There’s a natural law in our world. We parent our children. We die before our children. Just a generation or two back our parents were statistically unlikely to still be alive by the time we became grandparents.
But my generation? We’re the sandwich generation, the rules are being re-written for us. Our parents live longer, our children live with us longer, we’re shelling out university fees, subbing our children’s first homes (if they’re lucky) and looking after elderly parents all whilst still working our asses off because our pensions are going to be worthless if we don’t work until the final moment we possibly can.
My dad went into a home yesterday. Last night my mum rang me and sobbed on the phone, telling me she was going to get him back today. Nothing prepares you for reverse parenting.
A few weeks ago my mum and I were discussing this possibility. It was almost like she’d been waiting for me to give her “permission” to do this. The next day I had a text from my brother in Australia saying “mum said we need to talk properly on the phone”. It’s obviously even harder for him to gauge what’s going on from the other side of the world than it is for me from three counties away. Anyway, he has always said he would trust my judgement on these matters and fortunately he was in complete agreement with me.
Which was just as well as I’d already told mother that a care home for dad would be the next best step for everyone.
He has deteriorated rapidly recently. He had to come off the memantine as it was giving him migraines (a well-known side effect of this group of drugs), and there was a noticeable decline in him. Mum has been getting no sleep for months now as dad had been given to waking up to go to the toilet and then roaming around. Of course, he then went back to sleep and she didn’t. Even with the precautions in place to stop the bed wetting he would still wake up and not be able to find the loo, leading to the inevitable mess for mum to clear up. She has had some help from SS, but the bare minimum really – a plastic commode and a stool for the shower. Then worse, his agitation started to lead to violence, culminating in mum having to call 999 one night. The police and paramedics were great and advised mum to let them take him to A&E while she stayed home and got some sleep.
The next day he was STILL in A&E when she went over. Social Services finally rocked up at 11am and the most they could offer was a day carer. When mum said she only needed someone a few mornings a week they said she could only have one if she had one every day. I mean, honestly, what is the point? She didn’t even need help in the day, it was the nights that were the trouble, but no one even suggested she got someone in at night. Not that she would have “a stranger in her house”, it was testament to how hard she was finding that she was even willing to get someone in in the daytime.
It was at this point that we had the conversation and I spoke to my brother. Mum visited 2 homes initially, the place dad was already going twice a week for day care and another newly built specialist dementia home in the next town. He was about to be offered a place at the latter when mum had a call from the one she really wanted. The home is at the end of their road (literally) and right opposite the GP surgery. It is a specialist home and the reviews are fantastic. Dad had a day’s assessment there last week.
Even though mum had arrived at the decision herself (my brother and I thought it’d take months of persuasion) I knew it wouldn’t be as simple as this. For a start mum could still change her mind.
We went to visit them at the weekend. On the Friday night before we left London my mum rang and said “speak to Dad”. After a few minutes of me talking at him Dad seemed ok, but when mum eventually came back on the phone she said he’d been getting really angry again and as he’d been talking about me previously she thought I might be able to calm him down. One of the worst things about Dad’s dementia is his dysphasia. So even if he’s talking about something that happened years ago, we can’t understand what he’s saying, so we can’t engage with him in the way that many other dementia patients can be. On Friday night he kept saying ship, but we don’t know why – other than the fact he’s worked with them all his life.
On Saturday when we went to theirs for lunch he seemed relatively cheery but he soon became agitated after we’d eaten, the excitement of having us there turns to irritation as it’s not normal. He was fixated on an old Filofax. I could see he recognised the business cards stuck in the back (from 30 years ago,) and he was trying to tell us about one of the companies selling up and the land being built on. But then he became more interested in doing the Filofax up and undoing it again.
And so yesterday mum took him to the care home. She said he seemed to understand – that he was going there so that she could get some rest for a while. She unpacked for him – the room has all been newly decorated and recarpeted but she said he “shut down” once they were there. I suspect that’s just his way of dealing with things.
One of the things she was so upset about last night was the things she’d forgotten to tell them, like reminding them to put the pressure pads by his bed so that they know if he gets up, and that he doesn’t have the coordination to go to the toilet by himself. I gently told her that these are the things she is paying them a lot of money to do and deal with for her, but I also told her if she was that worried they wouldn’t mind a phone call at 7:30pm on his first night there.
They have been married 47 years. This is the first time he will have been away from her without knowing when he might come back.
I’m still worried she will go and get him back at the end of the week.