Friday, April 20, 2012

Life at the Home aka The Black Hole of Age

If you want to see life pass by in all its crap and glory, put a parent in a Home.
They don't change, in fact, Mother blossomed like bulb in Spring although I have to admit Autumn is more her style these days. 
Nasty things are happening in that left hand and arm where the cancer is creating havoc on nerves up around the shoulder and neck and who knows where else.
She had me cutting up cards the other day and I am not being dragged back into the days of servitude.
I am investigating an iPad or eReader for when she absolutely cannot hold a book in both hands, like last week.  She was terrified that she would go back to lying in a bed looking at the ceiling, not that she remembers doing that, it's just that we've told her how bad it was.
Phone call this morning and the hand is slightly better. Two fingers are cold, that's the carpel tunnel and two finger are burning hot, that's the Rheumatoid Arthritis, she says, self-diagnosing which is better than knowing the true situation.

It's the changing of the residents which is the entertainment.  I think of Elephant's Child whenever the MS sniveller whines about her lot in life. She's relatively young as against the oldies and could have had a nice unit, carer during the day and nurse on call at night but she prefers not to be independent. She is not liked much.
Opinionated new resident is not well liked either and her opinions are voiced very loudly.  Two of the little old ladies must have at least two wheel chair widths between them or it's like rumble in the jungle with fists flying.
What can I say about the escapee? Well he hates me because I wouldn't let him out the door.  He hides behind the potted palm just waiting for the one person who doesn't read the notice and doesn't shut the door hard and fast. They found him face down in the garden last week. We're not sure if he fell or was digging to freedom.  It still hasn't stopped him from trying to climb the fence or smash the combination lock on the gate with a pot plant. The good news is, he hasn't tried to strangle anyone in weeks.
And now the ladies, elderly, are having to deal with explicit sex lectures from a dear old bloke who barely uttered a word in 6 months. Something has shifted in his brain and he can't be stopped.

And in the midst of all of this is Accreditation time.  A time that is really important for a small home like this as the barracudabigtime Aged Care Health providers are always circling for any that don't make the grade.  This place would be torn down and two stories of tiny rooms at exorbitant prices would be up in no time.  So the nurses are not allowed to be over friendly, no hugs, no pats on the head, no nicknames, not even 'dear' and no loud voices.  Half of the residents can't hear if you talk softly and I'm certainly finding it hard, loud is my middle name.  The best thing about this place is the staff, take away their friendliness and kindness and the heart disappears. 

It's fine for the 'expert' who's been there a mere 3 weeks to say she'd like everyone to have their tea at the tables to be sociable before being put to bed.  It lasted one night. The next day every resident shot off to their room as soon as afternoon tea was finished and demanded to be in bed at 3.  They're in wheel chairs all day, backs hurt, bums hurt and all they want is to be settled and comfy in a bed for tea at 5. You'd have to be blind not to see the concentration waning and the bodies drooping but experiment is the name of the game.

Residents come and go, shuffling off to the big beyond and new ones take their place and the atmosphere changes to a more lively one only to change again in a few months. So if the 'expert' wants to know how things work or don't work, try having a meeting with us poor sods who are there day after day, year after year, on the other side of the bed.

I have no complaints about the staff or the Home, I think they are fabulous and are doing a great job of making the Home a home. They work for crappy wages as well.  Joe Hockey should try doing it for a week.


Elisabeth said...

Old age sucks, but it can be made more bearable as your wonderful post suggests.

I see the same signs in my mother's 'aged care facility' as they like to call them these days. I think the expression 'old folks home' sounds kinder - and more honest.

The Elephant's Child said...

Paranoia thy name is EC. When I saw the juxtaposition of my name and MS sniveller I assumed you meant me for a minute. Deep sigh of relief.
A friend's mother was admitted to a Dementia Nursing Home in the UK - except that there it was called a 'Home for the Bewildered'. Which I love. And somedays would like to check in.
And yes, the obscenely underpaid staff make all the difference. Such a demanding and disrespected job.

River said...

It's always the hardest workers who get paid the least. Aged care staff, nurses, customer service people.

I agree with you that the accreditation people should hear both sides of the story.

I think your Mum's home sounds lovely, it would be a crying shame to see it torn down and replaced with tiny expensive "jail cells".

Fenstar de Luxe said...

Ooh I see some interesting sorts in the aged care places I have clients in! Even in my Nanna's retirement village there are some funny ones. And I tell you what, don't they pick on an outsider. I'm always telling my Nan and her partner off for being critical of my Nan's neighbour. He is a tad weird, but pretty sure he's harmless.

JahTeh said...

Elisabeth, even leaving out the 'old' sounds better. And I think smaller homes like this for residents who've lived in the area all their lives is better than some giant hotel type of place.

EC, I do think of all the things you do and don't complain. This one is in a wheelchair but she could have been independent and I don't think she would have deteriorated as quickly. There is another MS resident and he is 95 and a real sweetheart so it must be just her nature.
And I just love "Home for the Bewildered", brilliant blog name.

River is it nice, not palace-like but such a lot of room and windows letting in natural light. I can't post photos because of the privacy issue but I feel like putting my name on the waiting list.

Fen, we all get a tad weird as we get older, it's about the only benefit. Have you ever read the poem "When I get old, I shall wear purple", it's a gem.
I've just read about Liz Taylor who wore all her jewells about the house so look for some fat redhead swanning around Southland geegawed up to the hilt with jewellery.

The Elephant's Child said...

I think you are right about the need to keep doing. My next door neighbout but one has MS. And is paralysed from the neck down. Not a life, an existence. And when she is wheeled out into the sun she is always cheerful. How?

Kath said...

You're so right about the fly-in, fly-out 'experts'.

LOVED THIS: 'escapee? Well he hates me because I wouldn't let him out the door. He hides behind the potted palm just waiting for the one person who doesn't read the notice and doesn't shut the door hard and fast. They found him face down in the garden last week. We're not sure if he fell or was digging to freedom."

Middle Child said...

Souns like your mum is in a good place - lucky