14 October 2012

Loved Ones

Life’s Journey isn’t all about work, and my journey isn’t all about writing. Nor should it be. I’ve found many a cliché to be true throughout my life. You’ll never find an epitaph on a gravestone which reads “I wish I’d spent more time in the office”. Instead you’ll find epitaphs about loved ones and noble deeds. This serves as an eternal signpost towards what is important in life, and I’m ashamed to admit I learned that the hard way. I’ve been that workaholic, stuck in the office on my hamster wheel of erroneous priorities.

Ironically serious illness did me a favor  stopping me in my tracks, and teaching me who my true friends were. Those friends who stood by me will be my friends until the day I die – a bond was formed then which can never be severed – they are truly valued by me. The importance of a loving family has been burned into my soul.

I haven’t been able to carry my writing journey forward of late, because a more important area of my life needed my full attention – my father. I wrote about my father’s transfer to a care home because of his Alzheimer’s back in July. I described that care home as being like a hotel. Since then I have learned to truth of another cliché – “all that glitters isn’t gold”. That care home wasn’t right for my father, and last week we moved him to a different home – a move which has been distressing for him, and we are doing all we can to help him settle. I’m not going to go into what went wrong here; all that is relevant is dad is in a more suitable home, and he is being given love and attention.

There are many issues to consider if you find yourself in the painful position of finding appropriate care for a loved one:
  • Look around the care home first. How many staff are allocated per floor? Look into the eyes of the care staff; how do they look at the residents, and are they tactile with the residents? Do they have an eye on the residents observing them and their safety while they are talking to you? Are they putting the residents first before everything else, or are they chatting amongst themselves about last night at the Dog and Duck? 
  • Ask questions of the manager. What is their philosophy about looking after their residents? What activities are planned on a daily basis for the residents, or are they left to their own devices? Would those activities be suitable for your loved one? How much assistance will be provided with basic hygiene requirements, dressing etc.? Are pictorial clues provided for the more confused residents who may have difficulty with the written word? 
  • Does the care home require chapter and verse from you concerning your loved one’s daily routine and their specific care requirements? Routine is important – breaking a routine can cause distress and confusion. 
  • Does the care home require a history/biography of your loved one? Memories are vital. Alzheimer’s patients especially will remember past events better than recent ones – and a biography can be an important way to reach them and engage with them. A care home which doesn’t recognise this could be a problem. You want the care staff to be able to take time out and speak to your loved one about their specific past – to keep their mind working, and care about their mental welfare. 
  • Does the care home want to know about your loved one’s likes/dislikes and hobbies? Are the care home going to try and keep up your loved ones hobbies, and preferred activities? You don’t want your loved one to feel in a completely alien environment – familiarity and continuity are important. Care needs to be specific and not generalised – as far as is possible. 
I hope that you never find yourself in this position, but at least if you do, you have some information to help you decide. If you have found yourself in this situation, do you have any additional advice which may help others?  If so please leave a comment below.

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Kevin said...

I had an experience just like yours. My father was in his 90's, in poor health, with catheter, deaf and almost blind. We found him an ideal home, a beautifully light room where he could at least see shadows and the staff were all friendly to him (at least when we were there). At first he was happy. He had a radio and would listen to football commentaries and his favourite channels. He went down, escorted, to the dining room and sat with other residents. However, slowly he became more withdrawn, stopped going to the dining room and listening to his radio. He became apparently happy with his own company and thoughts. On questioning staff it became obvious that other residents (women) had complained about the loudness of his radio and his eating habits. The latter was not surprising because he was left to fend for himself more often than not, sometimes not even been told what had been put in front of him. He would not complain and was insistent that we should not either. In hindsight these were questions we should have clarified much earlier. To ask the Home manager 'What if...' would have been desirable.

Ellephantastic said...

Fantastic advice there. You need to put that in a leaflet for people who are going through this.