I haven’t written a blog for about seven weeks which can only be a good sign as far as my emotional and mental health is concerned. For almost four years this blog has stood firmly between me and insanity of that I have no doubt; I have been able to keep things in perspective by writing down my feelings and my responses to intolerable situations. The inevitable run up to the Christmas festivities is partly responsible for the radio silence and now that the AP is in a care home the stress factors have vanished almost completely. I say almost because we still have to visit her once a week. This does nothing for our peace of mind because her behaviour with us is often aggressive, demanding and thoroughly unpleasant. We go out of a sense of duty but often come away feeling very down having listened to a string of moans about nothing in particular. We try to steer the conversation to lighthearted things but the AP can and does think only of herself. She is rude about the other residents, calling them thick and is convinced someone has stolen a pink bag she had in there. She probably took it to the dining room with her and forgot about it. The staff party all night too, shades of the hospital! I bet they wish they could.
None of this is new as she was horrid to us when she was living here but now we are seeing much, much less of her we have a much clearer picture of the AP and it isn’t flattering. She still tries to play her controlling games with us but now we can walk away from it all and we do, thank goodness. It is a completely different story when others go to visit her in the home and just like before she makes a huge effort and plays the sweet, slightly dotty old woman.
Christmas will be an interesting experience because the AP will be spending hers in the care home. She will not be coming back here not only because we don’t actually want her malign presence casting it’s long shadow over us but we cannot get her back in the same day. She cannot sleep here as the AP is unable to get up and down the stairs and her room is not habitable now, we are slowly regaining our space back. But, in truth she could no longer cope with the general noise and hubbub of the day. She is in a care home for a reason, we can no longer look after her and nor do we wish too. The five and a half miserable years of looking after her have taken their toll on both the LSO and myself at a time in our lives when we should have been free. I am now seventy four and cannot have that time back but what is so very frustrating and what makes me still very angry is the fact that all the AP had to do was be pleasant, accept and enjoy what we had to offer with some grace and we could have rubbed along well. What we endured was the polar opposite. My anger lessens as time goes by but I have no liking for the AP who tried to drive a wedge between the LSO and myself whilst being controlling, conniving, devious and thoroughly unpleasant.
In the meanwhile I have been dealing with the aches and pains that have woken me continually during the nights. I put aside the need to lose weight in order to concentrate on the niggling but nevertheless debilitating minor problems which taken as a whole were becoming a much bigger issue. There has been some success in that area thanks to CBD oil and a ten milligram dose of Amyltriptiline a day which apparently can help nerve pain in some people. It would appear to be the case for me and the pain in my lower back has all but gone which is a massive relief. The CBD oil took a while to have an effect but I generally am improving which is great because I can now look to losing some weight. At the moment I am eating smaller portions, keeping carbs low and endeavouring to not drink alcohol from Monday to Thursday. Is it working? Well not as much as I had hoped but the direction is downwards, just slowly.
Hopefully Christmas won’t cause too much damage but we have our family descending on us and for the first time in some years I am looking forward to it all.
It’s been a while since I last wrote a post and that is partly because of the number of visitors we have had but mostly because of a really nasty chest virus that flattened me completely. It just came out of the blue and four weeks on I am still coughing like a seal but much less than before.
In fact apart from my weight everything is improving and the cloud has lifted from the LSO and myself with us both beginning to enjoy our new found freedom. Our home is returning to us bit by bit and has become a pleasure to live in again and although we still have a great deal of sorting out to do, there is no rush.
The lack of loss of weight is a bit of a pain but I have enjoyed the family and friends we have had staying as well as beginning to get back my love of cooking. We have enjoyed meals and days out and I really haven’t given too much thought to the diet. Well that will have to stop because this morning I jumped on the scales and the scream could be heard echoing in the fields around us, flocks of birds were rising from the trees and all the dogs in the area started barking. I really must recalibrate and get back a positive mindset in order to lose weight again. All easier said than done but I have cut the anaesthetic alcohol intake down and feel better for it.
Also in between everything that has been occurring I have not been lying down being dramatic but have been putting the LSO’s effort in the greenhouses to good use. Gherkins have been pickled, cucumbers turned into a tasty relish and there are enough boxes of homemade tomato passata in the freezer to get us through winter. Then of course, there are also the two varieties of plum jam in the cupboard using fruit from our farmer friend’s orchard and lurking in the background are the chillies which will be made into sweet chilli jam some time next week. Stored in the fridge are jars of pickled garlic, home grown of course as well as a luscious paste of roasted garlic in the freezer. I have just made a Baba Ganoush dip for this evening from our own aubergines and do feel a sense of real pleasure in doing all this. That feeling had been driven from our lives by the malign attitude of the AP.
