We are going to take a risk.

I’m writing this a few days before mum’s 97th birthday. In the last few weeks, her two grandchildren have both had new babies. She’s convinced they belong to my brother and his partner, who are both in their 60’s, and needs to be reminded that the new babies are my brother’s grandchildren. He did once, it is true, have a little girl and boy, but now they are grown up and have started families of their own.

The young couples have offered to come and visit mum the weekend of her birthday. But two new-borns, a very active two-year old and seven adults can’t descend on the Care Home. They will have to come to the house.  If mum wants to see The New Babies and her much-loved Great-Granddaughter, which of course she does, she can also come to the house. But she has to understand that she can’t sleep here. She will have to go back to the Care Home. I have explained this to her, and sometimes she seems to understand and sometimes she doesn’t. So, what to do for the best?

I’ve discussed this with several people and most of them say it’s too risky. It will unsettle mum and she’ll get too upset. But I still think it’s worth the risk for her to see The New Babies, which she very much wants to do. A Carer who’s become like a family friend, takes mum out for a drive once a week. When I mentioned my dilemma to her, she immediately offered to pick mum up from the Home and bring her to the house, then collect mum at 5pm and return her to the Home.

This has actually been my main concern. Because the problem will be when it’s time for mum to leave. If the Carer comes, mum will hopefully go with her without too much fuss – whereas she’s quite likely to play us up and give us a hard time. And so, it’s been arranged.

Recently, one of my friends suggested a strategy they used with her own elderly mother: tell mum she has two homes now. Her Own Home is still here, and I am looking after it, but she can’t live there anymore. I am trying this approach, telling mum she’s going to visit her Own Home and see The Babies but, because she’s so old now (she does tend to forget just how old she is, bless her!) and needs so much looking after that she needs to live in the Care Home where she can be safe and cared for.

In a few days, we’ll find out whether we were right to take the risk! This morning mum did say she understood that The Babies couldn’t come to the Care Home but that she could see them, if she came to the house. Fingers crossed it will all work out well. I really hope it does.

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I feel unexpectedly guilty

Moving Mum into the Care Home has been harder than I thought it would be.  She’s used to staying there when I’m not around so, while I was on holiday, everything was ok. But since I’ve been back, things have been very difficult. Mum really wants to Go Home. I understand that, and if there were any way that could be arranged, I would do it. But she can no longer look after herself – and I can no longer look after her.

Every time I see her, we have the same upsetting conversation. How I have to have an operation and need her to be safe and looked after in the Home. She insists that she could manage on her own and has to be reminded that she hasn’t done that for several years. Eventually, she accepts that there’s no alternative. But the problem is, she forgets the conversation. So next time I visit, we have to have the same conversation all over again.

She grasps at straws. Can she go and live with my Brother? I explain that, while she could go and live in a Care Home near him, it’s impossible for her to go and live in his house. I’ve been visiting her every two or three days (and have arranged for one of her former carers to visit twice a week on days I miss) but she forgets I’ve been in.  Last week my brother actually came for his first visit. Mum cried. She told us ‘I won’t make it if I have to stay here! Abandoned by my own children!’

She’s never been a particularly maternal type of mother. In fact, she’s often been hurtful and self-centred. But even so, such scenes tug at my heart strings. She’s 97 in three weeks, so she’s unlikely to go on for that much longer wherever she lives – but of course she’d like to spend her last years in her Own Home. But the only reason she’s been able to stay there as long as she has done, is because I gave up my life in London and moved down here. And yet I still feel tremendously guilty. I feel guilty towards the Ancestors: my father, my mother’s sisters. I feel like I need them to forgive me for putting mum in the Home.

After three years of full time care-giving, I was struggling and overwhelmed. The work was unrelenting, the stress enormous. I’d developed my own health problems. I’m sure the Ancestors know this! But even so I still feel bad.

Up till now, it’s been me who made the sacrifices; it was me who gave up my home to look after mum. I didn’t think of it in that way because I didn’t think I had any choice. Now I don’t think I have any choice but to settle her in the Care Home. So I really did not expect to feel soooo guilty!

On the other hand, I did have a really great holiday in Crete and Santorini so I am feeling a lot better than I was before I went!

