Friday evening I got a call from the home. Just checking in really and explaining that father seems to be having rather more 'accidents' than he has clothes to cope with, so could I either get more trousers for him, or consider 'pull-ups'. Cue a trip to visit this morning after a quick shopping trip yesterday. (I went to a friend's birthday celebration last night.)
Given that it's my first visit since leaving him there and it's been nearly 3 weeks, I was hopeful that it wouldn't be too distressing for either of us. And it wasn't. Mostly because he didn't have a clue who I was. I suspect he thought I was some random stranger who had decided to sit with him while he finished his breakfast, (it was just gone 10 am) so to start with he just ignored me completely. He did look at me once or twice, but there was no recognition there at all. We had a brief walk outside in the garden and then came back in to sit and finish our cups of tea.
In general he seems more detached from his surroundings and a bit slower, but he had flashes of clear awareness and although some questions were ignored, he answered others very definitely. What impressed me was that the carer had a good awareness of which answers were meaningful and which weren't. His eating was slow and deliberate, but he was methodically working his way through the toast on his plate and clearly intent on finishng it. Apparently he eats what's in front of him, it's getting him to sit down an eat to start with and keeping his attention and he's likely to get up and wander off before finishing.
I had a very good chat with the carer who was keeping an eye on himwhen I arrived, who explained he was currently the only male carer on the wing and he'd got father dressed this morning. He said he'd taken him for a walk round the gardens a few times as he seems to be getting bored and I said he'd probably be happy to help out in the garden as he's still quite flexible. I also xplained about the DVDs of air shows and classical music concerts. Aparently there was an André Rieu concert on the tv the other day and they were all engrossed. So I pointed out the 7 or 8 DVDs in the collection and explained they were all labelled so to feel free to use them more generally.
He had already noted that father enjoys just listening to clssical music if he's lying down. I mentioned the harmonica and the carer was very interested as he plays himself, so he will hopefully have a go and encourage father to have a try. Whether he can manage now he's lost his front teeth, we shall see. I also spoke to the senior carer and she talked about the garden as well and wondered if they could get some small tools for some of the residents to have a go at planting or weeding. I volunteered to bring down some hand tools from the sheds and indeed, sorted some out this afternoon.
In all, I stayed for about an hour, but it was plain that he didn't need or want conversation and was fairly happy just sitting, so I said I had to go and would come again and visit and he wasn't bothered, didn't say goodbye and I think didn't really care whether I stayed or left. Which is, to be honest, the best reaction I could have hoped for. Although I can't avoid feeling I've abandoned him, he's certainly not aware that there's anywhere else he could be or anyone else who should be looking after him. Most importantly, he seems to have settled in well and to have transferred his trust to the carers at the home. They all seem to like him and he seems to be okay to be in a larger community.
I suspect that the constant interaction between us, with me being his only source of company/information gave him a focus that's disappeared now, but it may equally well be the reintroduction of wheat, which had such an impact when we removed it from his diet. In any case, I'm satisfied that he's being well looked after and that he's as content as he can be and certainly not distressed to be where he is. It's the right place for him and I suspect the right time as well and I'm so impressed with the environment and the people.
I shall probably visit every couple of weeks now, but not for very long. Just really to check he has what he needs. At least it only took me 45 mins from Yeovil and that included slow traffic on the A303-M5 link road due to the sunny weather. Another day, I'll use the bike, when I don't have to spend the rest of the day gardening in Wells.
I've just been up in my roof. Not a simple process as a while ago (before relocating to Wells) I hung a large punchbag from the access hatch. Getting into the roof involves extending a stepladder while the bag does it's best to push me over, hoisting the bag onto the 3rd rung to take the weight while I stretch up from the 1nd rung to unhook it. only after that, removing the hatch, hooking u an extension cable to the single light bulb so that I can see to climb up in. (It's a big roofspace.)
Only this time, the light was already on.
But it couldn't be, because the light isn't hooked up until the extension comes through the hatch, so then why ... oh. Natural daylight. Broken roof tile - no felting.
How long the tile has been broken I don't know, but given some of the rain we've had recently, my bathroom and landing ceiling should have been soaked and, given that it's still lath and plaster ...
Only, the gods have smiled on me and diectly under the broken tile - a 4 or 5 inch square hole - is the old header tank for the hot water, disconnected and never removed when the combi-boiler was fitted. The rain must have been falling directly into it. Looking around I spotted some offcuts of clear plastic, left over from customizing poster frames and the first one to hand wedged perfectly under the tile, over the top of the tile below and perfectly up to the upper support. A length of duct tape securing it to the upper support and another to the tile alongside and - instant roof light! Not the way I'd have chosen it but it'll keep the rain out and let the light in. I'm also very lucky that a bird didn't decide to set up residence, so I'm guessing it can't have happened that long ago.