Do I feel any guilt about the AP being in a Care Home? Not one bit, in fact I struggle with the fact that I am just so happy to have our freedom back and delighted that the old me is returning. We do visit her each week but quite honestly I find it an enormous effort. When we are there the AP makes up stories, moans about everything although in between wingeing has lately been telling us how good it is to see us, that’s a first! She told my cousin that she hadn’t realised she would miss us so much which stopped me in my tracks. Really? Talk about rubbing salt in the wound, it just reinforced what we had always known, that she had just used us for her own selfish ends, constantly being manipulative and divisive as well as treating us as her personal servants but not any more. She is definitely in the best place for her, as well as us and although we still have her in the background she is not casting a cloud over our lives anymore.
Well, it is just as I suspected, the AP has been pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes and she is being discharged next week from the hospital and will be returning to us. I had my suspicions when we visited a couple of days ago when I realised she was loving all the attention. She kept saying what a dreadful night she had had and how excruciating the pain was but looking at her belied the true situation and a creeping doubt entered my mind that the whole situation had been manufactured by her. Maybe not completely contrived but I think once she realised she had everyone’s undivided attention she began to milk it for all it was worth. We spoke to the consultant yesterday to learn that even at one hundred and one years old there is not much wrong with her apart from arthritis that was now in her knees and some mental degradation. He also said that she was being very economical with the truth and although he understood our situation she did not come under any umbrella that would remove her from our care.
To give the hospital their due they are having her assessed and looking at the possibility of some kind of care package but I don’t think she will be eligible for one which will mean us going down the private care route.
The consultant told us he had suggested to her that a spell in respite care would be good for her as well as give the LSO and myself a break and she refused to even consider the matter saying that she had had extensive discussions with us on the matter. Really! Obviously the LSO and myself weren’t present at these ‘discussions’. So the hysteria, histrionics and dramatic expressions such as ‘this really is the end’ and ‘I know what is coming and I’m ready’ are all just part of the drama queen that is my mother and everything was manufactured just to be the centre of attention. It is devastating to think that my own mother would be so devious, so inconsiderate and so selfish but it has backfired on her. When we visited yesterday I told her the consultant had rung me and then I asked her why she had refused to consider respite care. She completely denied that it was ever even mentioned but her response was too quick and I knew she was lying.
So we had a frank and open chat with her about the fact that the LSO and myself need to have some life before it is too late and after much prevarication, more lies and more excuses with a bit of blackmail and smoke screens thrown in she has reluctantly agreed to let us sort out something that will give us some space and ensure she is looked after. It may not be spontaneous but it will at least allow us to escape occasionally.
A favourite expression from the LSO regarding hospital stays and he’s had a few of those. Now he’s experiencing the entry to this alternative world as a visitor. Our day pivots around the inevitable hospital visits, the parking problems and the sixty mile round trip.
The AP has been admitted to hospital finally after a series of Doctor callouts, daily visits from Community Nurses as well as the inevitable emergency appointments at our local hospital.
Difficult to know which is worse, the old situation or the present one but I guess the former because we have realised we just cannot deal with the AP’s care any longer especially if it involves twenty four hour care. We are not experienced enough and too old to continue and she may need considered and proper palliative care now.
Having given up five and a half years caring for the AP we are finally reaching the end of the road and need to look after our own welfare if we are to enjoy the time we have left. Does that sound selfish? To some maybe but they have not walked in our shoes. It isn’t an easy decision to make and possibly impossible, the machine doesn’t help carers like us but somehow, for our own sakes, we must stick to our guns and not be pushed around by a system which so far has not helped us at all and in fact has failed us.
The AP was admitted on Friday and has spent the weekend being observed. Hopefully today we will finally find out what, if anything the doctors will do to ascertain what the problems are. There are no obvious pointers but clearly something is going very wrong and it could be that she is simply very old and parts of her body are shutting down.
It is unlikely that much can be done because of the AP’s great age but equally there is no-one out there to help us. We could still end up with the AP back here but if that is the case we will be arranging for care so we can go out and escape this imposed exile.
I wake up most mornings now and wonder just who the AP will be today. Will she be a waspish old harridan, will she be feeling off colour, will she be complaining about the cold, the heat, the damp, the greyness or will she be a little ray of sunshine and full of bonhomie. Don’t be silly that behaviour is saved for others, certainly not the LSO and myself; we are the servants, the below stairs staff, the chief cooks and bottle washers, the bed changers and cleaners. We are frequently referred to as ‘he’ or ‘she’ rather than by name. One example of this was when I had washed a very expensive shirt that the AP had managed to drop tartar sauce on during a lunch out with us. The shirt had been a present to her from the LSO and myself and I didn’t want it to be wrecked. When the LSO returned it to her all he got was ‘oh good, SHE has washed it’ no name and no thank you.
Yesterday the AP was taken out for a few hours by a carer we have employed, who will also be helping her with the weekly shower as from next week. Her first words to her on arrival were that she has had a couple of bad days. My first reaction was one of surprise and I explained to our visitor what the problem has been. Lately the AP has complained that her left leg feels cold with sometimes a pain in the calf which appears to possibly be a pulled muscle but is most likely, simply the result of lack of activity and a slowing circulation. Inevitable at one hundred and one years old. Sadly we do make a meal of the least little thing trying to be the centre of attention and apparently wanting to be ill. The AP has no idea what a bad day really is, in health terms she has led a charmed life with very few illnesses and nothing hugely serious.
