The wind of change.

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.

Welcome to the machine.

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.

Who will she be today?

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.

The importance of gin.

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.

On the edge of reason.

This last astonishing session with the AP has taken an emotional toll both on the LSO and myself. I have just spent a day with my own thoughts because the LSO has had a rare few hours away fishing with a friend, something he doesn’t do enough of these days.

There was a time pre AP time when we were both hugely busy and happily doing things and it isn’t important what these ‘things’ were, it was just the sheer pleasure of being retired and finally after a lifetime of working being able to use the time available to do what we wanted. In reality we still have that time but the constant battling with the selfishness, changeability and malevolence of the AP has taken away the joy we both had in life itself.

We feel trapped in our lovely home and have to battle with ourselves to do anything at all. I found myself today struggling to just prepare lunch. I used to love cooking and experimenting with lots of flavours, baking and bread making, pickling and jam making were a regular occurrence but now the will is vanishing and instead is being replaced with a sense of futility and frustration. The AP’s constant wittering has ground us down both physically and emotionally. I teeter on the edge of reason most days.

This whole situation is having a devastating effect on my need to lose weight and in fact I have put some pounds back on and am trying desperately to find a way back to my former determination. I cannot afford to go back to being diabetic but that will happen if I cannot reverse this situation. Another rather frightening aspect of this stress, because it certainly is very stressful looking after the AP, is that the LSO and myself use alcohol as an anaesthetic. We don’t drink to excess but do tend to drink each evening to soften the feeling of emotional distress we are permanently in and of course, that is another reason for the steady weight gain.

It is a fact that when you lose the will to live and you merely exist, you lose the will to overcome obstacles. It is simpler to have another glass of wine and relax; simpler but extremely dangerous and we need to pull back from this particular precipice sooner rather than later.

On than very serious note I will take another sip of my rhubarb and apple gin and contemplate starting a new regime tomorrow. It’s bit like giving up any addiction, you just have to keep on giving up not giving in.

…….a thankless task indeed.

Well, just as we think our situation can’t get much worse or depressing, it does.

My lovely cousins from Scotland have just departed after a four day stay with us and the AP. It should have been a great visit but the weather was awful, wet and chilly but that shouldn’t have made much difference, what did was the complete dominance of the AP. She was determined to be sitting in the living room, receiving as if she was the Queen, her acolytes circling around her whilst she burbled non-stop for three days; most of it was made up, mixed up or just completely incorrect. It was impossible to enjoy anything or even sit for long in the room because she just talked over everything. The LSO and I began to lose the will to live. Fortunately my cousin is a natural comedian and in between these times we did manage to have a good and much needed laugh.

In itself, the AP’s attempted dominance although irritating, shouldn’t have been a problem but when I overheard her saying that I was a bully it hurt. I am not a bully and never have been, the bully is the AP. Yes, I am firm about some things but they are for her benefit not mine and I also cannot allow her to completely wreck our lives although, in truth, she is doing a fine job of it at the moment.

When we went out for dinner last evening the AP called the LSO and I ‘pains’ and proceeded to lie about what she had said but it was in front of my cousin and his wife. Liz has no illusions about how unpleasant the AP can be and has been on the receiving end of it in the past when she has stayed with them but my cousin is never present when those moments have occurred so last night came as a bit of a shock. But enough is enough and I firmly told her what I thought of her comment which was absolutely uncalled for and just typical when she feels she is not getting her own way.

Unsurprisingly there was no remorse but she is cunning and when she came down this morning she was clingy and holding his hand like a child, trying to make a point no doubt but for me it was a case of ‘get me a bucket’. We have a carer coming soon to take her out until 6pm, but sadly it will continue to emphasise the problems for us as she will be fawned over and unnecessarily cosseted. She will play the sweet little old lady which she can manage for that length of time, then return to us and revert to the unpleasant and selfish person she really is.

My cousin has said she needs to go into a home and he is right but I did say we would get through the summer and reassess the situation and I will keep my word. He even suggested to the LSO, a care home in Scotland but I don’t think that he understands the full ramifications of that situation, or maybe he was just being kind. Fortunately his wife does understand and the LSO says there was a firm veto issued. No, if it’s a home it will be here but we will see what the future brings, the AP still has to have the basal cell carcinoma on her nose removed and we are just waiting for the appointment.

That sinking feeling.

You really would think that things should get better as time goes by. I even tell people when they ask how things are that they are all good, hoping I guess that they will improve, that life in our ‘care home’ is rolling along nicely but the truth is just the opposite. It’s rolling along but not necessarily nicely.

I wake up in the mornings with a sinking feeling that we have another day with the claustrophobic presence of the AP living with us. I take her breakfast up to her room and always have to take a deep breath before producing a cheery ‘Good Morning’ in a rather desperate attempt to start the day off in the right direction. Most times it works but not this damp and rather dreary Monday morning. I find the AP slumped in her chair staring at the ‘no satellite’ image on the TV, and when I make a comment she says she has just put it on and is waiting for the programmes to come up. I explain she needs to press the Sky control and this prompts a nasty and unpleasant response that she was just going to do that, that she always does that. All lies of course, she had forgotten that part of the process and just hates being caught out so her immediate reaction is one of attack. Unfortunately my response is extremely terse as I leave her room feeling a sense of utter despair sweep over me.

This is no way to start the day or even the week and just to add to everything we have my cousin from Scotland and his wife coming to stay until Friday. We will have to witness the AP alternating between being gushingly sweet to moaning about her health which in truth, for her age is extremely good. Fortunately they do know what she can be like and are both good company so we will just sit back and enjoy the charade that is, of course, in between our ‘below stairs’ activities. There will be a sudden attack of good manners, seldom apparent when it is just the LSO and myself here, the comments will abound about how wonderful we are and how well she is looked after. OK, the last comment is actually correct but we know she doesn’t really feel that way herself because she still makes vain attempts to dominate us and is completely delusional about how much she is capable of doing.

As I have said before, looking after this ungrateful, self opinionated and vain old woman is a thoroughly thankless task.