This is why I keep random bits of 'stuff' around because you never know when you might need them. :)
Mostly thanks to the wonderful people at the Legion home, especially the woman in charge of demntia services who e-mailed me to let me know on thursday morning that father had was joining in with a flexercise class and was laughing and smiling. Knowing how short his memory is, this was a huge relief as it shows he's able to live in the moment and get enough enjoyment to override the anxiety of being in a new place. He's got a lovely smile - even gappy as it is - and I'm sure they'll enjoy finding ways to get him smiling.
Secondly, thanks to my brother, who is a true force of nature. :) He arrived on Friday and I couldn't believe how much sorting out and throwing away had been done by the time I went to bed - leaving him finishing off my father's back room 'den'. By the time he left on Saturday evening, we'd completely sorted that room, my parent's bedroom and the kitchen and utility rooms. The favourite word of the day was definitely 'tat'. Sadly, my mother enjoyed colourful cheap toys and ornaments and souvenirs that he and I both regard as 'tat', though he was fantastic in doing a first cull and then referring everything else to me.
Anything that was of sentimental significance to either of us was quickly and easily divided. We pretty much agreed on dividing things and there's so little he actually wanted, I had no qualms about the odd thing I might have hoped for. Example: I really wanted the big plastic Dolmesch tenor recorder but wouldn't have minded the B&H wooden sopranino as well. He wasn't interested in the big tenor but did want the sopranino as it fitted in with his penny whistle collection. We each had one of father's wooden treble recorders and I already had my mother's wooden descant, so he got father's wooden descant. Sorted.
We did a deal with the big copper kettle. It was one of my duties as a child to polish the brass and silver including the big kettle - though not polished for years now. :) But to be honest, his house, being a Victorian red brick cottage with open fireplaces, is much more suited to it, while my 1930s style semi- will absorb most of the furniture. But he couldn't decide whether to take his first trumpet, already having his better one. So I offered house space to it so he can think about it, but then offered him the kettle. I think he felt better offering me a straight swap of the kettle for the trumpet. I'll probably never play it, as it takes too long to develop a decent lip, but I'm always happy to expand my instrument collection and I'd certainly like to learn one or two basic open valve tunes.
And it went on like that. We sorted out the best way to leave the house to go on the market and I'm taking this week to sort out my own house now and move back into. Thanks to my brother's focus and energy, I've found sorting out my own stuff a lot easier and it's all going a lot quicker than I anticipated. Just got to figure out how to access my home wifi router now to enable the new laptop. And every time I think I might be ready to finally shuffle vehicles and move my sleeping place, something intervenes. Hopefully though, tonight will be the last night in my parents' house and tomorrow I'll be in residence in my own house.
... but I was kind of expecting it.
I didn't try to explain beforehand. Packed his stuff and loaded the car this morning and then loaded him into the car, almost like just going for a normal drive. Lots of paperwork when we arrived and although they got him joining in, he began to get agitated. Mostly I think because he knew that something was going on, but he didn't know what it was. At one point I think he'd had enough of other people so they took him off to his room to sit and then we unloaded his stuff and I know he didn't understand what was going on.
Eventually, with all his stuff put away, I sat down and told him that I had to go back to work and that he couldn't be alone in the house, so the people here were going to look after him. He understood this, but he was still upset. I'm not entirely sure he knew what exactly he was upset about, and thankfully (for my sanity) he didn't say that he didn't want to stay or ask why he couldn't go home or come with me. I still felt a right s**t. But the anxiety of being somewhere strange and being 'left behind' translated into his generalised anxiety of not knowing what to do.
As we left they suggested they'd put his dvd on the main tv for everyone to watch and when we left he was sitting on a sofa with a few other residents looking up at a huge screen where they were starting up the dvd - aeroplanes of course. We got out while he was distracted.
I know it's the best place for him and I know that I was getting to the end of my ability to cope, but I still remember the sheer misery of feeling homesick when I was staying with relatives and I can't help projecting that feeling of loneliness and abandonment. I really hope that without me there he can adapt to the new environment and find some enjoyment in his new existence.
