My mother appears to be recovering slowly but steadily from her recent injury and subsequent illness, which is a source of relief to the whole family, though the time I spend commuting to Edinburgh to visit her in hospital is unlikely to reduce for a few weeks yet. So the exact timing of the next step is uncertain at the moment, but the outlook is much more promising.
As part of this full-time involvement in hospitals and matters connected with convalescence and disability, we’ve been doing a lot of online research into the darker mysteries of things like nursing homes (which I hope we will not require for a while), and the delicate matter of who pays for what, in which circumstances. I would describe this field of study as necessary, rather than interesting in its own right.
I am reminded of a former work colleague of mine, Lawrence, who once had a lot of trouble trying to sort out adequate arrangements for his elderly father.
Years ago, Lawrence was my boss for a while – we got on unusually well, since we were both rather misfit members of a profession which is noted mainly for its druidic tendency to self-obsession, and for a deep suspicion of anything which offers even a hint of creativity or humour. Lawrence and I didn’t really fit the profile, so we got on famously (with each other – I can’t promise that we necessarily got on with the rest of the profession).
His father was a retired police officer, a widower – showing clear signs of early dementia, but determined (to the point of violence, if necessary) to retain his independence. When I first met Lawrence, his dad had recently moved in with them, since he was becoming unsafe in his own house. It was not going well. There was a series of harrowing incidents which caused Lawrence’s wife a lot of stress, and which resulted in some rather odd phone messages – here are a few that I recall:
(1) The old guy (Bob, his name was) spilt tea on the landing carpet, and set about sorting things out by lifting the carpet and putting it – complete with tacks and underfelt – in the washing machine, which destroyed both items. Interestingly, the insurance company refused to pay up for damage caused by a deranged family member.
(2) He broke the lock on the bathroom door, but rectified this by wedging the door shut, while he was in there. Since he could not remember what he had done to achieve this, they had to break open the door to rescue him.
(3) Ah yes - the episode of the Wall Clock. Old Bob took exception to a large, antique, wall-mounted clock in the hall – he claimed that its chiming kept him awake. When they protested that it had not chimed for years, he reckoned that it was the ticking which disturbed him, so they stopped winding it, and it ticked no more. Still not satisfied, Bob took it down from the wall, about 2 o’clock one morning, and threw it out of the front door, down the steps into the garden. That showed it.
(4) They started to get complaints that Bob was shouting abuse out of the upstairs window at passers-by.
At this point, Lawrence’s wife threw in the towel, and the old man went to live with Lawrence’s younger sister, who worked from home and would be better able to keep an eye on him.
It all started very promisingly. Bob took a liking to his daughter’s dog, and started getting up early, washing and shaving and polishing his shoes, and taking the dog for long walks. They could not believe the improvement in his general behaviour and his awareness, but it was too good to last. After a few days, the police arrived to tell them that Bob and the dog were at the police station, since he had been apprehended for exposing himself outside the local primary school.
Around this time I was transferred to another job, in a different part of the organisation – different building, different part of the city, and I lost touch with Lawrence, who was desperately trying to get his dad into a residential home, and was getting nothing but grief from the old guy in return.
Time passed – as it does – and some years later I bumped into Lawrence at lunchtime in one of the Company’s numerous canteens – I knew that he had had some health problems, and he didn’t look wonderful, but I was pleased to meet him and we had lunch together.
We spoke of this and that, and eventually I brought up the fact that last time I had met him he had been having a lot of trouble getting his father into a nursing home. I said that I hoped things had worked out well, and asked how his dad was doing.
“Still dead,” said Lawrence, with a huge grin.