He Had Never Left Us

On This Day five years ago my mum went into her only time in respite. It had been a desperate time for my son and I. Still traumatised by what we had gone through in Sydney, trying to do the right thing by mum and without transport most of the week it was a nightmare trying to get things organised.

D the Public Guardian had taken on the sourcing of care homes and after her saying there were literally no permanent places available within Lake Macquarie City I told her Newcastle would be fine. Within a day or so she called to say Tinonee Gardens in Waratah, Newcastle had a respite bed coming up a few weeks later.

One of the home care aides had told us stories about being sworn at in many different languages at Tinonee Gardens and that she had enjoyed the patients there. So I had some background from a trusted person and it was getting desperate at home with mum walking down the steep hill, forgetting she could not get back up again because of her heart condition. Also her anxiety and sundowning was off the charts. She would antagonise dad on purpose at times and f we had not been there I could see she would be black and blue again, as my relatives had told me she was before dad’s stroke.

We simply had to get her to safety and give dad a break away from her. So we accepted the bed and I then started the preparations for her admittance. This was hard or me as there was so much paperwork. Since I left my emotionally abusive husband earlier that year I had been so traumatised that I had trouble with paperwork and phone calls. Which made this very difficult.

I had to phone mum’s GP and get paperwork from him. Which was no easy task as he was never available to do it. In the end the day before mum was to be admitted I went into the surgery and made such a fuss that the office manager immediately found a GP who would do it for me. I had been very forceful about mum losing the bed and it would be their fault if so.

Then I popped next door to the wonderful Swansea Amcal Pharmacy. They of course were well prepared. The pharmacist and all the girls wished mum well and reassured me that everything would be okay. They delivered my parent’s medication to them weekly and knew how isolated my parent’s home was. Nestled against the bush, with no transport, and tri level. It was beyond unsuitable for my stroke damaged dad and demented mum.

I had to go out several times to get mum clothing as she barely had anything to wear when I moved in. With the help of Vinnies I managed to prepare her enough for her two weeks in Respite. Luckily G was up for several days so we were able to be driven to Swansea to shop and do all these things.

Dad kept saying something would go wrong and mum would not be able to go and sure enough, on the morning mum had to be there I heard a clatter in the garage. I waited a few minutes but heard nothing so continued to gather everything together into a bag that I had hidden in the laundry so that mum would not be alerted to anything.

As I came back into the kitchen dad came through the garage door into the family room. He was holding his arm up in the air and crying in a strange way. Almost hyperventilating. I then saw blood pouring down his arm. As I went towards him I grabbed some clean tea towels and used them to staunch the blood flow.

Dad was crying so hard I could barely understand him but I worked out that he was saying that mum would not be able to go now. He was shuddering with shock. I managed to get the blood to almost stop by holding his arm up and applying pressure. Then I had a look. He had shredded a piece of skin down his arm like cheese off a grater. About a centimetre deep and just hanging off his arm. The whole way down his forearm. When he saw it he started shaking again. I assured him it would be all right and wrapped his arm again and asked him to hold it while I went to get Helen who was showering mum.

She had just got mum out of the shower and we got her dressed together and then Helen came back to help me with dad. She came through and asked him what he had done now. I had found bandages and gauze swabs and spray on antiseptic in my mum’s amazing FirstAid drawer and had them on the counter.

Between us we looked after both of my parents as we filled a bowl with water and I swabbed dad’s arm to see what needed to be done. I had found some small scissors in that drawer and had put them in boiling water and then Dettol. I then cut the strip of skin off and we had a good look. It was going to be tricky to bandage but I knew elderly people’s skin was very fragile and could tear easily so I felt confident we could treat it ourselves.

The main thing was to calm him so I made him sweet tea and mum a coffee. Then we applied all the products. Starting with spray on antiseptic and gauze and finally the bandage. By the time we had finished he was just shuddering. I hugged him and said it would be fine. We would get mum there. He started crying again.

Eventually I asked him how he had hurt himself and apparently he had put his bad foot on a chair to do up his shoelaces and had fallen over. Slicing his arm on the printer stand.

I was speechless but managed to keep a calm demeanour. Dad had only been using velcro shoes since his stroke. Whatever made him go back to ones requiring two hands? He only had one functional one. I went to get his good lace up shoes and put them on him and laced them up.

While all this was going on Tony the owner of the hire car business had turned up to take us to Tinonee Gardens. It was a thirty minute drive and we needed to be there around lunchtime. So as soon as dad was calm and mum distracted I gave Tony mum’s bag to hide in the boot and then I told mum we were going out. She grabbed her handbag, very excited.

Helen left just before us and we locked up, then started on our first journey to the facility. It was a pleasant trip, mum chatting to me and not expecting a response due to her deafness. When she was not talking I encouraged dad to talk to Tony who was experienced in these journeys. It was very stressful and non stop for me, keeping everyone on an even keel. Dad was fine by then, hard to believe the state he had been in a few hours earlier.

