. . . . .but Beloved has been accepted for nursing care at an EMI facility and Residential Home in Ludlow, a drive of no more than 40 minutes away. It costs an absolute arm and a leg but we have a magnificently generous member of the next generation in the family who is going to bear the brunt of the costs. I am still hoping that a small contribution will be made by social services and maybe the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund but member-of-next-generation assures me that I needn’t worry about funding.
When I got to the ward today I had a shock. Beloved was sitting slumped in his usual chair, ashen faced, chin on chest, oxygen mask attached. Deeply asleep. His pyjamas were stained with food spills, his hair stood off in all directions. Not a picture of health and happiness. In a flash I had a picture of the nurse/assessor walking in on him looking like an immediate candidate for the boneyard and making up her mind there and then to forget about him as a patient at their pristine home. Silly of me, because that’s what their homes are for, to give old people coming to the end of their lives a dignified exit, as pleasant as possible. What's a food stain or two on the front of the pyjamas matter compared to that?
I made a bit of a fuss, the harassed nurse in charge of the bay took off the mask and put in a nasal cannula instead, explaining that his blood oxygen levels had come up again to an acceptable level during the morning and that his extreme sleepiness was due to insufficient oxygen uptake. They couldn’t wash him and change his pyjamas because they simply hadn’t been able to wake him sufficiently and for long enough.
Nurse/assessor being a member of the profession understood perfectly. I combed his hair, tidied his dressing gown around him and sat him up a bit, with his help. Loads of questions, during which Beloved nodded off again, off and on. But when he woke he was quite lucid.
All in all it went ok; it was decided that he should go into their nursing facility to regain some of the strength he had lost in his two weeks in hospital and that he might recover enough to be moved to the residential unit later.
He was sweetness and light, smiled, agreed with everything nurse/assessor said, professed himself delighted at being ‘sprung’ to go to a ‘convalescent home’ (my idea to call it that), that Millie would be able to visit, that I could spend as much time with him as I wanted and that he’d finally have some privacy again. Even the chef-prepared food appeared to interest him. In other words, he was the perfect gentleman.
Then the nurse/assessor left to speak to the staff on the ward and to look at his notes. Immediately Beloved’s face went dark, a serious frown on his forehead. “Don’t believe a word she said,” he whispered, “I don’t trust her for a minute. Do not go in with her, do not invest in anything she suggests". I was taken aback. Dementia patients can become very suspicious of others. “Really,” I said, “you think so?” “Absolutely”, he said, no doubt in my mind at all,” “Very well,” I said, “I won’t then.” He was satisfied with that.
Nurse/assessor came back to discuss arrangements with me before she left. Once again Beloved was smiling and sunny. By now a friend of ours had appeared at the bedside and for a moment several of us talked at the same time, making a conversation he could not follow. Immediately he went on the offensive. “Tell me what’s going on”, he said, “I can’t understand what you’re all saying and I don’t like it. If you don’t stop it I won’t trust you anymore either.” looking daggers at me. Dementia patients have lost the ability to follow a more than two-way conversation and are quickly beset by fear and anxiety, making them aggressive. They take a lot of understanding, tact and intuition and losing patience or intimating that you think them stupid is the worst anyone can do. Always agree with them or distract them. They are easily distracted and even the offer of a cup of tea or pointing at a cloud will do to lead them into safer waters.
A nursing home for dementia patients should be just the perfect environment for Beloved. Make sure you keep your fingers crossed for a few days more, please.
When, like now, I am thinking of him and what he’s said or done today, I have the feeling that all I need to do is run down the stairs, find him sitting in his favourite arm chair, and tell him all about it. Alas, he will never come home. When transferring him to a nursing home means that we can have maybe a few more months of quality time rather than me wearing myself out attempting to look after him, then so be it.