SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE #underthemask

Getting older is scary. It can be confusing, lonely, isolating. Many families live distant from aging relatives. The pace of 21st century life often leaves sons and daughters with the sad, but inevitable, choice of putting parents in a home. The only way out for most, is in a box, bound for a final resting place.  The COVID crisis has exaggerated this pressure on the elderly, who are thought especially vulnerable to the disease.  Imagine our delight then to read the unusual story of Val on on the South Coast who’s been SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE.

 This is her story, written by her son Glenn:

mother and son

Mum had been in a care home since breaking her hip in December 2019. She has vascular dementia and we three siblings, her attorneys, sat in a ‘best interest’ meeting about her care.

Local authorities generally see family engagement with their elderly drifting downwards, to local care-home provision. This relieves the family of obligation and worry, for their loved ones. But it also leaves the relatives adrift from their responsibilities. Our Enduring Power of Attorney states that, as attorneys, we should support Mum’s interests, as she defines them. That’s even if we disagree. This continues until such a time as Mum has no capacity to make her interests understood.

Living in a care home with Sunday family visits, Mum was becoming institutionalised and depressed. Her greatest wish was to return to familiar surroundings and her partner who lived close to her home. The couple had restricted access to each other since Mum had moved into care. She was drifting away, spending long periods in bed watching TV, complaining about her hip. There was no physiotherapy to aid her recovery and she was reduced to using an NHS ‘shuffle’ frame. Most of the family felt she was in exactly the ‘right’ place. That at least she was safe.

In the ‘best interest’ meeting, counter to the consensus, I spoke out. I seized on an impulse to offer supporting Mum in a two-week trial back home. The professionals seemed enthusiastic, as their usual view of family attitudes brightened. But the family remained concerned. What would happen after my stay? Was I raising hopes of remaining back home that could not be met? We all worried that if the trail failed, Mum would be forced back into the care home, and that would be even worse as a consequence.

After lengthy debate, a reluctant go-ahead, “On your own head be-it!”, was given.

Family feelings did gradually thaw. A new wet room was installed on the ground floor and the house thoroughly cleaned.

In February, I returned to collect Mum, she was sitting excitedly waiting for me. Her house was warm and cosy.

Social Services had been working on a care package since the previous September. It was still not in place by the time of her release from care. During the trial home stay, we finally managed to secure support to include four visits a day with friends stepping-in to assist Mum every morning. With this in place I could leave.

That was February. We’re now in Mid-April. Mum is still at home. She is no longer depressed. She walks better, enjoys choosing her own meals and meeting regularly with her partner (at least until we went into ‘Lock-down’).  They would meet and do crosswords together at their choosing, not during ‘visiting hours’.

The cost of Mum’s care has fallen and the family now shoulders more of her care.  But family are SO seeing the benefits, especially during the time of CORONAVIRUS. There is no telling how long these arrangements will last, as the onset of dementia advances. But we are enjoying Mum, at home, while she is still with us, swimming against the tide.

As we head further into the battle against COVID-19 this story could be seen as an inspiration for families with relatives in residential care. There are reports of elderly residents being persuaded to sign DNR’s, ‘do not resuscitate’ forms. How much more dignified to spend your viable years at home.

#underthemask

HG/16/04/20

 

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