Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A couple of things...

... Because I haven't added anything for a while. I'm positive nobody here is interested in the issues that challenge my otherwise tawdry, run-of-the-mill existence. Suffice to say, it was a big decision and not one I took lightly when I decided to take the plunge and have elderly infirm parents. These challenges can manifest in strange ways often at opposite ends of the spectrum - from pretty-fucking-serious at the hard end to actually-quite-funny at the soft end.

I'm going to digress ever-so-slightly, if its the execrable state of Scottish politics and Media you come here for, skip the rest - I'll get to that later - rest assured.

So, the pretty-fucking-serious side of things. My mother went into 'respite care' on Monday, which should be OK, it gives the people who do the main caring a bit of a rest. However, the respite beds are in a mixed care & nursing home. Turns out there is a difference, 'care homes' tend to have old folk in who are not so far along they can't look after themselves, 'nursing homes' on the other hand deal with those who are suffering from things like dementia and other fairly extreme geriatric conditions.

My mother has Parkinson's Disease (and a raft of other unconnected medical complaints each one more esoteric than the others.) However, she's compos mentis and able to feed herself but does have quite high care needs in the area of mobility. So it was a bit of a surprise when her stovies turned up a heck of a lot smoother than what could be observed being placed in front of other inmates. In the NHS and social care, there is a lot of chat about dignity, so its a bit off (shall we say) when with out asking, assumptions are made and liquefied foodstuff appears in front of what they like to call 'service users' and a care assistant brandishing a plastic spoon pulls up a seat.

My mum was a bit nervous so we'd sat in a smaller, usually unused, dining room. Later on, after more solid foodstuff had been taken, a rather sweet looking old lady came into the room asking if she could be taken to a local town, she then dropped her crimplene trousers to her knees and looked as if she might - how shall I say - go to the toilet?

I suppose its difficult, mixing those who've lost their battle with dementia with those who haven't. My Mum knows Parkinson's will eventually morph in to some form of dementia, there will come a time when she won't be 'compos mentis', is it desirable to place her with those who've already slipped over the edge? I don't wish to sound overly harsh, but when a person has slipped over, they're usually not aware of their predicament, until then, surely you have to do as much as is practical to at least avoid giving vulnerable people a glimpse of things to come? When it does eventually come, hopefully they won't be sufficiently self-aware to notice.

I have no idea how that sounds, you can become hellishly pragmatic in these circumstances, hopefully not overly so.

I won't even start on the occupation known as 'Social Work', I'm sure at the beginning of their career they had the best of intentions, but it has to be the crappiest most ineffective job in existence. When they fuck things up (which they seem to do quite frequently,) I find myself phoning up to ask if they're doing it deliberately. They say no but I suspect the opposite is true. I often wonder how many elderly mums have been driven to an early exit because they didn't have anyone around to limit the wilder imaginings of the social work industry.

If you're thinking about asking social services for help with elderly relatives or wild children, think again, then again and again. Think some more, then ask, 'is this really the last resort?' The answer will be no because social work involvement goes beyond the last resort. Asking social work for help isn't like asking for a round peg for a square hole: its like asking for a giraffe to go into a teapot.

But listen, I'd hate to sound mawkish and/or moany (although I probably do,) so here's something I put on Facebook recently concerning my Dad.

I do his shopping, he writes a list and I go to the supermarket to get it. He's also elderly with a panoply of medical complaints (the main one of which was self-inflicted - not that any one deserves it.) Alcoholic Liver Disease (or ALD) is an absolute corker of an illness to get, you drink whisky (etc) till your liver shrivels up into a useless black blob, if you survive that, all the other organs struggle to make up the numbers doing untold damage to themselves in the process.

A healthy liver

An unhealthy liver.
(Think of this image as more of a 'serving suggestion' as opposed to an actual unhealthy liver.)

One of the side effects of ALD is, it leaves you unable to remember you did it to yourself. Its almost funny, you spend forty odd years getting tanked up, it catches up with you and if you survive the initial organ failure - you spend the rest of your life, as if in a fug of forgetful, drink addled dopiness - its called Hepatic Encephalopathy apparently.

