Saturday, 4 February 2017

Good News Sad News . . . .

Beloved was admitted (admitted - doesn’t that sound awful?) to his Nursing and Care Home on Tuesday, straight via paramedic transport from the hospital. I arrived before him and was already sitting in his room when he was wheeled in. His face lit up the moment he saw me.

How did you get here? How did you know I was coming here? So lovely to see you. etc.

He was very tired and almost at the end of his strength after 2+ weeks in hospital, where any likelihood of recovery from an illness is far from given. He was barely able to get out of the wheelchair and on to his armchair.

First impressions of the Care Home were good, the staff was friendly and helpful, the room and bathroom neat and very clean, the food good (they had kept lunch for him); while I was waiting for him one of the nurses showed me around, I found everything satisfactory.

The place is like Fort Knox, well run but impossible to break into and out of. Everything on Beloved’s wing is regulated by keypads, access to lifts and stairs requires code numbers. I had a job to get my codes organised, now, several days later, I am still asking staff to help me get in and out. Even if he could walk unaided, Beloved is not going to pick up his trusty stick and make for the exit. He wouldn’t get very far.

I had a wonderful example of the craftiness of dementia today. As I was leaving, three elderly ladies stood around by the lift. One had a light coat over her arm and a handbag. All three were in day clothes and chatting amiably. I did my trick with the lift doors and two of them climbed aboard with me, the third just about to step in when the doors began to shut. I somewhat perfunctorily called out “NO, careful now”. All three were rather wraithlike and there was a doubt at the back of my mind about them: were they residents, by any chance?

The doors shut and one of them said “now you’ve frightened her”, meaning the one left behind. “But it’s happened and can’t be helped.”  I was getting really worried. “Are you sure, you err . . erm. . . .” If they were bona fide visitors it would be most embarrassing to have doubts about them. “Oh yes, “ said the spokeswoman, "we are leaving now.” I took a closer look: thinning, slightly straggly white hair, frail and a little unsteady, and with that vacant look of dementia, crafty, but empty-eyed.

On the ground floor I put down my bags and made as if to punch in a number on the keypad. “Remind me, ladies, which way round . . . . . .? They had no idea.

I was sure now and went for help. A carer was within range and I handed my wraiths over to her. Even then I was told to wait with making my exit until they had been safely shepherded out of the way and into the lounge next door.

Hagley Place Care Home is good and a comfortable place to be, a bit like a medium range hotel, except that the staff wipe your bottom, give you a bath, and come running when you ring your bell. I am told that Beloved eats well (he orders the “full English” for his breakfast!) and has so far not tried to escape. I’ve lugged lots of homely things in for him, pictures for the walls, a small wardrobe full of clothes, daffodils and other bulbs in pots about to burst into bloom, as well as edible treats. He is allowed to have anything he wants in his room and I can visit any time of day. The chef will provide a meal for me too, if given prior notice. Today I took him a very small quantity of sherry. And Millie, Millie has already become a favourite, both with staff and residents.

In the three and a half days of his stay Beloved has already had his hair cut, seen a doctor and been visited by the memory nurse from the Memory Clinic which first diagnosed him. He’s been drawn into activities, is taken to the dining room to eat his meals and encouraged to walk with a Zimmer frame, which he learned to do instantly. Still very weak but recovering some of the strength he lost in hospital.

But, Oh My Goodness Me, picture the residents, the inmates, the poor creatures incarcerated for their own good. I see some of them and I could weep at the ruins once upright and intelligent people have become. I should say that this is a very expensive private home which reflects the class of patient to some extent. One nurse proudly told me of Jack, the former editor of a national paper, Mary, a former painter, Joan, a well known former golfer given to addressing other residents in the dining room in cut-glass accent and phrases, thanking them all for coming and providing excellent rankings in spite of the dreadful weather, for which she actually apologises. Now nurse has Beloved to add to her gallery of notables. "Fancy that”, she says, “a principal player at the Royal Opera”.

But really and truly, it’s all so awful, I can hardly bear it. Yesterday he asked me: “Where did you disappear to last night? We are still married, aren’t we? You haven’t left me?” And “What am I actually doing here?” I still talk about the Convalescent Home and sometimes, when he gives me a little nudge in that direction, about a hotel he’s staying at without me. The hardest thing in the world is to pick up my bags, take Millie’s lead in my hand, gaily call out “See you tomorrow”, and walk out of that door, leaving him behind.

I’ve been out three times in the last few days, once to a live streaming of the play “Amadeus”, once to a lecture about a particular aspect of child abuse (now there’s a cheerful subject!),  and today to a lunch in aid of refugees. Everybody else is so busy being chatty and lively and animated and I’m just sitting there thinking “what am I doing here? On my own?” People at the lunch were very nice to me and asked genuine questions. I could only answer with tears in my eyes. People being kind is the very devil, I am always glad when the questioner is no more than an acquaintance and I can answer their How Are You with the bland formula Very Well Thank You.


