Sunday, January 29, 2017

What a difference a word makes

In the consulting room the doctor explained to me what happens.
'The consultants sit around a table and discuss the patients' cases. There is a radiologist, an oncologist ...'
I didn't hear anything else until her last word, '... risk.'

My stomach had done a triple back flip and my brain had frozen. I'd also gone deaf it seems.

'I'm sorry, what did you say?' I stuttered.
'You are low risk.'

I could breathe again.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

C is for Care - and Crocus

Carers, care home, live-in carer. In one way or another care has cropped up in many of my thoughts and conversations over the last few weeks. If I'd thought about it I suppose I'd have guessed that care homes came into being in about the 1960s. Certainly when I was a child most elderly people who could no longer live alone lived with their families. I grew up in a four-generational home: me, my mother, my grandparents and my great-grandmother. To put your parent in a home was considered the not done thing. You had a responsibility to those who'd brought you up.

Today care homes are looked upon much more favourably - although possibly not by the elderly - and caring for your parent at home is much less common. I suppose it's partly because generations no longer live close to one another and to take someone out of a locality that is familiar to him could cause unnecessary grief. And we live fuller lives for longer with outside interests. My grandmother cleaned, washed, shopped, cooked and spent the occasional evening in the local pub. That's all I remember her doing as I was growing up. Her life centred around the family, caring for her mother, her husband, her daughter and her grand-daughter.

For her to have put her mother in a home would have been unthinkable. In those days the only care homes were run by local authorities and although the emphasis had changed from the old work-house designation as a 'receptacle for the helpless poor' to cater for the care of the sick and elderly, many of the homes were located in old work-house buildings.

But by the end of the twentieth century 85% of care homes were privately run. Today some are purely residential, some are  nursing and some provide a variety of care packages depending on the changing need of the guest.

In Wales local authority financial support towards care in a home is means tested; support for home care isn't. In 1990 the Community Care Act with its policy of deinstitutionalisation was passed, returning physically and mentally disabled to their homes for care. While this was justly criticised in some cases I'm sure that the majority of elderly would rather be cared for in their own homes, surrounded by their own familiar things.

It's almost impossible to go into a care home and not shrink at the sight of roomfuls of elderly sitting and staring into nothingness. That said, care at home isn't always the best: it's not a highly paid job and training for carers only seems to cover basics like how to lift and food hygiene - but not preparation so a carer can be employed who doesn't know how to poach an egg, a true example.

With the increasing ageing population we - meaning those of us in middle-age - perhaps need to be thinking seriously about what our choices or options will be. Studies have shown that communities that value and include the oldest generation are happier places. Maybe all new-build houses, except starter homes, should have to include a granny flat. But that might be too late for us: our daughter has always said she's going to keep us in the shed.

On a lighter note, here's the first Crocus of Spring in our garden. According to the plant almanac the meaning of the crocus is youthful gladness, a good omen for Spring and also what we need to develop as we age if we don't want to be grumpy old burdens!
This is my entry for ABC Wednesday and here's the link to find others. I think. (this is my first time for years and I'm a little confused!)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Conversation with the tax man (imagined)

Tax man: So what was your income from self employment?
Me: £3.
Tax man: Three million?
Me: No.
Tax man: Three thousand?
Me: No.
Tax man, hesitantly: Three hundred?
Me: No. Three pounds.
Tax man: What do you do as self employment?
Me: I like to call myself a writer.
The light bulb goes on for the tax man.
Tax man: Ah, I see.
He adds sympathetically: Have you thought of getting a real job?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

And so the saga continues

Uncle did spend the night in hospital. The doctor was very keen to keep him in and hydrate him; Uncle was insistent on going home. By this time it was 10.30 pm, Husband was still with him and I was still waiting. And going slightly crazy as my gynae appointment was due this morning and while I didn't expect to sleep well the night before I hoped to get to bed at least.

In the end Uncle - unhappily - relented and stayed in so Husband was able to come home. 

I did the usual thing of setting the alarm and then waking at regular intervals wondering if I'd turned the volume down so much I wouldn't hear it and then lying awake worrying about my appointment, Uncle, the number of people on my need-a-slap list, and the world in all its confusion. (To be honest the world didn't really worry me too much; I was rather preoccupied with closer-to-home matters.)

