, sister has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, and the sister also seems to have early dementia. She has just had a radical mastectomy. Now my mother is being pushed to do lots of things to look after her sister, despite the fact that she can barely manage her own life and lives 10 km away! Fortunately for me, I'm not being asked to do much to help directly; just to offer support to my mother.

11:03 PM  
Blogger old_black said...

Anyway....what I meant to emphasize was:

- this sort of situation is highly undesirable, but surprisingly common
- we're not all skilled at the care of aged people, nor do our lives accommodate the need for us to perform this role
- my thoughts are with you as I know there will be lots of difficult issues and decisions faced by you, your mother and your grandparents, for which there are no easy answers.

12:19 AM  
Blogger t__m__i said...

Unfortunately Social Services in a lot of places are crap - this is not an unusual story. The reality is that the best thing that can be done for your gran and grandad is for as many people in the family as possible to take time off work now (this is what emergency family leave is for, but you would know more about the legal details, being qualified etc) and pitch in. (And if you are not stony broke, ring up a private nursing agency to get some additional help). No, it shouldn't be like this, but better to face the reality and do whatever it takes - unpaid leave, private help - rather than rage at the system's crapness. Sadly your poor gran will probably not last long, so the situation only has to be coped with for the little time she has left.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

I'm sorry to hear what a bad week you've had. It's hard not to turn to food at times like these. At least you are aware that you're doing this, which means that you're ready to start working on overcoming this tendency. Good luck on the journey.

I'm also sorry to hear about the situation with your grandmother. My thoughts are with you and your family as you work out how you're going to handle this situation. I'm sure you'll find the strength within to cope. After all, you can run a marathon!

3:31 AM  
Blogger Rev said...

Oh no, what an awful predicament for your poor grandparents. Is this the sort of thing a phone call and an attitude might help clear up? It may at least get your grandfather some extra help a few times a day.

Truthfully, I think your desire to drink this away is perfectly understandable. Not ADvisable, of course, but understandable.

:::wafts good thoughts Eastward:::

5:31 PM  
Blogger Lucinda said...


I know where you are coming from my Nan is in the same position. It's hard to know what to do. Stay strong.

9:02 PM  

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