The last few days of trying to talk to SMIL on the phone have been discouraging. She has started laughing maniacally. Unable to talk to her for many sentences, I have redoubled my efforts sending cards I have made, sweets and other non-verbal forms of communication.
She has been moved to the wing of the care home for the seriously disturbed. Listening to her you would not contemplate arguing that she should be anywhere else. Care homes usually have a range of facilities to help residents with varying requirements. It does not take long consideration of the number of ailments that can come with seniority, to know that anyone offering senior care needs to provide for some very special needs. I think the situation was best coped with by my mother’s care home, which was not one but several buildings, each adapted for particular requirements. There was one with lifting equipment, special beds, ramps and so on for people unable to move. Another was for those whose dementia was causing difficulties for other residents; the lady who stole my mother’s engagement ring was moved there.
If you run the care home I would think the trick is to spot the special need developing in time to give the extra care. SMIL had been terrifying residents on several occasions for many months before being moved to the secure wing with more staff per resident. I think the management have been very tolerant. The families of the residents whom she terrorised, may consider the management to be too tolerant. I also believe tolerance may be dictated by practical considerations such as available beds.
What it all amounts to is that I would not run a care home for all the tea in China. I continue to be grateful that there are people that will do so. The fact that the majority of workers in the care system in this country are being paid minimum wage for one of the more difficult jobs you can sign up to, and whether care workers are themselves adequately provided for, although the better facilities all regularly train workers and insist on them having up to date certification, not least to satisfy the needs of their insurance agents, is another matter.
If you know someone working in the care industry, for goodness sake give them a smile; plenty of thanks and the odd block of chocolate wouldn’t go amiss, either. Every time I ring SMIL, which is every day, I thank everyone I speak to along the way until I get to her and my goodness, I mean it.
The laughing crazily is daunting. She goes ‘ho ho ho’ faster and faster until it ends in a screech and it is difficult to tell if she is laughing or crying. She presses all the buttons on the phone and then either throws the phone away or the care assistant will gently take it off her.
Poor SMIL. Her life disintegrated. She had already had clinical depression years ago. Determined to avoid that again, when my father-in-law died she carefully constructed a life for herself with an outing to a group or activity every day. All that was snatched away by Covid, so that, instead of being busy getting ready to go out to an activity and walking there or getting the bus, she was just getting up and sitting down. It wasn’t too bad; her son did the shopping, popping in a few times a week, once a week her granddaughter came with him and they had a fish and chip supper. Then he committed suicide and she got a diagnosis of dementia and her daughter, at a distance, arranged Council carers to come in and then moved her quickly to a home near her, when a council worker, visiting unannounced, put in a report that she needed care in a home.
For the first two weeks she enjoyed the company then asked to go home. Then she told her daughter nothing more would be said if she could go home. Then they started changing her medication. At some point she must have realised she was virtually in prison, having done nothing wrong. Now she is laughing maniacally.
If you have independence, your brain is working correctly and you can live the life you want, more or less, be glad. Enjoy every day. If you can’t enjoy the whole of the day, celebrate the good bits. Don’t feed any egrets, plant seeds in the bluebird of happiness as it flits by*, be kind to people working in dark places, and if you can move, do that, don’t just sit in a heap.
Tomorrow it could all change and you would look back on today as the golden era when you had so little idea that you had won the lottery of life, that you didn’t even know to be grateful.
*By having a hobby, dolls’housering is a good one.