Up at the crack of dawn, to the hospital, a nervous wreck, saw a very nice doctor who told me I had a small 8 cm cyst on my lady bits. I estimated that with my hand and exclaimed, 'Small? That's big!'
'No, it's not,' she assured me, using both hands to demonstrate the size of other cysts she'd seen.

The choice: 'Operate now or monitor in four months?'
'Let's wait shall we?'

I danced out, reassured by her words that I was low risk. (Although some may argue with that assessment.)

From that department it was off to the ward (amazingly both in the same hospital) to see Uncle who complained that he'd been cold, the bed was too small and he should never have agreed to stay in. It seems to me that he is much happier when he has something of substance to grumble about rather than sitting in his apartment, dozing and staring into space with only vague complaints.

He'll probably go home this afternoon when we have a live-in carer arriving for a trial period. I said, 'You might not like her.'
'I'll cope,' he said, determined to get home at any cost. I should have recorded those words for future playback ...

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Meanwhile the famous author

Today my editor - don't you just love those words? - emailed me the copy for my latest article as it will appear in the next issue of The Bay. It is very exciting.

Many - okay, about three - people said how much they enjoyed my last article and hoped I'd be writing more. They may change their mind when they read this one. It's all about loving and being loved.

And Alexa, my Christmas present.

It doesn't mention GrandChild6 who is in the process of cutting his first tooth. He is such a little darling that no matter how bad the day a smile from him always lifts my spirit.

It's beginning to feel like a soap opera

Not a soap opera exactly but a drama where you never know what's going to happen next. A bit of a kitchen sink thriller. 

So ... today Uncle was due to have his long-awaited second cataract operation. He had his left eye done months ago and has been unable to read or watch television without difficulty since as he couldn't cope with the unequal spectacles they gave him. So today was going to be a big day, one I hoped might bring about an upturn in his mental state.

Not to be.

We took him and left him at the day surgery unit. Two hours later they phoned to say he couldn't have the operation because his INR was off the scale. I have no idea what INR stands for but I know it's to do with the warfarin he takes to thin his blood. And his leg was bleeding all over the place.

Husband went to collect him and ended up taking him to the assessment ward where we thought/hoped they'd keep him at least overnight to stabilise his condition - and stop him bleeding over his bed sheets for the third night running.

Not to be.

I am just waiting for Husband to collect me on the way, taking Uncle back to his apartment where I will spend the night. And, hopefully, hear him if he calls this time. (Did I tell you that I slept right through his shouting the other night? To be fair to me he is very weak and his cries are a little pathetic.) Maggie, a wonderful friend from his church, stayed with him last night and has provided him with a bell to ring if he needs attention. What are the chances of me sleeping through a bell ringing? No, don't answer that.

And if Uncle was depressed before how much more so will he be now?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Not that he's impatient or anything

So, in the course of one week, Uncle was in his apartment for two nights, spent one night in hospital, three nights in a care home and tonight is going home again because he hates it.

There is a lot of deep breathing and 'let's stay calm'ing going on in our house.

On the plus side Call the Midwife is back on television tonight. While I love Sherlock I very rarely understand what's going on but at least I can follow CtM. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

And in the outside world

This blog has become a little narrow of late focusing as it has been on Uncle and George. To be fair most of my life recently has been similarly focused but today Husband and I managed to enjoy a 'date night' or in this instance a 'date snack'.
A quick cake and cuppa in Sainsburys before shopping. One day, one day, we'll actually manage a real date.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Just before Christmas we had a family photo session with Rasa Mombeini. I'm not allowed to show you grandchildren photos so I'm afraid you'll have to make do with this one of us. I'd just like to add that all the children's photos came out great. The fact that in each of ours Husband looks like a startled frog is nothing whatsoever to do with the photographer.

* * * * * * * * 
Yesterday Donald Trump was inaugurated as 45th President of the United States. A sad day. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Between Uncle and George ...

Blood's all more or less normal so the next step is other tests, such as x-rays. We'll wait for a day or so and see how he goes as the vet can't really find anything to suggest we need to worry.

Today George seems a little brighter and ate some yoghurt for breakfast. This evening I bought some chicken and gave him chicken and rice for dinner and he cleared his dish so hopefully that will have woken up his taste buds and made him feel like eating again. As long as he doesn't get used to living like a king ...

