Sunday, 13 January 2013

Sunday 13th January - Update on my mother

So, skip this post if you want, as it is all about my mother.

Woods. Trees. We're still not out of them yet, by a long way.

File:Dense woodland above the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal - - from wikipedia

The first fortnight of the month has been a real up-and-downer (I refuse to use "roller-coaster" because I am fed-up with everything in the news or on television or wherever being a "roller-coaster" - just as well that you can't HEAR my tone of voice as I type!)

We had a "goal-setting meeting" at the end of the year, attended by my mother, family members, and staff. It was all a bit daunting, and to my mind the goals appeared to be almost unattainable. The review meeting was set for just before the end of January, and my heart sank as we left the meeting at how far we were from any of the goals.

Visiting is incredibly hard work. You clock-watch all morning as you rush round getting things done. Once you are there, you clock watch to see how long you can stay, or how long you have left on your parking ticket. If you plan to go again in the evening, you have less than two hours before it is time to set off again. Tick tock, chop chop, keep track, remember, don't forget, make a list!

What do you need to take? (clean clothes, toiletries etc). What should you bring as a talking point, or present? (a sandwich, newspaper, photograph). What was it she was asking for at the last visit? (make-up, electric hair-curler, nail file, new box of tissues)

Then you drive there, hunt for a parking place, and make your way to the ward, braced for what you will find. Will she be awake or asleep? In her chair, in bed, or surrounded by curtains? Will she be happy, or grumpy, or upset, or sleepy?

For how ever long you stay, your attention is on her, responding to her needs, answering her questions. Conversations flit from subject to subject, moving from the past to the present to the future. If she is in her chair, then maybe it will be a good idea to go off to the shop, or the day room, or the cafe. If she is in bed, then that's where you will stay.

Sometimes she gets wheeled off for physiotherapy; this happened in the first week when I was there, and I took videos and photographs which Mummy and I watched together afterwards. This proved to be a very useful thing to do. I was staggered to see that she could sit, unsupported, on the edge of the bed. The two physios got her standing up and started teaching her to control the movement of her hips and learn to balance while they held her firmly. They started teaching her how to transfer from sitting on the bed to sitting in the wheelchair. It was an exhausting and demanding process for all.

Last weekend, we were able to play patience together; I dealt out the cards, and Mummy moved them from stack to stack; building down, alternating red and black, putting the Aces out and building up on them by suit, moving Kings into empty stacks. I rejoiced to see that she could do this; hidden in the game are all kinds of important cognitive processes.

I gave her a packet of blank note cards, and also a notebook for Christmas. She has started to want to send cards to a few friends and family. Her writing is wavering, but legible, and the sentences mostly complete. I have found that writing things down in the notebook, like who is visiting on the next day, helps her keep track of things. Sometimes she writes down things that she wants to remember and ask about.

A few days ago, she had a urinary infection which made her very unwell, and very muddled. This has taken its course now, but for several days she was clearly running a temperature and ill. In the course of conversation with the consultant, it was decided to reduce one of the muscle relaxant medicines, which has a side-effect of causing hallucinations. Ah! That might explain things! Since that meeting, once the infection had cleared, she has been far more aware and articulate, had a longer concentration span, been far less muddled and confused over time. Is it a coincidence, I wonder?
The review meeting comes up in another week. The situation now looks far more hopeful than I had ever dared to believe. Woods. Trees. We're still not out of them yet, but maybe I can begin to make out a pathway.

It's still very early days yet.

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