I still feel like a bastard because I've taken him out of his home where he chose to live and now here I am surrounded by all his things while he's in some strange place, just to make life easier for me. I know it's not the case, but I can't help feeling bad. I kind of hoped he'd be unaware of what was going on, but he was a lot more aware than I'd anticipated. I have things to do for the next few days to keep me busy and I can't go to visit until Saturday, so I'll go in the afternoon and hope that in that timeframe he'll have begun to settle in. I know he would always be agitated for the first day or so when my brother and his wife would look after him.
I still feel like a right s**t.
It does seem a bit much to have called off the search after 2 days. I know the weather caused it to be suspended, but there's a very good chance that the crew are in a liferaft with supplies, in which case we're not talking about the same conditions as a man overboard scenario.http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/u-s-coastguard-restart-the-search-for-the-missing-cheeki-rafiki-crew-members
I'd like to think that if I was unlucky enough to be on a boat that capsized but lucky enough to be well prepared with personal emergency beacons etc, that I wouldn't be left floating because it's been assumed I've drowned or died of exposure. And yes, I know it's a big ocean and a tiny raft, but I don't like the idea of giving up on people.
... at least that's the way it feels.
Been to the dentist this morning and he said no problems with the tooth stump that's left, didn't need to do anything to stabilise it and he's coping okay using what's left. But replacing his front teeth is going to involve a fair bit of work. The money isn't an issue, that's what they saved it for after all, but the work involved will be 3 or 4 hours of work with one appointment that can't be less than 90 mins - on top of 75 mins either way. He can't manage that length of journey any more and while it's one thing if he has an accident in the car, even with incontinence pants, it's another to have the accident in the dentist's chair. And to be honest I'm not sure I'd trust an unknown dentist to do that big a job.
Today I'm labelling things and starting to move stuff ready for loading up tomorrow - or I was until he decided to move down to the other end of the house where he's much more aware of me doing things. Bu**er!
Yesterday we went out in the car to Yeovil and I noticed the throttle sticking on the way down - and it didn't get any better on the way back. Just spoken to the garage and no it can't be the cable as the 307 doesn't have a cable - it's electronic. :facepalm: (And of course cars don't have choke cables any more - which used to be an alternative way to accelerate if the accelerator cable snapped.) Fingers crossed it lasts to Taunton tomorrow.
I haven't got the energy to worry about anything else. Whatever happens now, happens. To an extent it's helped to stop me stressing about tomorrow as I'm somewhat resigned to nothing going as expected. I've been worrying about how I'm going to tell him he's staying there tomorrow, but I've been telling people this morning he's going to the Legion Home in Taunton and they've said 'hope you enjoy your new home' and he's just smiling (gappily) and nodding and hasn't a clue, so, not likely to be a huge issue. He'll just go with the flow, though at some point he may end up asking someone where 'doings' is ... ;)
6 days. 6 bloody days and it's not as if those 6 days are stress free with sorting out all his clothes and figuring out what else he might need. Okay, its only an hour away so I can always take stuff down, but really, I was just hoping not to have to deal with anything else. Hah! He's just snapped off his two front teeth (one of which was a bridge and the other a crown).
That'll teach me to give him a toothpick, but he seemed to trying to pick something out of his teeth with his fingernail, so I thought it would be helpful. No, he's just used it to prise off his upper incisors, so he now has a gappy smile and he's chomping away without any apparent concerns. I have no idea how he's managing to chew - not that I've given him anything tough, but he's chomping on bread and butter like it's gone out of fashion.
Since it's not bleeding much and he doesn't seem to be in any pain, I'll phone the dentist in the morning and see if they can fit us in. I suspect it'll be a question of sorting out the stump that's left and I doubt they'll be able to do anything more before he moves into the home. I'll speak to the home once I know what the dentist can do for him.
On top of wetting himself twice today, being so restless we had to go out at 5pm, and the other day when he managed to get s**t all over his face (and I don't really want to think about how he managed that) it's set to be a memorable 6 days. :(
So, this time next week, it'll be my last night in this house with my father. I'm making progress on labelling his clothes and possessions and tomorrow I should manage to finish and send off the document entitled 'This Is Me' which gives them all the relevant info on what he can do for himself and a snapshot of his history (what he might have some memory of, in any case).
Today I've been going through my mother's old photo album of her holidays from her early years teaching before she met him. The last holiday is a week they spent in Grasmere, in the Lake District - classic b/w photos of clearly 1950s vintage. He's not wearing a hat, but the suit is double-breasted and he has a raincoat draped over one arm - standing outside the pub/hotel where they stayed. :) I'm looking for some early photos of my mother in the hope that he might recognise a younger her better than the older version.