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Mum leaves home

I’ve been waiting for a permanent room to come up at the Care Home mum likes. Essentially, I’ve been waiting for someone to die, which is a bit weird, but it was the only thing to do. About a month ago, the owner of the Care Home – or the Missus, as mum calls her – told me a resident had been taken ill and wasn’t expected to survive. But that old lady proved to be tougher than everyone expected, and she regained her health. Then another resident was taken into hospital but, as I said to Brother – I’m about to go on holiday. I can’t risk being stuck with nowhere for mum to go.  What if this second old lady also proves tougher than they thought? And indeed, I didn’t want to wish her ill just for my convenience.

And so, I found a respite room for mum at an alternative Care Home. But the truth is, mum’s needs have become such that I’d been counting on her moving permanently into the Home before I went away. Now I took a deep breath and came to terms with the fact that it wasn’t going to happen. I really did not know how I would cope. Mum is getting so frail, it’s terrifying each time she stands up and goes to the bathroom. I can no longer get her in and out of the house without a second able-bodied person to help – and I’ve recently lost both of the main carers who I relied on to support me, let alone mum! Plus, I have a hospital appointment to start my treatment in early November so I really did need to find a place for mum during October. I consoled myself that by then there might be a place at the favourite Home. But the fact is, I was beginning to despair.

At this point, I had a call from a woman on the Carer’s Support Team. She’d come round to see me a few weeks previously and had ended up giving me an hour’s counselling session, which she must have thought I needed. And perhaps I did. Anyway, she rang to check on my mental health. I admitted I was pretty down. I’d so hoped to get mum settled before my holiday. Now I was faced with finding a place for her before the hospital appointment. She offered to help me do that, which I really appreciated. So different from the bureaucrat I spoke to before. None of this ‘oh you can manage with extra help from the Care Agency’. No. She agreed. ‘You need to find a safe place for your mum as soon as possible.’ So that was a load off my mind.

Then, at the eleventh hour the Missus rang. There was a permanent room for mum after all. It would be ready the day before I needed to leave. I didn’t even feel excited, I felt numb, I didn’t dare allow myself to relax or I’d have to admit just how hard and dreadful it’s been the last few months. I understand it’s a sad thing for mum to leave home. I expect there’ll be some hiccups. I’ve had several serious conversations with her about how things can’t carry on as they are, but then she forgets what I told her. However. Last week, she moved. I was in such a state myself, I had to go back twice with things she needs but I’d forgotten to pack. The next day I went to London to stay with friends, and then on to see some more friends in Paris, and I forgot to do all sorts of things before I left. I did one thing in particular that was so dumb I can’t believe I actually did it. However, it seems that I did.

I guess I’ll slowly unwind and come to my senses. I still can’t believe it has really happened, keep worrying things will go wrong. I do so hope mum will settle happily in the Home because I’m really worn out. On the plus side, I’m going On Holiday tomorrow! I hope it’ll be fun. I really do need to recuperate!

Mum has a holiday

Mum really wanted to visit my brother’s new home in Somerset. Because it would probably be the last holiday she ever had, we discussed how it could be arranged. The first hurdle was the 2 ½ hour drive to where my niece lives. Mum made the journey last year for niece’s wedding, and stayed quite happily in a Care Home round the corner from niece’s home. Now mum is a year older and much frailer – but, keeping my fingers crossed, I booked a car and a driver and we made it that far. Mum then spent two days resting. She was visited by my niece, who’s heavily pregnant with her second baby, and Great-Granddaughter – who really is the only person mum cares about these days.

Niece and her hubby put me up, which was very kind of them because, what with the advanced pregnancy and the demanding two-year-old, this young couple already have quite a lot on their plate. But I did need to be nearby. Mum had a bit of a meltdown the first evening. The Home rang me and I had to walk round and reassure her, but basically all went well.

Brother lives another hour’s drive to the north. Saturday morning, he came and picked us up. He’d found a very nice Care Home close to his house, with a view of the sea from the garden. It seemed a nice place, lots of ladies to chat to in the lounge and mum settled in happily enough. Brother also arranged to borrow a wheelchair – which made things much easier for moving mum around.

On the Sunday, mum was taken to visit my brother’s new place. Originally, he’d said she would not be able to get over the threshold, but eventually he worked out she could enter through the garage, in the wheelchair. My niece, her hubby – and Great-Granddaughter obviously – and my nephew with his wife who’s 7 months pregnant – all arrived for lunch. It’s unlikely mum will see either of these expected babies for a while, so at least she’s met them in utero as it were.  And we had what may well be one of the last family gatherings. Then, on Monday, Brother gave me a lift to Glastonbury where I spent 3 days on my own, thinking things through while he and his partner took mum round to various places she wanted to visit along the north Somerset coast. She was particularly keen to go to Weston-Super-Mare. We think she went there with my dad when he was in the army, but we’re not completely sure.