We arrived at Tinonee and told Tony we would call him when we were ready to go home. Mum looked suspiciously at the office reception but was okay when the RN Laiju arrived to take us to Daffodil, the building where mum was going to spend respite.

By then mum was fractious, angry and suspicious. She kicked dad a few times as we sat waiting on a settee near the dining room where residents were sitting waiting for their lunch. Eventually the NUM Michelle arrived and she knelt on the floor and took notes on mum’s medical needs. By the time mum had her blood pressure taken she was well aware something was going on.

They then showed us the room off the dining room which was especially for Respite. It was near the nurses station which was reassuring. We took mums bags in there and I put them on the bed. She took them off the bed and kicked them with all her might to the other side of the room. And flounced across to dad and told him to get her out of there. Now.

When he just cried she kicked him. Then she kicked the bags. And threw them. Never seen her like it. My gentle mum. She then said in a quiet deadly voice I have never heard before.

“Tom, you take me home now. Tom. Tom. I am telling you to take me home now or I am going to scream and scream.” Dad just cried.

I took her out of the room to the settee. But she kept going back in and saying similar things. No swearing. Very ladylike. But with the deadliest undertone.

Dad came out and shouted, his way of communication, that he was going to have his prostate fixed and she had to be here while he was in hospital. Mum had no clue what he was saying due to her deafness and just thought her was angry with her.

Michelle came and said mum could sit down at the table for lunch, we could go then. I settled her, dad kept crying which really was not helping things. Then I said dad we are going to have to go. We said goodbye and she started to wail. And wail.

Laiju and another nurse came and got mum and walked her away from the table, half dragging her as she cried out to us.

“Do not leave me here. No. No. I am not staying here without my parents. Mummy. Daddy do not leave me here.”

Absolutely heart wrenching to watch her being semi carried around the corner away from us. We exited the secure door and made our way out of the second secure door. Dad crying all the way. Me phoning Tony. By the time we walked out to the front he was there. He had never left us, on this, one of the worst days of my life. Thus far.

 

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I Got That From Her

On This Day five years ago G and my son and I had a great shop at our local Vinnies in Swansea. We stocked up on lots of clothes for Mum as we knew she would need a lot for when she went to Respite in the Care Home. She needed warm clothing, nightgowns and dressing gowns and shoes and slippers.

She loved cardigans, indeed one day a gorgeous softest silver grey boucle cardigan arrived for me from eBay UK and when mum saw it she beamed cheekily and grabbed it and said its mine. Of course I gave it to her instantly. As she had with me as an adult. She would literally give me the clothing off her back. Come to think of it I got that from her as I do that too!!

Shopping was pretty exhausting as we trotted off to Coles to stock up on food for the folks. Mum had eaten us all out of house and home again! When I got back I left the youngsters to unpack and escaped to my little retreat way downstairs where I read and knitted each afternoon after getting everything for my parents organised in the morning. I loved it down there though it was starting to get very nippy.

We brightened and personalised the empty space by rearranging the furniture and adding a cube bookcase, a big faux leather storage ottoman and some affirmation plaques. Very much needed after what we had been through for the last year. G has them now in her flat, I no longer need them as I am on the other side of everything now.

On This Day: A Very Long Time

Four years ago today Angela the Calvary care worker and myself took dad to see a great care hostel near us in Wallsend. It was Jesmond Grove,  a short walk away and  run by Anglicare.

He liked it and did not get upset or anxious but I feared his lack of higher functioning since the stroke would stop him deciding to go in there. It had a personal recommendation from my angel Norma, my parent’s then neighbour.

So it would likely be up to his new guardian. We were having a new Guardianship Tribunal on 9th may. That was two semi formal and stressful legal hearings in less than a month.

Wonder if that is why I was getting nightmares? In both cases two people who had caused me enormous trauma were present and I had not seen either of them for a very long time.

There Goes My Open Mouthed Smile

Yesterday I had a tooth extracted. It had broken within weeks of moving up here and staying to look after my mum and dad five years ago. I had some kind of a reconstruction on that molar a few years before that but they told me it might not last. I was eating one of my son’s amazing chicken burgers when I got an excruciating pain in my top gum. I semi shrieked, luckily mum and dad had gone to bed already, or they would have called an ambulance. They knew I did not show pain unless something was wrong and an ambulance was their lifeline.

This was quick though, over with as long as I ate on the left side only. A few days later I got so fed up with the reconstruction flapping around and jolting me with pain when I forgot and ate on that side that I grabbed ahold of it and twisted. It really really hurt but I pulled it out. It seemed like half a tooth. No decay at all and I was left with a complete tooth on one side and nothing on the inside, with the gum sealed over it.

I could not afford either the time or the money that year to get my tooth fixed. My parents were a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week job then. And I was existing on a pension after my then husband locked our bank accounts down after I locked him out of our flat in Sydney due to his bizarre behaviours. Then there was the physical and mental exhaustion at the end of the day and also nobody to look after my parents while I went to the dentist or recovered from an extraction.