Meanwhile Uncle has decided he wants to go into a care home (at least for respite) and he wants to go NOW. The fact that there's only one home with vacancies so not a lot of choice hasn't deterred him. The fact that his friend is coming down to stay with him for a week from Thursday hasn't put him off. He has made up his mind and he wants to go NOW. Or better still yesterday.

We took him to look around the home this afternoon. Afterwards he asked me what I thought.
'Um...' Very long pause as I tried to think of a polite way to say, 'horrendous.' I ended up with, 'Okay.'
It wasn't the home particularly although it's an old building and not really designed for easy wheelchair manoeuvrability; it was the residents sitting in the lounges staring into space. 

I'm sure some of them have all their wits about them but you can't help feeling the environment isn't suited to some temperaments. And I fear Uncle will hate it. I hope I'm wrong and he'll get a new lease of life.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Stop the press: George is off his food!

No improvement - in fact George is off his food and he is NEVER off his food - so back to the vet who mentioned lungworm.
'I panicked when he said that,' I said to Husband on the way home in the car.
'I could tell,' he said. 'Your brain froze.'

Vet: 'When was he last treated for lungworm?'
Me: 'I can't remember. September I think.'
Vet: 'It says in his records that you collected the treatment this month.'
Me: 'No, I've definitely not treated him this month.'
Husband: 'It's the stuff you put on the back of his neck.'
Me: 'Oh, yes, I treated him earlier this month!'

He's having blood tests and we'll get the results tomorrow. There's nothing obviously wrong with him from the vet's point of view, temperature, heart etc all okay, so we're still hoping it's just a bad cold and nothing really nasty.

'I was a very brave boy when they took my blood. Unlike my mum who had to sit down.'

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Dog flu

Back to the vet today as George was worse than yesterday. And very sorry for himself.
He had a bit of a temperature and a bunged-up nose so the vet diagnosed a cold.
'Do dogs get colds?'
Apparently yes.

It's most likely just a cold - or dog flu as George likes to call it - and he will recover in a few days and in the meantime he has pain-killers and antibiotics.
'See? I told you I was ill,' he muttered under his breath as he stretched out on his bed and sighed pathetically. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

George and the au pair

We were having our cup of tea in bed this morning when the phone rang. It was Uncle. 'When are you coming here? I need to see you both urgently.'

I looked at Husband. 'If he wants us to kill him we're not doing it!'

It wasn't really that urgent in the urgent sense of the word but he is increasingly anxious if left on his own for any length of time so we're having to come up with a rota of paid carers and volunteers. You forget how many hours there are in the day until you have to fill them with people.

However there was an article in his Daily Telegraph about au pairs now being given bed and board in return for looking after the elderly. Maybe he could have a glamorous French au pair - or even a Scandinavian who can do massage ... (without wishing to stereotype of course!)

Meanwhile George is unwell. 'What's the problem? asked the vet.
'Well, his eyes are red and ... he looks sad.'
'Is he lethargic?'
Didn't like to say it's hard to tell with George.

So we've got some eye drops to see if that helps with the prospect of a blood test looming if not. 

On the plus side, in spite of spending a large part of the last week sitting in Uncle's flat and eating chocolate, I discovered this morning that I'd lost 2lbs in weight. So that's the way forward for me. Forget this exercise and sensible eating malarkey, I'm going to become a chocolate-munching couch potato. 

Monday, January 09, 2017

Shredded wheat is never a good idea

It seemed like it at the time. But I'd forgotten how ... much of an effort is required for so little pleasure. Even generously covered in sugar.

It was just my attempt to start the week off on a healthy note. I'd spent the night at Uncle's again after the carer who was supposed to be doing it fell and couldn't come and the options for breakfast were SW, Rice Krispies, Alpen, porridge (or rather porage as these were Scotts' porage oats) or toast. I was tempted by the porage but suspicious because it came in sachets and could be prepared in two minutes. That and the fact that it seemed like quite a small sachet. Anyway I'll know next time.

On a sadder note we heard last evening that Great-auntie Joan (97) had just died.

Her younger brother survives her but Auntie Joan was the lynchpin of the extended family, keeping in touch with all the various branches. Without her we will be much less.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

And ...