These small irritations do build up especially when the carer brings the AP back and we are told how marvellous and gracious she is and what a conversationalist. Really! Yes, I know it is to be expected, how could they possibly know the true situation but sometimes I just wish I could put these people in our shoes for a month or two for them to discover just how two-faced and hypocritical she can be. They see her for a few hours, we have her the rest of the time and she makes little effort with us. We are relieved when there is snooker or tennis on as she can only see the television screen in her room and we don’t have her sitting downstairs staring into space. We have heard the same stories over and over again which I suppose to anyone not seeing much of her must sound convincing. But the truth is most are now elaborated on or mixed up and often untrue, just made up to fill a gap in the memory.
During her time out she pretends to be in control and even eats things that she would never touch with us. Yesterday it was a brie and cranberry panini with salad, a panini, a crust with a little bread! Salad is usually looked at with horror and pushed around the plate. She won’t eat anything with us that she considers too chewy, crusts have to be cut off bread, vegetables mashed, she often won’t use her cutlery, picking her food up with her fingers and holds her head in one hand as if it is all too difficult to cope with especially if she has to chew a little. She also hides food in her napkin and rushes to the bin with it after the meal. I am sure she doesn’t do any of this when out with the carer and her husband and thus they have a completely false image of who the AP really is and although they will never know what she is really like it is very galling for us. We just get the rubbish.
Things are certainly changing for all of us. The AP is becoming dottier by the day and seems to be retreating into her own little world. We have had her getting ready to go to appointments on days when there are none, mixing up times and places and then making up stories to fill the gaps in her memory. Lately she has started to eat her food with her fingers and holds her head in one hand as if it is too much effort to lift it up all of which infuriates the LSO but she only does it with us. If we have visitors or are out for a meal she uses her knife and fork.
Yesterday she announced that Serena Williams was Venus Williams mother and further more it must be true because they showed pictures on the TV to prove it. We explained they were sisters and far too young to have grown up children but what do we know! I guess all of this is normal in someone of such a great age in fact we are lucky it isn’t worse. Although it is quite difficult to be wholly positive when trapped in this alternative reality both the LSO and myself fight not to become too down or despondent as time slides by at a snail’s pace.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though, the plants in the greenhouses are flourishing and I am making cucumber relish for the first time. Years ago we used to buy a Dutch version of this relish then it just vanished never to be found again so I am hoping that this homemade version will be a good replacement. The warm and sunny weather has encouraged good growth and this year our fig tree is bearing many fruits and those will be a joy to eat. At this point the LSO points out that the lawns and hedges are also growing at speed, but I guess, looking on the bright side, we do have some good things to look forward to.
In my youth it was Blue Nun that was considered the height of sophistication and if feeling really extravagant it was a bottle of Vinho Verdi or Chianti in a straw casing that people loved making into table lamps all bought from an Off Licence. Thankfully things have changed in more ways than one and in most cases for the better.
After the LSO has given the dogs their afternoon walk when, weather permitting, I occasionally walk as well, it becomes gin o’clock with the LSO as the ‘Gin Jockey’. I have only recently discovered the huge variety of gins available for the discerning and that was thanks to a cousin who lives on Vancouver Island B.C. On a visit over a year ago she brought me a present of a bottle of Rhubarb and Ginger Gin and it was a revelation. I have not looked back since and look forward to the evening when I will enjoy a delicious Bramley Apple and Rhubarb Gin, with ice and just a hint of tonic.
A slippery slope you may say! Most likely but a much needed anaesthetic to cope with the incessant burbling of the AP whilst we have a visitor staying. In fact I am writing this listening to a constant stream of rubbish, mixed up, made up and generally wrong with a smattering of truth. She’s just announced that she could go back to live in Newcastle if her tenant wasn’t there. At 101 years old, blind, doddery and unable to do anything for herself, she can’t even lift a kettle now and needs help showering and she still thinks she is capable of looking after herself. I find her attitude so utterly insulting, the LSO and I have just given up nearly six years of our lives looking after her and she is so utterly ungrateful and graceless. Will the AP ever accept her limitations, no I guess not but we are going to have to limit the amount of people staying otherwise I will become an alcoholic. It’s not even midday and my mind is thinking gin.
But in the meanwhile I am endeavouring to turn my mind off and keep calm in order to contain my frustration and irritation. We made the choice to have the AP live with us and we must survive the consequences. It is just such a pity that she has never appreciated what we had to offer. I heard her make a comment to our visitor about walking on eggshells but as I hadn’t heard the rest of the conversation I couldn’t be sure of what was meant. If she meant with the LSO and myself she should have thought twice about pushing us around because we stupidly put up with her behaviour for several years unable to comprehend her attitude but not anymore. This has resulted in a very unnatural state of affairs because we have come to dislike her and she feels we don’t want her here, but had she been the person we thought she was, enjoyed life with us, hadn’t tried to dominate and control us, it would have been a very different situation.