Sunday, 17 September 2017

Moving day

I've just been over to St Ives in Cambridge-shire to see my 95 year old mum move into a care home. It seems like an excellent place, with staff who are genuinely committed to keeping the residents happy and maintaining a sense of independence wherever possible. She certainly looked happy enough after a few hours there meeting the staff and other residents.

Me and the rest of the family - her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter - were reluctant to see her move into a care home, as so many seem to be little more than uncaring warehouses for the elderly, and as my mum has always been fiercely independent.

But we had to admit it was time for her to move somewhere she would be constantly monitored, as she was having frequent falls and sometimes lying on the floor for hours before being found. She also wasn't eating properly or drinking enough. She was feeling increasingly isolated and unsafe.

Unfortunately she seems to have declined rapidly over the last few months, as each further fall undermined her confidence and made her afraid of going out or simply moving around the flat. Just a year ago she was still fit enough for me to take her to some local coffee shops and sit by the river. And before that she was still going on cruises and seaside breaks.

Now we've started on the Herculean task of clearing mum's old flat of all the accumulated clutter and odds and ends that have been piling up for years, since she was reluctant to throw anything away - newspaper cuttings, old bills, Christmas cards, letters, holiday brochures, never-worn clothes, you name it. I think it was all a kind of security blanket.

So we hope she'll be content in her new surroundings. We'll just have to keep our fingers crossed for a few weeks until she's really got the feel of the place. Hopefully she'll be thriving.

Pic: Not my mum, but she looks remarkably similar

29 comments:

Bijoux said...

Nice to read a personal post from you, Nick! To get to 95 living independently was quite a feat. It's never easy dealing with all of this. Good luck with the clearing out of the flat.

Ursula said...

I agree with Bijoux. Not least that it's so refreshing to get a glimpse of your personal life.

Strange, when you think, how - by longevity - some of us have to "downsize" slowly but steadily. The last step being from a care home to an even more enclosed space. I wouldn't have made that observation if I didn't know that it appeals to your sense of Nick.

All sounds good. As to dismantling your mother's flat, Nick. Being an organized person who thrives on logistics (give me a pile of filing and I'll be happy, give me a pile of shit and a shovel and I'll be even happier) it'd probably be easiest to throw out the plain redundant first. That way you condense and condense and condense - till you get to the hard to get rid of stuff like, say, letters, personal notes, anything personal; in my son's case I hope he'll find all my beloved pots and pans a good home (his). And wait till you go through the contents of some shoe box and find the first lock your mother cut off your baby hair. Oh dear. I dare you.

Good luck, Nick. Sounds a strange thing to say, not least because I don't like judging people and rarely do, but will judge someone on how they treat their parents in old age. You are a good, seemingly sensitive, guy.

Best wishes to your Mum and her wellbeing,

U

Wisewebwoman said...

Wow I was pleasantly surprised to come here today and read such a personal and sensitive post.

Your mum's transition has been blessed by your attention and care.

I just visited such a home recently and will blog about it once I get a minute.

XO
WWW

Joanne Noragon said...

With reinforcement from all the troops, Mom will be happier there. My grandmother spent a happy decade in an assisted care facility. All the best to all of you.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Well, I try to be personal whenever I can, but my life is mostly pretty predictable and I imagine not of much interest to anyone else. As you say, living independently until 95 is not bad going!

Nick said...

Ursula: Indeed, the next downsizing will be to somewhere even smaller! I think about 80 per cent of the flat's contents is redundant and can safely be thrown away. There wouldn't be room for it all in her new place anyway.

Nick said...

www: My mum was discharged from hospital so early in the morning we didn't find out until an hour or so later! But she's a patient soul, and she just sat quietly until the rest of us turned up.

Joanne: Thanks. Glad to know your grandmother had a happy final decade. Many elderly folk aren't so lucky.

John Gray said...

Done it myself an age ago now.....hard choice

tammy j said...

a lovely post. in that she happily accepted it and perhaps was even looking forward to it... feeling safer for sure.
the older I get the less I want to own. it will take someone - the marine I would imagine only about an hour or two at the most to clear out my apartment! and that will be due to all my books.
best of luck to your little mum!

Helen Devries said...

I do hope your mother will regain her confidence now that she has twenty four hour support in a home which you have chosen with care.
Falls and the worry about their consequences can be so damaging to an elderly person.
And you will be much easier in your mind too.

Good luck with the clear out!

My mother has been clearing down regularly for years now...all except for the hordes of clothes with which she will not part in case she loses weight when they would be useful again!

Nick said...

John: It wasn't really a choice, it just became obvious that she needed round-the-clock care or she was in danger of serious injury.

Tammy: If only my mum's flat was as minimalist as yours! My mum's is what you might call maximalist. I'm sure she was looking forward to being less vulnerable.