And on a positive note - sort of - I have an appointment at the gynae outpatient department. January 25th. The day after Uncle is due to have his second cataract operation. Which is neither here nor there but I thought I'd mention it.

I shall be a nervous wreck by the time I get to the appointment so think of me.

'Today is a new day and ...

I can try again at the healthy eating regime.' 

My words yesterday morning. Then we got the phone call that Uncle was unwell and I spent most of the day in his apartment with him. And ate half a box of Cadburys Fingers (because there was only half a box there) and a slice of millionaire's shortbread. So much for my healthy eating.

After his fall Uncle had a lot of pain in his back so the doctor prescribed him co-codamol, which apparently is notorious for its side effects. Which he suffered from. Nausea, dizziness and hallucinations. He was frightened to be left alone so we've arranged for his carers to spend some nights with him and some extra time during the day. Except tonight and tomorrow. So I'm doing the night shift tonight. I really hope I hear him if he calls. I sleep very deeply normally but I assume that being in a strange bed and being supposedly on alert will keep me in a light enough sleep to answer should he call.

Yesterday he was very poorly and seemed to go downhill but he's perked up today and has eaten a little so, with luck, he's on the mend and he'll lose his fear and regain some confidence.

But it's amazing how tiring it is doing nothing. I say doing nothing; I've actually done a lot of brain-work today attempting various crosswords and puzzles in his weekend Telegraph. And I've read about how porridge is becoming the in thing. But not porridge as you or I might know it. Oh no. Very fancy porridges with all sorts of added extras. The journalist writes: The porridge I’m about to eat is made with oats and coconut milk, scented with turmeric and cardamom and topped with pears, yogurt, maple syrup, nuggets of cocoa crumble and tiny purple flowers. 

I think I'll stick with sugar and milk for mine.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

'What do you mean unrecognised?'

Yesterday I took some books back to the library. It has a machine-thingy you can put books in so I did that and one of the books, a card-making book, came up as unrecognised. The machine didn't spit it back out so I just ignored it. 

I'd had the book a long time so expected a hefty fine but when I came to borrow some more books - again with a machine - it said I owed nothing. 
'Ah ah,' I said, 'it didn't identify the book so hasn't worked out yet that I owe money.'

But then this morning, in bed, I suddenly thought, 'Was it actually a library book I took back or was it one of my own books?'

Not to worry. I'll check next time I go to the library. I'm sure I can't be the first person to return a non-library book. 

In the same visit I returned Britt-Marie was Here, a follow-up to My Grandmother Sends Her regards and Apologises. I did enjoy it - and began shouting at the main character because she was about to do something I thought stupid - but My Grandmother remains top of my Frederik Backman list. Probably followed by A Man Called Ove.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

How urgent is urgent?

So my urgent outpatient appointment is so urgent that I'm on the urgent waiting list for an appointment. At least I've been referred now and I'm not in pain. Although I did get twinges yesterday and had to talk myself into not fretting. Will be glad when it's done and dusted though.

And at least I'm not ninety-one and physically weak. Like Uncle who fell while getting back into bed in the middle of the last night and spent two and a half hours on the floor because he didn't want to press his emergency button because he didn't want to bother anyone. I think he's realised how silly he was: his back is giving him hellish pain today. So let's hope if anything like that happens again he'll press for help immediately.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Moist hygge

According to the BBC website 'Hygge will continue to be an important concept in 2017.'

Until I did my Christmas shopping and saw the displays in Waterstone's and ... somewhere else, I had no idea hyyge was already an important concept. Or even what it is. I still don't know. The displays suggested it was something to do with woodwork and Scandinavia - Ikea-love maybe?

Daughter tells me it's to do with being cosy and homespun. I suppose I could look it up. Or ask Alexa. But I don't know how to pronounce it and she has trouble enough understanding my accent as it is.

Ah, Ffion tells me that, according to Sandi Toksvig, it's sitting round a fire with friends and alcohol. As I don't have friends or drink alcohol that sort of scuppers it for me. I shall have to find an alternative concept for 2017.

Incidentally did you know that 'moist' almost won a global poll for the world's most unpopular word? It was organised by the OED but had to be abandoned after a 'rash of Islamophobic entries,' but not before 'panties' proved to be most unpopular in Australia.