How ironic is that? An alcoholic can drink till they drop, the family then has to pick up the pieces and the ALD sufferer has no idea its their fault.*

As an Old Age Pensioner in a good bit of discomfort, my Father is - and I'm not pulling my punches here -  a cantankerous old fusspot and incredibly rude to boot.

When he used to go shopping himself he'd borrow an electric buggy and woe-betide anyone who got in his way. I watched one day as he dragged an empty pram he'd snagged with a back bumper the length of the Gyle Shopping Centre, (did I mention he's also quite deaf? It was a side effect of the extremely powerful antibiotics they give him to stop his kidneys emigrating to his arsehole.)

Anyway, he's quite exacting, he likes Schweppes lemonade, not the diet variety mind, the normal fat stuff. So I went with his list and procured all that was on it, except... Schweppes lemonade. Sitting afterwards in the car park, I took a stab at guessing how the conversation would go:

Dad: "This isn't Schweppes lemonade! I asked for Schweppes lemonade!" 
Me: "I know." 
Dad: "So whats going on, it said Schweppes lemonade on my list, what are you playing at?!? *Insert melodramatic sigh here*" 
Me: "Well, I saw that on your list and I saw Schweppes lemonade on the shelf. But, for no particular reason I bought Tesco's own brand lemonade." 
Dad: "Fuck! What did you do that for eh?!?" 
Dad: "..."

I love my dad dearly, but its almost tempting to buy Tesco's own brand lemonade or to buy his ten lottery tickets with six lines on one ticket then four on the other unlike the five & five configuration he can't seem to live with out. Or refusing to buy him a Daily Record (because its a total fucking rag.) Or to tell him I'm a firm supporter of Scottish independence (he's a rabid Tory.) Or to buy Lime juice produced by someone other than Rose's...

... just for the entertainment. His default reaction is always annoyance, but he always ends up laughing, even if there is no Schweppes lemonade.

It would be easy to wallow in self pity or rail at the cruelty of fate. But to be honest, with out actually tipping over into becoming 'bubbly', who has time for that? Recriminations are pointless at the best of times, recriminating with fate is almost as pointless as the occupation of Social Work.

Humour is the way forward, always has, always is and always will be. 

* My Dad is what is known as a functioning alcoholic. If you were to suggest he was an alcoholic at all he'd be horrified so we've stopped doing that, he forgets anyway. Functioning alcoholics hold down jobs and seem perfectly normal. My Dad was - and still is between swear words, random racism and homophobia as only people of a certain age know how - an extremely warm and generous character who hasn't touched a drop since he became ill.**

Sometimes though, he can be quite challenging. ;-)

** Except for the alcoholic ginger beer he bought 'in error' last summer which I had to 'dispose' of in his stead.


  1. I'm not too sure what to say to that.

    It is frightening what may be waiting in store for us as we get older and perhaps ill. And as they can keep us alive for longer and longer, I expect most of us will end up that way.

    From a very person point of view, I hope with all my heart that if old age, and infirmity for longer and longer means the indignity of having stuff done for you, and being treated to respite care in homes like the one you describe, we will pass a law that gives us the right to opt out of that part of our lives, by bringing the inevitable forward by a few years.

    I admire and respect the way that you deal with your problems.

    I couldn't begin to cope with that.

  2. Aye.

    Its one of the reasons I support independence, both my parents rely completely on free personal care at home. I suppose it wouldn't be the case for everyone, but moving into a care home can have a severely deleterious effect on a person's health.

    We're hoping to get my Mum out by the weekend, its horrible for everyone, she hates it, we all hate leaving her there, even if only for a week.

    What's more, I've been house sitting for her which is almost indescribably horrible. Its been like a trial run for when she really has gone - truly horrible.

    The staff do the best they can but the situation just isn't great in the first place.

    And, as usual, the social worker sits serenely, perched on an ivory tower, untouched by it all but having full control over that which she surveys. I just can't understand why this total stranger thinks she's some how qualified to say what is best for a person she's met twice.

    No idea what they study at uni, but I'm pretty sure the syllabus doesn't include clairvoyance or telepathy.

    Thanks as always for the kind words.


Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?