  1. It breaks my heart, this loss of yours and his but please do not spend your time feeling guilty. You have done the best you can for him and need to take care of yourself, too. I'm glad you were able to get out for a bit and if someone asks a question you feel is intrusive, it is fine to say you do not wish to speak on that subject.

  2. It sounds like your Beloved is in a good care situation. You have described so very well the horrible way dementia steals away life little by little. It's good that you are getting out and have those who care for you. It's all so raw just now. Thinking of you across the miles.

  3. Such hard times, but you can rest knowing that he is being well cared for and in a comfortable place. He is so fortunate to be loved and comforted by you. When I read your words, I know that you had and are still having a beautiful love story.

    My husband spent most of November in a care facility for rehab purposes after major surgery. It was lovely place, his room was like a nice hotel, and the skill of the staff was excellent. However, when I would leave in the evening I would notice that many of the residents were in very poor shape and in need of so much more assistance than my loved one did. I was reminded how difficult getting old is and that often this is where those of us who have been given the gift of a long life will spend our final days.

  4. My heart is breaking over so much in this post, but it is also feeling thankful that Beloved is in such good hands where he will be cared for so well. I can only imagine how hard it must be to say good-bye each time you leave. Thinking of you and sending you the best regards.

  5. You describe the place so well, Friko. It couldn't have been easy to see him there, with those others in such a state. And those women who almost "escaped" from the residence! I am so glad you are able to visit so often and bring Millie as well. But it is heartbreaking, very much so.

  6. I am so grateful that at least so far he seems content in his new place and is being well cared for. But sad for you to see him, to say goodbye at each visit. I hope you will find a way to enjoy yourself at pleasurable outings without feeling any sense of guilt or "I should be there." For it is clear you are a good and steady companion who is doing all the right things for Beloved.

    We were visiting Rick's godparents this weekend, one of whom is in a rehab facility following surgery that also is a permanent home for those requiring memory care, as they call it. We set off the alarm once (we didn't know we needed a code) and another time someone else did. Bed 48 is missing. (Bed 48 was found in the theatre.) It's good to know they track their people who no one is running about in the snow.

    I know it's very hard. I'm sure I don't know HOW hard, but I do know it is hard and send you hope and hugs.

  7. What a tough road for you and Beloved. I volunteer at an upscale retirement home and even the best can be sad at times. I understand what you mean about seeing people socially and being very sad, as I am at times. Kindness brings tears to my eyes.

  8. The Long Goodbye and you're living it. How fortunate he is to have you caring so for him. Lovely that Millie is part of it all too.


  9. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other. Dementia sucks especially for those that do not have it :(

  10. Finally he is at a home and you can come with Millie. These are very tough times for you yet you navigate it all with such bravery.

  11. Dear Friko - I am so glad to read Beloved has a safe retreat ... where they are kind and compassionate ... it all sounds to be a place of comfort for you both - not ideal .. but you can go in and out as you wish, have Millie with you on occasions and know that Beloved is gathering his strength. It does sound like Fort Knox - but that's a good thing ... no wandering off. These gems of conversation will hold you in good stead.

    The change in life style for you will adjust over time ... now it's new and uncertain (to a point) - but at least there are things happening in the village and you can join in when you want.

    With many thoughts, but good news it is, sad too ... but safe and less worrying ... Hilary

  12. Dear Friko ~ I also am glad your Beloved is in such a good caring place. I'm glad he's regaining strength too.

    This is less stressful for you even though it is all so sad. How wonderful that you can visit as often as you wish and bring Millie too.

    Accept the kindnesses, let the tears flow, and let the rest go.

    Love, hugs & prayers ~ FlowerLady

  13. The caring home sounds as if it could not be any better. Still, it is not "home", and Beloved will never be home with you again - life as you knew it (together) is over, with not even a minimal chance to be picked up again, and that is what makes this all so very sad and hard to accept.

  14. Friko, be forgiving to those who care about and stumble with their conversation. Some of them know what you are going through, some can imagine, and some are terrified that next year it might be them. I must admit that your care services sound really good. He seems so happy. I assume they may have concerts that residents could attend? You are a stranger in a strange land, but you will find it eventually fits a little better.

  15. C'est la guerre, oui?
    We all pass-away, dear.
    Then, if you have a seed of faith,
    you're going either to Purgatory
    for a time depending on how grave
    your sins were... or Seventh-Heaven.
    Lemme help you on the Way
    for Im simply a mortal guide
    for the lost; let this be your catalyst:

    'The more you shall honor Me,
    the more I shall bless you'
    -the Infant Jesus of Prague
    (<- Czech Republic, next to Russia)

    Love him, leave him or feel indifferent...
    you better listen to the Don:
    if you deny o'er-the-Hillary's evil,
    which most whorizontal demokrakkrs do,
    you cannot deny Hellfire
    which YOU send yourself to.