I ignored a lot of things that year including diabetes, however I would do it again in a second. My son was ill as well and developed Pericarditis, there was no time for me to be ill. One of us had to present a front to mum and dad that they were calm and in control of everything that could hurt or bother them. And that is what I did, though I did get on top of the diabetes later that year!

So yesterday I had my teeth cleaned, a molar filled and then a very difficult extraction. The tooth kept breaking and shooting off bits of tooth at high speed. My lovely dentist had to push my head to the left a lot to get at the tooth. Unfortunately I have Foraminal Cervical Stenosis on the left side. Quite severe too! When he finally got it out I was a bit shaky in the arms and my feet kept catching as I walked home. I sat down for a while on the way home and gradually covered the distance. Not sure how. Maybe the same way I coped with mum and dad in 2013. By simply putting one foot in front of the other and working towards the goal. In my case getting home and laying down. Chatting on Facebook to dear friends and in real life to my son C and my friend J. The two most important men in my life. And the most caring, considerate men that anyone could have the privilege of knowing. I have been rewarded over and over since moving up here by meeting wonderful people, deepening existing relationships and reconnecting with people I had lost contact with. All this aided by technology. Facebook, Messenger, Words With Friends and Texting. I could not have accomplished or indeed survived 2013 without these things.

I had quite a bad time with bleeding afterwards, it did not stop for some hours until J suggested small ice cubes. I then got to have a look at my mouth and face. Swollen and distorted from the hard physical work of removing something that just did not want to come out! And there goes my open mouthed smile for a while too! After next week I will have an up to date mouth, until I can afford implants and teeth whitening anyway. And then it is on to the long list of health things to address, and get on top of. Not just because I have people relying on me, but because I have people who love me, and I owe it to them to look after myself. And I owe it to myself too, I deserve to be as well as I can possibly be. We all do.

 

Nothing Came Up

On This Day four years ago I dressed myself appropriately for an appointment with Anglicare Jesmond Grove. It was for a possible bed for my dad who was a danger to himself at home.

I walked up the back streets to the care home. It was only about ten minutes walk from our flat at the time. It was very nicely landscaped and looked to be well run. I also was fortunate enough to have a personal recommendation from our lovely neighbour Norma whose mother had lived there for many years. I was inspecting the secure dementia area.

I was quite pleased with it but unfortunately nothing came up for dad.  And we could not wait. He was unsafe, carrying bottles of gas bigger than himself. Getting up onto the roof. All with Hemiplegia. Unbelievable. The neighbours were at their wits ends!

So the search was on for another home suitable for dad.

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Fright

On This Day five years ago I had been up until late packing ready for our move away from Sydney. I had been packing British Crime DVDs which must have taken some time as I have so many. I started fasting at 2 am for a blood test and went to bed quite late so as to keep my son company, and also to see if I could sleep through so much of the morning that had been spent retching lately.

Once I awoke I was able to get dressed, though still retching, and make my way through the back alleys behind the shops in Randwick to Dr M who had been our family doctor since 2001. I was there right on opening time however there were three patients ahead of me. Typical! Usually this worked really well for me rather than getting tests done first thing in the morning. I chose a magazine and settled in to read after chatting with Eleni the receptionist who had become my lovely friend over the years.

Something made me look up and I got a literal shock as my ex was at the door about to come in. Our eyes locked and I realised what my son meant about ‘the look’ which terrified him. He stood there for some time with the most awful look on his face then he went away.

I was so frightened I started crying. In front of the then full room of female patients. Eleni came over and asked me what was the matter and I told her. She said she would ring me in future if he was there but it would not help if I was already here.

I went into the doctor and he easily took the blood and then I told him what had just happened. And that we had only been to court the day before and the AVO’s had been issued. He sat back and said this is a problem Kate. He said D cannot take change. He will not go to another doctor. That C and I would have to find another GP until we moved north or risk this happening again.

He had never seen me rattled before, even when I popped in to see him after I saw Professor Newstead the bowel surgeon to tell him I was having a Colostomy. Or when my surgery in 2000 went so badly wrong. He loved my pick myself up, dust myself off and get going attitude to life, so this was very hard for him too.

So that was another thing taken from us by this person we had supported for so long. My son’s and my own medical needs were very complex and required authorities for medications most GPs were not happy to write scripts for.

I left the surgery and started walking up High Street towards Brumby’s Bakery to get C some finger buns. As I approached the corner I saw my ex stand up and walk towards me from the direction of High Cross Park. He was sticking to the AVO literally by keeping 500 metres away from me. However I started having palpitations and became very panicky. No stopping in coffee shops for a break any more. I bought the finger buns and walked swiftly home.

The blood tests showed the palpitations I had thought were stress related was really my thyroid being over medicated and that I likely had diabetes. A great time to start with a new GP.

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