My brother agrees to help

I can now walk without using a stick, but I still feel as if my hips and lower back could go at any time. To add icing to the cake, a knee injury I had 20 years ago has started to ache and make me limp. Plus an old tendon strain in my ankle has begun to complain. My body really is speaking to me and telling me it’s all right to admit defeat. And I’m listening. I remain confident that, once I’ve found mum a permanent place (which could take some time!) I’ll regain my former fitness level. And – assuming I can bounce back in the end, I also feel that this collapse will prove to have had a positive effect in the long term: not only by giving me permission to hold up my hands in surrender, but by forcing my brother and my mother to accept the situation.

I’ve told mum she’ll have to move permanently into a care home. She says she understands, but in my experience, you can have umpteen seemingly sensible and rational conversations with her to the extent you think she’s understood the issue – only to have her flatly deny that you have ever spoken to her on the subject. ‘No! You never told me that!’ Her face grows grim and fixed. Her hands clench. ‘I’ve never been told about it! I would’ve remembered if I had!’ So it’s best to assume the transitional phase will take some time.

I told my brother he has to step up to the plate. When he retired, and immediately moved further away, he said he would come to stay here overnight. I thought at the time, pigs might fly. And indeed, no winged pigs have yet been sighted. I said to him, now you’re no longer working full-time, now you’ve moved house and celebrated your daughter’s wedding, it’s not enough for you to come and have lunch with us once every 6 weeks! You need to come and help me with mum, to stay for a couple of days so I can just walk away, go to London or wherever. He said, he’d think about it (!). Then I collapsed.

I think that made him realise I wasn’t making a fuss about nothing. He said that he and his partner would come for a night. I said, that’s no good. It has to be 2 nights so I can have one full day in London. Otherwise I’ll have to carry my overnight bag round with me all day before I get the evening train. It didn’t seem a lot to ask. And so it’s been agreed. Actually, most of mum’s personal stuff and toileting will be done by his partner. She worked in a day centre for old people so I guess she knows what to do. But the main thing is, I don’t have to rush around organizing stuff. I’ve had to write down mum’s routine so they know what she’s used to and buy their preferred breakfast cereal, but other than that, I can then hand over the responsibility for mum’s care and wellbeing to my brother. I am not, after all, an only child!

Anyway, they’re due to arrive tomorrow. I can’t wait to head off…..

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I am overtaken by events

I accepted I was on the point of collapse. I booked mum into the care home. All I had to do was struggle on for another week. But before that could happen, one evening I stood up and found myself in excruciating pain whenever I tried to put my weight on my right side. Which meant I couldn’t walk. I found an old walking stick that had belonged to my granddad, and managed to complete my tasks, getting mum into bed and such like.

I felt ok as long as I was sitting still, but moving about was agony. Trying to get out of bed was agony. The local surgery is quite close, less than 10 minutes walk away. I had to phone for a cab to get myself round there. The Doc assured me the problem was purely mechanical. I needed to rest. But of course, I couldn’t rest so he gave me some strong pain killers which allowed me to carry on for the next few days. Once mum went off to the care home I collapsed onto the settee and hardly left it for over a week.

At first, reading for hours on end felt like pure self indulgence. Then it began to feel weird: to sit on a couch reading for days on end is something you only do if you are very ill or, perhaps, completely exhausted. But I needed to do some things – like buy food, send cards for birthdays and wedding anniversaries which simply couldn’t be left. By now I’d found a proper walking stick that I’d used when I had a previous injury, so I got a cab into the centre of town and hobbled about. For once, I really appreciated that I live in a very small place! Then a cab home and back to the settee. I managed to extend mum’s stay in the care home for a few extra days. And I’ve been lucky to find a very good local osteopath.

She explained my back muscles had gone into spasm. She’s suggested certain ergonomic strategies I can use when undertaking tasks which I have to do in my role as a carer – but which are particularly hurting my back. She also pointed out that there is age related ‘wear and tear’ which has exacerbated a certain weakness in my lower spine.

Mum is home now and I’m being as careful as possible with my movements. In the short term, I’m improving.  I can walk as far as the bus stop and get a bus into town and I hope to get back to normal eventually. But in the long term, I think this is a wake up call. It’s time to look for a permanent home for mum. No rush, we’ll spend the next few months visiting different places, testing the waters, but I can’t continue like this. I feel like I’m being hammered into the ground. And I’ve told my brother he needs to do more to help me with mum – more about that in my next post!