Then he drove mum back to the Care Home around the corner from my niece. I got back there the next day. Mum seemed fine. My niece had been to visit her that morning with Great-Granddaughter, and we would be going home the next day. We were just sitting down to dinner when my mobile rang. Mum was freaking out, as only she can. Where was I? She was waiting for someone to come and look after her! No one was looking after her! She’d been abandoned! She was disgusted! Disgusted! Etc. Etc.

I trudged back up to the Care Home. The carer was very upset by mum’s outburst. I think the problem was there was no one to chat to in the tv lounge so mum felt lonely and bereft. She wanted to come back to my niece’s house. But that was impossible. It really is not old-lady-proof. There’s nowhere she could sit; the entrance is narrow with high steps. And there was no wheelchair available. And no one to push it if there were.

They are looking after You! Look how upset they are! You need to rest, before the long journey tomorrow! And you saw Great-Granddaughter this morning! And anyway, She’s already been put to bed!

Eventually, I got mum settled and we had our dinner. After this outburst, I was dreading the final drive home but it went ok. The traffic was heavy, as it was a Friday afternoon in the summer holiday period and the journey took longer than usual, but the driver dealt with mum well. To avoid the traffic, he took us on a roundabout route through some lovely landscape, and quaint little villages. This scenic drive has really stayed in mum’s mind. And, although Mum has been tired and fractious since we got back, she does seem to have enjoyed her holiday – and to have remembered most of it! Which is the main thing. Now, I’m just counting the days till my own holiday. I just hope I can last out till then!!

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Mum fails (or passes?) a test

A couple of years ago, I tried to get mum a clinical diagnosis of dementia. But although the Doc agreed there were issues with her short-term memory, they would not agree to give her a formal diagnosis. As I live with her full time, I felt they’d made a mistake, but there was nothing to be done.

After my recent brush with the bureaucrat, I realised a firm diagnosis would be helpful when I next had to deal with the bureaucracy, so I asked them to test mum again. This time, her results were greatly improved – at least from my point of view. Some might say she’s deteriorated. Her score had dropped sufficiently for them to decide (taking all other factors into account) that they’d give her the diagnosis without the need of a brain scan. (Thank goodness for that!) And mum is going downhill quite rapidly. She’s increasingly confused, losing words, forgetting names, getting muddled about the time of day. She can no longer work out how to switch on the tv, and has to be instructed on what to do during her trips to the toilet.

Sometimes though, especially when she wakes from a nap, her face is lit with a beatific smile, as if she’s stoned or she’s been in another dimension and is now surprised to find herself here, in this mundane world of material reality.

Whatever the Social Services might claim, it’s just not safe for us here anymore. Mum’s getting more and more unsteady. In fact, she had another fall the week before last, again on the steps coming up into the house from the conservatory. This time she was on the bottom step, so she just tipped back onto the carpeted floor. I was behind her once again, and once again cushioned her fall, altho I didn’t have to take her weight and manoeuvre her into a safe position like the last time. This time, I just stressed my neck, my back (once again), my knee (where I had an operation 20 years ago), and some general muscle ache around the ribs. Luckily, my brother came that weekend. Having a couple of days off helped me to recover – as did having a very nice time with friends in London!

I feel mean, but I’ve banned mum from the conservatory, where she likes to sit because it looks out over the garden. I’m terrified that, in the time left before we find a permanent place for her in a care home, mum’ll have another fall and this time it’ll be catastrophic – either for her or for me. Every moment she spends on her feet, I worry.

I especially don’t want her to injure herself before she goes on holiday! Yes! We’re planning to try and get mum down to Somerset for a week. She’s long expressed a wish to see my brother’s new house and to return to an area where she has fond memories of a holiday with dad. It’s taken quite a bit of arranging, but it has been arranged. I really hope it will all go smoothly and that the journey won’t be too much for her. We leave tomorrow. Watch this space, as they say!!

I am insulted by a bureaucrat

So: I’ve accepted that I can no longer cope as mum’s carer. After three years, with her increasing needs and my own deteriorating health, I’ve decided mum has to move into permanent care – not just because of the work load but also because I’m facing surgery with a fairly extended recovery period.

Living as a resident in a care home will eat into mum’s capital quite quickly. When the money’s gone, the local council are supposed to help. I decided to give the Adult Services Department a call. I wanted to find out if there was anyhing I needed to sort out beforehand. The answer was not what I expected.