    God bless you, earthling.

  16. Ah, Friko, I can only echo much of the other commenters. Words of comfort for that which is so bereft of comfort fail me at the moment, so, I will comment on the craftiness of dementia! That three women teamed up is amazing; scary but amazing. I will also say good for you, Friko. Do go out and grab those moments you can, fleeting as they might be. My thoughts and wishes and prayers are for you and your Beloved.

  17. really, there is nothing I can say, any of us can say. it is terribly sad, we all know it and dread our time of enduring it. I'm glad he is in a good facility. it could be so much worse. over here, the nursing homes for people who can't afford the really nice places are just dreadful. you have done the right thing even though your feel terrible about it and it's good you are getting out instead of staying home feeling miserable even if you wonder why. just know that you aren't alone.

  18. Thank you, dear Friko, for letting us have this view of what your life and that of your Beloved are now. How kind you are to us. I send you all lots of love. xo

  19. So much of this rings familiar, the good and the sad, from experiences with friends and family (Josie's Mum did escape from her care home once or twice, but fortunately came to no harm). Our thoughts are with you both, and Millie, too.

  20. I am so very glad he is finally in a safe place with constant care. It's a sad relief. But it sounds like he will appreciate the distractions of the activities and I'm so glad Millie can visit!! Under the circumstances (which suck in general) it is an excellent place for him to be. Must feel so empty at home now. That will take a while to adjust to in itself.

  21. I would just repeat Ellen's comment! You are going through rough, unknown waters. We are watching you, sharing your grief and your fear, and trying to be tugboats that help you on your journey. We are here with you, caring about you and Beloved. Please do all you can to take care of yourself, knowing that you have done your best to handle a new world.

  22. We are both very relieved that you and J did not have to wait longer than you did for a response to your need. I can't call it a 'solution' but fortunately such places exist, that you have one not too far away and that you're not having to shoulder the financial burden. It is very sad, all of it, and you describe it all with poignant elegance. As always, I love your writing, and have been brought to tears more than once. Thinking of you both with love.

  23. The care home does sound well-run. It's nice to think that not only is Millie welcome there, but has also become a hit amongst the staff.

    May you continue to be well, take good care of yourself, and get the support you need during this transitional, difficult time with your beloved.

  24. Being admitted isn't necessarily a bad thing. I was admitted to college once and felt pretty good about it because I heard they discovered penicillin at a University. If they could make penicillin out of moldy bread they could surely make something out of me.
    The care home sounds like a decent place, really. All I can do is wish for the best for you and Beloved.

  25. Husband has been somewhere very similar for the last 20 months and has , to a certain extent , settled in . I , too , learnt early on never to use the home word , not to let anyone out , how kind the staff all are and how to go with the flow ...
    It never gets any easier but I know he's safe with people who know him and care for him .

  26. Others
    have said it all.
    Now me
    Happy for you
    but very sad..

  27. I'm glad your husband has found a others have said, luckily your family can afford to pay for such facilities which keep his life on a civilised basis. Lovely that Millie can come too...her must be pleased to see her accompanying you.

    A good idea to get out and about....but, as you say, difficult at times with well meaning people.

  28. At least he is in very good hands, and you can afford such a nice home. That's already very important. It takes time to get used to your new life because that's what it is a new life, Dein altes Leben kommt leider nie mehr zurück ! Habe ein bisschen Geduld, am Ende gewöhnt man sich an alles !

  29. For years, I've followed the blog of an Australian woman whose husband also suffers from dementia, and when he was admitted to a care facility, she wrote at length about the experience she found the most difficult: leaving him at the end of the day. She trusted the facility and its staff, and she knew it was for the best. That didn't make it any easier.

    I laughed at your description of those crafty would-be escapees, and I'm glad to hear that you've been out socially. Your life has changed so radically, but you're still living, and its important to nurture your own life as well as to protect your Beloved's.

  30. You have always produced feelings of respect and affection for me. With tears in my eyes I thank you for sharing all of this [please don't stop blogging]. You have come to mean so much to us over the years and especially now. shoreacres above said it quite wisely. I too hope you will carry on living. One foot. Then the other. Life might yet surprise you... ALOHA

  31. Dementia is such a bitterly cruel disease. When my father was in the earlier stages of Alzheimer's he was going to a day program. In a moment of pure lucidity he said to me, "It's strange to have a masters degree in engineering from MIT and be cutting shapes out of coinstruction paper." I wanted to weep.


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