Nick said...

Helen: I'm sure she'll be a lot more confident now she knows that if ever she's in trouble, there'll be someone around to rescue her. Oh goodness, clothes - she has about twenty times what she would ever need.

CheerfulMonk said...

I'm so glad you found a good home for her! That is the most important part.

kylie said...

This has been coming for a while now so I hope the lead up made it a little easier.
I hope it all goes smoothly from here

Secret Agent Woman said...

I, too, loved this personal post. It seems to hold more of "you."

It's a tough decision to have to make, but once someone starts falling, they need to be somewhere safer. I helped clear out my grandparent's place after their death and I understand the Herculean aspect of it. It's part of the reason I declutter so frequently.

Nick said...

Jean: It seems like a very good home. It had a glowing report from the Care Quality Commission, the care home regulator.

Kylie: Yes, I guess my mum had been prepared for the move for a while. The family had been talking about the possibility for some time.

Agent: Yes, once you start falling on a regular basis, extra supervision is vital to avoid a complete loss of confidence.

Rummuser said...

That she has managed to live up to 95 independently says quite a bit about the spirit of your mom. You did the right thing in arranging a home for her rather than leave her alone to fend for herself. I have personal experience of caring for a senior citizen and how I wished that I could have placed him in a home!

Dave Martin said...

At least you know she'll be safe and looked after by trained staff. I'm sure she'll also enjoy not having to cook and clean too!

Nick said...

Ramana: She had obviously got to the stage where she was no longer able to fend for herself, especially as her legs were wobbly and unreliable. A care home where she would be properly looked after was the only option.

Dave: Yes, I'm sure she'll enjoy not having to cook or clean!

Treey said...

I get round-the-clock attention too. If you have reservations about care homes I can vouch for them being excellent places to live at. 👍

Nick said...

Treey: I'm sure it's a great relief to my mum that she'll be monitored 24/7 so that any emergency will bring help straightaway.

Jenny Woolf said...

It is strange how old people hoard stuff. I'm trying really hard to declutter at the moment, but actually I have always had a problem with clutter. I think I'm improving! I hope your mum gets used to her care home and is happy there.

Nick said...

Jenny: I think my mum will be relieved to be free of all the domestic chores and bills and to let someone else take care of all that.

Hattie said...

I've read some version over and over of this move of an elder to a care facility. My mother and mother in law stayed in their own homes with a caregiver, which would be my personal preference. You need someone around, that's clear, but if you're like me you don't need or want a lot of people around all the time. I like my space and the good company of family and friends, don't care for routines, etc. And the cost is a big consideration, esp. in the U.S.
Best of luck to you and your mum!

Nick said...

Hattie: The family's preference was always for mum to stay in her own flat with the help of cleaners and carers. But it got to the point where she simply couldn't cope any more. She was having falls and lying on the floor for hours until help arrived. She wasn't eating properly or drinking enough. And her finances were in total disarray, with no proper filing system and bank statements scattered all over the place. So we reluctantly concluded that she needed to be looked after 24/7. She did well to be living on her own to the age of 95.

Liz Hinds said...

I do hope she will be happy. It seems to depend on the personality of the person - that's a clumsy sentence - so I hope she can make friends and enjoy her new life.

I've just read The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen. Makes slightly depressing reading but the plus side is that they start an Old But Not Dead group within the home and organise exciting outings. I like that idea.

Nick said...

Liz: I hope so too. As long as she can accept that she's not able to look after herself properly any more, and she needs to put herself in other people's hands.

I like the idea of an Old But Not Dead group. Mind you, mum's new care home already organises quite a lot of activities and outings. Local organisations and businesses provide the funding.

joared said...

Sounds like you've made a good choice for your Mom and family so all can be comfortable. Many years I provided services in retirement communities with multiple levels of care -- early years in a variety of other settings with some more desirable than others. There certainly are facilities that can provide very desirable living conditions from which you probably were able to make your selection. I may eventually end up in one, but for now I continue to think along the lines of "living in place" in my home. I should be so fortunate to be able to do so as long as your mother has.

I do want my children to not fret about my welfare, especially given the miles that separate us. Also, I've always said one of the kindest acts a parent can take is to downsize their possessions so others aren't left to do so. So far I've been negligent in sorting through and disposing of things. I guess I tend to think, what's the rush -- I've got the rest of my life to do that -- forgetting how close I might actually be to that point.

Nick said...

Joared: She was very fortunate to enjoy such independence for so long. I hope she can adjust to losing some of it and being looked after by other people.

It's frustrating that I now live about 350 miles from my mum, on the other side of the Irish Sea, so there's a limited amount I can do. Luckily my brother-in-law and niece live quite close by and can keep an eye on her. I wish my mum had been considerate enough to downsize her possessions. Clearing her old flat is proving to be a monumental task.