On the wall outside his room is a memory box in which we can put photos and things which might have significance and will show some of his life. I seriously doubt he'd recognise much, but we'll see. Things I still have to locate - harmonica. He has 4, 2 small ones and 2 chromatic ones (with a slide to get sharps and flats) but the good one is hiding somewhere. I might put the broken one (couple of really flat notes) in the memory box so that people might encourage him to play the good one. I gave him the broken one the other day and he still produced a recognisable tune.
But mostly it's just sorting out and labelling clothes and making a list of everything he needs to take. 3 weeks ago it seemed an age and now it's nearly here. Thankfully I think I started preparations in time and didn't do my usual trick of leaving it to the last minute, so I'm not panicking ... yet. :)
... is 21 days (23 actually) too many. Seriously.
Last night he came over all weak and said he couldn't stand up, but eventually I got him standing and down to the bedroom. Felt guilty because I wondered if I should have just let him sleep in the chair and maybe it was his heart.
Then he's up at 5.45am wandering round, opening my door, sitting down, wandering round, opening my door again etc. Get up, get him sorted with breakfast which he thankfully eats some of. Settle him in chair but no he's up and down like bloody Weston donkeys, so I figure I'll take him out for a drive to try and wear him out. But then I catch a whiff of something. Just as well I did.
Take him to the bathroom to wash his hands and encounter, well, descriptions more suitable to a dairy farm which means everything off and into the shower as he's clearly not wearing pants under his trousers. Only he's so bloody restless he won't stay in and keeps turning round and ends up slipping so I have to practically get into the shower to hold him up and he won't either stand up or sit down when I've got him by the side of the bath where he could sit down. Eventually get him dried off and he's got a couple of bruises on his foot and his leg. I think that might have shocked him a bit because he sits in the chair then, but he only has about one bite of his banana and by the middle of the afternoon he's wandering again.
But I've got a chicken on and can't take him out. Then, having not watched any of the Free paractice sessions or even the qualifying for the motoGP because bloody-vodaphone-capping-crap, as soon as I try watching the actual races the feed is freezing constantly. Gah! And I'm frustrated and can't complain about it because he hasn't got a clue what I'm angry about and it's not fair to him that he might think I'm upset with him when I'm not. And I really, really want to throw something or preferably hit something and not only is he not eating more than a mouthful or two, but he won't bloody well sit still either.
And seriously. I've got him showered, done 3 loads of washing, including rinsing off the slurry first, changed the bed and started with the mammoth task of sewing on name tags on his clothes. All I wanted was to watch the bloody races I've paid 80-sodding-quid to see and quite apart from the lack of any decent broadband I have to keep stopping him from wiping his nose on table mats, dipping his tissues in the food bowl and wandering round spilling food from a bwl that's hardly been touched.
And now we're sitting here supposedly watching the tv and the music and he's still up and down and I've had to lock the front door because otherwise he'll be off out in his socks (again) in the wet grass. If I'm very lucky I might just get to watch the episode of NCIS that I missed on Friday night, but being that it starts at 8pm and he's not likely to go to sleep early it looks like I'm going to have to wait until Wednesday now to catch up.
I don't really mind not being able to go out, not being able to ride my bike, meet up with friends, go out for exercise, live in my own house with my own stuff. I can handle all of that, but sometimes, when I can't even manage to do the things that should be possible, like watching things on-line ... that's when it gets too much. :(
Went to the Royal British Legion Home at Bishop's Lydeard outside Taunton today - Dunkirk Memorial House. Wow.
The only other residential home I've been in recently is one at the bottom of Wells which is in an older building and a bit dark and depressing inside - even with all the white paint. I would have been a bit upset to leave him somewhere like that. This is a brand new purpose-built dementia wing. It's open, spaceous and airy. Wide corridors, high ceilings and lots of windows and doors looking out onto nice gardens. He seemed happy enough and I told him it was somewhere for people to live who weren't very well and the Doctor had suggested we go there to have a look. I don't think I really even needed to tell him that to be honest and the rest of my conversation went completely over his head.
The lady we spoke to who did the assessment seemed to take to him and he was happy enough to go where he was told and sit where he was told and even hold her hand while walking along the corridor. I suspect I could have told him that he was going to stay there and he'd have been happy enough and forgotten about me 10 mins later.
We got back (75 mins there and about 65 mins back) to a message and when I called her back she'd managed to organise a date (20th May) to move him in for initially a trial 4 weeks but which should become permanent after that if there are no problems.
So now I have to start a packing list and begin to get myself organised and mentally sorted for the next stage.