The Bureaucrat I spoke to asked if mum owned her own home. Yes, she does. And, asked Mr Bureaucrat, does she want to move into a care home? Well, I began, she’s not too keen on the idea obviously but I can no longer manage her. Without asking anything further about mum’s situation he started to speak to me in the most offensive way. ‘We encourage people to stay in their own home as long as possible! We offer support and advice to allow your mother to do that!’ I was taken aback. I said it was a shame all this support and advice had not been given to me three years earlier when, exhausted by trying to manage mum from afar, I had given up my home in London to move down here. Well, sneered Bureaucrat, that’s your own fault for not trying to find out.

I pointed out that, if mum did stay at home with paid carers, (which would be neither safe nor sensible) I’d have nowhere to live. I also mentioned that I’m facing surgery. In the most contemptuous and dismissive tone of voice, the Bureaucrat told me to ring the Housing Department to see if they could rehouse me. Although he didn’t think that likely as I hadn’t lived in the area for five years. I was stunned. There was no acknowledgement that the reason mum is still in her own home is entirely due to my selfless decision to become a carer.

The fact that I’ve kept her out of a residential home for three extra years was dismissed as irrelevant. I said to Mr Bureaucrat: My friends told me I was stupid to move down here, but I told them, no, it’s the right thing to do. Now I can see that they were right. It was really stupid. I should have left mum alone and at risk; although if I had, she’d probably be dead.

The truth is, even the best of the Agency Carers don’t do everything perfectly. If I wasn’t here to oversee things, ‘project manage’ the situation as it were, things would go downhill quite fast. No matter if mum had paid carers 24 hours a day – which would cost a huge sum of money – someone would still need to be responsible for her:- make sure the carers are doing their job properly; ring the doctor if needs be; sit with her if she has a fall; order her medication; organize the incontinence pads delivery (a real hassle!) and, indeed, make sure the bills are paid, food bought, clothes washed etc etc etc

This is the flaw in the Bureaucratic Argument: the council still requires a third party to be involved. That’s what’s so hypocritical. They addressed their promised information about support and advice to me, not to mum. (It contained nothing that I didn’t know already, by the way!). Ergo, they would still expect me to arrange everything – after which, presumably, I’d make myself homeless! But if I no longer look after mum, who’s going to step up to the plate? The Agency Carers? My brother who lives 3 hours drive away? The Bureaucrats?  I don’t think so.

It’s all about cost cutting, of course. the Bureaucrats and their mates the Accountants look at life in accountancy terms: and a full-time, live in unpaid carer suits them very well. But when a carer reaches the end of their tether, the Bureaucrats refuse to acknowledge that, because it will be less cost-effective. The personal cost to the carer isn’t quantifiable.

My brother, our regular Agency Carers, the local GP, everyone who meets her, can see that mum couldn’t manage alone at home. Someone else would need to be involved. Even though I got upset after this conversation…. ‘I’m going back to London! Let’s see how well she’d cope with some paid carers!’ I can’t actually walk away. It wouldn’t be responsible. The only option is to make sure she’s safe and happy in a residential home.

But when all’s said and done, the Bureaucrat didn’t need to speak to me in such an insulting and dismissive tone of voice! He could have presented things in a polite and sympathetic way. But it’s not all bad. Now I know how the Bureaucrats think, if I have to deal with them again in the future, I’ll be prepared.

 

 

I haven’t been writing my blog

Life has been getting more and more intense here. Some things have been good but mostly things have gone down hill. A couple of months ago, mum had a fall. She was standing at the top of a low flight of two steps with a handrail that leads from the sunroom back into the house. She loves to sit in this room because it looks out on the garden. She had gained the top step when her legs gave way and she toppled backwards. Luckily – or was it unluckily? – I was standing behind her. I caught her: I had to. I took her weight and tried to manoeuvre her until she could safely sit down on one of the lower steps. She was a dead weight, not helping me, not doing anything except thrashing about like a beached whale. But if I’d let her go, she’d have gone backwards down the steps and who knows what further injury she would have received.

