I visit mum at the facility most days and often stay for long chunks of time. It’s the perfect place to hang out, almost like my own private library, with the bonus of being with mum. It’s warm, with comfy chairs to nestle into; there’re ample cups of hot chocolate, and I can order lunch or finish off mum’s if she’s pushed hers away. The blaring TV is a distraction to my work, but I have my earplugs. I also have an eye mask ready for my daily quiet-time 'sit’ which I often have lying on mum’s bed while she sits in the armchair. Mum glances at me every so often between nodding off and watching the Movie Channel. I know she’s happy that I’m near her and resting. Her bed is the one thing she can offer me these days.
Mum had her bad fall in February. Hospital for ten days then respite at Green Cedar Aged Care. We decided to keep her there because I was leaving for Israel in late March. Then there was the difficult decision (for me) of putting her into permanent care because she kept falling. I’m not sure what went through her head, but she seemed to settle in better then I had expected and without any complaints. Now it’s mid July, she’s been a resident for nearly five months and I notice that she’s become even more feeble, frail, and forgetful.
The care at the facility isn’t great. The carers do what they can but there’s a constant shortage of staff. Last week there was a covid outbreak on the first floor. It spread quickly and every resident ended up with the virus. Only one died, I was told. But she was sick beforehand. This week it’s moving through the ground floor where mum stays. A few days ago there were two infected residents, today there were six or seven. I decide to take mum home. But I have to get my head around it and my body into action. How do I do this?
I make a list:
Find the bars that old Tom built for her bed and screw all the parts together. That’s the first crucial job. Luckily the parts are still in the shed
Tell the staff and Sofia, the manager of the facility, that I’m taking mum home
Collect mum’s medication and bandages to change her injured leg
Pack mum’s suitcase
Make sure I have enough nappies at home - both pull-ups and pads
Go to the supermarket and buy ingredients to make a big pot of chicken soup to freeze in small containers
Buy disposable gloves, paper towels, toilet paper, rubbish bags
Finish hemming the curtains in her room and hang them up.
Look for the waterproof mattress protector and winter doonas, and prepare her bed
Clean her room
Bring the toilet rail support and all the other necessary accessories home from her room at the facility
Connect the Smart Security Camera in mum's room
I have a hectic weekend, so I plan to pick mum up Monday morning. But I’ve got a dinner arrangement with an old friend I haven’t seen since before Covid so I push it one more day. Tuesday is raining heavily and the plasterer is mending the ceiling. Ok Wednesday morning. But Coby is flying to Darwin to stay with Gil, and I need to help him with last minute changes in his ticket. I finally pick up mum on Wednesday afternoon.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would she be willing to come with me or refuse, and prefer to stay in her cosy little room? Relief, she’s happy to come. Carefully I help her into the car, a quick drive, and out again at my place. Slowly, patiently. The wind is strong and I cover her with a blanket. I crank the heating up inside. We walk with measured steps to her old position on the couch near the TV. Heat packs and a blanket, just in case she’s feeling cold. She’s become accustomed to the heating at the facility - I sweat when I’m there.
I look at her, comfortable with her hot cup of tea. I can’t believe I’ve done it - I’ve brought her home. It’s a mission accomplished. What a feat. I’m happy to have mum back home again, even though I know it’s not for good. I know she’s pleased to be here too.
Bedtime. She’s forgotten her nightly ritual of kissing my hand and saying - Thank you, bless you, long live the little children in Israel. She used to say this every evening when I tucked her in. Five months ago I thought she was old and fragile, but she was vibrant then compared to now.
Today, Thursday, was my first whole day of caring for her again. I woke her for breakfast in bed. It’s tricky trying to get her up into a sitting position - we returned the hired hospital bed when she went into care. I quickly grab some firm pillows and shove them behind her. They help for the moment. Tea sipped, then toast without crusts with p-nut butter and a touch of jam. Now for a quick wash. Getting her up and sitting her down is like getting a rusty pair of scissors to work. We slowly walk the six steps to the bidet. Then back into bed, clean and cosy with two heat packs. I have a few hours now to zip around and do house chores or some admin.
I’m sitting with her in the TV room, the cooking program in the background. I’m on the adjacent couch and have just relaxed for half an hour with my eyes closed. It’s 9.30pm and she’s restless. Time to put her to bed.
The end of a good day.