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Care homes care for more than their residents
Member Name: apuskiduski
Advantages: Nursing, company, freedom for the former carer, respite breaks
Signing the piece of paper to say you agree to your mother living in a local care home must be the hardest, gut-wrenching thing you will ever have to do. But my mum did just that and I'm so proud of her for it.
She has always lived with her mother, even after her marriage in 1965. I couldn't have done that. When I got married I wanted my new found and frisky freedom to be honest. My dad probably deserves a gold medal too. But there were advantages to this. My brother and I were raised in a 3 generation household and I now know from teaching for 22 years that the stability of an extended family is absolutely priceless. We were offered unconditional love and support from four adults.
My nan is going to be 98 in March and she's lived through two world wars and the death of her amazing husband in 1976 and her wonderful son when he was only 57 in 1992. I can't imagine losing one of my three children. It's not a parent's job to bury their child, however old they are.
Yet, she is still as smiley as ever. She always thanks us for going to see her and she is amazingly resilient. I am convinced she's made of ball bearings so she just keeps rolling along so to speak.
She had been in a wheelchair due to mobility difficulties since about 1993, but my mum would take her out most days (with all the lifting and hard work that entails) and we'd take her on holiday as an extended family for a couple of weeks every year.
My mum must have saved the state hundreds of thousands of pounds in costs for her care but she did it lovingly, enjoying her mother's company mostly, but there were periods of intense frustration and a feeling of constantly being 'on duty' as a carer. Things were becoming unbearable for mum in 2003 so I offered to house sit while they took a welcomed week's holiday in Spain.
It was only then that I realised what an unbelievable job she was doing. Emptying a commode every morning was not my idea of a thrilling half term I can tell you, or trying to bathe someone who's frail and could break a bone with one simple trip. She was mostly in bed for the week I spent with her as she had a chest infection at the time and every night I thought she might die, I kept going in her room to see if she was OK. My parents returned refreshed, I went back to work totally worn out.
I granny sat once more in 2004 but nan's health worsened and my parents wouldn't leave her after that. It was in September 2005 that the crunch came, literally. My nan got out of bed to find her purse, fell and broke the top of her left femur. We thought she wasn't going to survive the operation to insert two pins, but she did, amazingly.
She had three weeks on a ward in the local hospital, followed by ten weeks in the geriatric specialist care hospital. All the time she remained cheery and bright with only the odd day where she seemed to be down.The care that she received in both places was outstanding and at last my mum became a different person. She was less anxious, she could actually leave the house for more than an hour at a time and she had a younger look about her.
When the time came to assess what would be happening to nan after she was 'rehabilitated' there was no doubt in my mum's mind that she could no longer care for her at home. Neither did she want a care team coming into her home. She made the correct choice and when a place was made available at a local nursing home, my mum consented whole-heartedly. The decision would have been far more difficult had nan still been at home, I'm convinced.
There are times when we visit the home and we want to cry when we leave, looking at some of the people there who are trapped in their own little world as a result of a stroke, or those that have the clear signs of Alzheimers. But, in the main, our experiences are positive. My three girls are string players and go to 'entertain the troops' or they take friends from church to sing a few times a year and John, who sits next to my nan, accompanies them on his harmonica, bless him.
We recently had another scare when the home couldn't contact us as my mum now visits her caravan in Spain when she can and I was in the Lake district in an area of no phone reception whatsoever. When I got to checking through my mum's mail, a letter was there from the care home, saying nan was ill, a GP had been called. I never finished the letter. I was there three minutes later and , right enough, she appeared very ill. But the next day, no less, she was sat up in the lounge, bright as a button again. Words don't often fail me, but I was gobsmacked. My kids couldn't believe it either.
We look forward to the day when my nan receives her telegram from the Queen as I'm sure she will. She is a fighter and it's down to the loyalty, dedication and general angel like qualities of the staff at the home.
Without their constant care, engaging activities and fun-loving personalities the home would not be the place that it is. Every day we visit, and we visit most days in holidays, there's something happening for the residents. The hairdresser's salon, which is part of the home, is the hub of the community and the lounge is comfortable and mostly filled with laughter. It's a place I'm glad my nan has been lucky enough to find.
My mum still has some issues she'd like sorting out such as clothing and personal effects disappearing from time to time, but these hardly compare to having to empty a commode, bathe an increasingly frail mother and generally anguish over every decision that you have to make.
Care homes are often misunderstood places and the people in them aren't always given the recognition they deserve or the financial rewards they need. It's about time the Government legislated on home carers too, recognising the huge amount of money they save the state.
My nan seems happy where she is, she now has more friends of nearly her own age at least and the staff love her smiling face. My mum is a much more fulfilled person now she has been able to develop her own interests and spend time with my dad now he's retired.
Here's to all carers. There is nothing more honorable that caring for someone just because you want to, but when things get tough it's important to find someone to turn to and let someone care for you too.
Summary: Care homes are much more than just a home