As I half supported, half dragged her into a safe position, I thought: I’m going to give myself a hernia! And at that point, I did indeed feel some thing internal fall out of place. It was not a good feeling. When the paramedics came, they were busy examining mum – who was absolutely unhurt. I said, several times, that I was the one who’d received an injury. They were very dismissive – said: oh it’ll just be something mechanical. Yeah right. Since then, I’ve been slowly coming to the terms with the fact that something is very wrong. I will almost certainly need to have surgery. If I do, I won’t be able to look after mum any longer. So on the plus side, there’s no further debate to be had, except with her – as she seems quite oblivious to the fact that I’m on the verge of collapse!

While I’m feeling more and more concerned about my own health, mum is becoming even more unsteady on her feet. Every time she stands up, I have to help her – which puts a strain on me and doesn’t help my condition. And now she’s having to stand up more than usual. To add to everything else, mum’s been put on water tablets – which means she has to constantly go to the bathroom to change her incontinence pads. And because the pads we’ve currently been sent by the NHS are not very absorbent we often arrive too late, even with regular monitoring. (Obviously this brand of pads is cheaper). The first day the water tablets kicked in, I had to change her knickers and trousers twice in one day –  apart from the extra washing, removing her trousers involves taking off the complicated calliper-like shoes she wears, so it’s a major task –  I was almost in tears!

I’d like it if mum would take on board that I can no longer take care of her. But she’s resisting it, refusing to hear what I’m telling her. And so, just when I need a bit of TLC, when I want to have my own distress and anxieties acknowledged, I have to work doubly hard and to be doubly disregarded. It’s not easy, in fact it’s almost beyond me.

It hasn’t been all bad. My friends are of course supporting me from afar. I had a great two weeks in France at Easter, staying with my friends in Paris and then meeting up with an old pal from Sydney – we visited the amazing prehistoric alignments around Carnac in Brittany and what remains of the magical Forest of Broceliande, home of the Arthurian legends. I’ve had a few days in London, meeting friends and seeing exhibitions and I’m about to go and visit an old friend in Scotland followed by a few days in London. So, I can just about keep my sanity.

Every day, I intend to write a blog but by the evening, I just don’t have the energy. I have managed to write this one, but against a background litany of mum wanting to know where I am, why I’m not watching tv with her, if I’m all right because I’m very quiet (!) etc etc. So I’d better post this while I have the chance!

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Mum has a bacon sandwich and I have a narrow escape

Mum really enjoyed the visit from my brother and his partner. She enjoyed having different people to talk to.  But then, two fresh, temporary carers have to be better than one grumpy, monosyllabic daughter.

She also enjoyed a change of diet. She had bacon sandwiches – which she likes very much, but which she never gets from me because I don’t eat bacon and won’t cook it; she had sausage and mash – which she also likes. But although I will cook her sausages (in a different pan from my veggie ones!) I get bored mashing the potatoes. Mum complained so much about how my mash was so lumpy that I now refuse to do it; and she also had take-away fish and chips – which I do eat, but can’t provide as I don’t have a car to go and fetch them.

For my brother and his partner it was a novelty; after two nights, they could leave and go back to their own lives. And as brother admitted, they did not have to deal with any messy ‘events’. Well, good, I’ve already booked them in for a second visit.

Just being able to walk away from the house, knowing mum would be 100% looked after, made a huge difference. To be able to hand over the responsibility of mum’s care to my brother and head off to the station, felt like I’d laid down a burden. And even though my break lasted little more than 48 hours I felt much better for it, with more energy to carry on with what is an increasingly heavy task of sheer drudgery.

I spent my free time in London. I stayed with my South London pals, one of whom I’ve known since school.  It was so civilised not having to get up at the crack of dawn, get mum changed and then make a dash for the station, praying the train would be running. It was so relaxing to be plied with delicious food and sensible conversation the evening before. Then, the next morning, to eat a leisurely breakfast and get a bus over the river. We were meeting up with two other old school friends at the Tate Gallery. We planned to see the new retrospective exhibition of David Hockney. When I walked into the exhibition, I almost burst into tears. I felt as if I’d found my identity once more; that I was again a person I recognised, the sort of person who goes to art galleries. And I’ll say in brackets that the next morning, before I returned here, we went to see another exhibition, this time of Vanessa Bell, which was equally wonderful, although in a very different way.

But back to our rendezvous at the Tate. After lunch, we couldn’t decide what to do next. One of us wanted to check out a nearby boutique that sells individual, crafted jewellery; then someone else suggested we went to a cafe she’d discovered that was just round the corner. But the cafe had closed down. We dithered, trying to decide what to do next.

We discussed getting a bus over to the South Bank. If we’d done that, we’d have gone round Parliament Square and crossed Westminster Bridge sometime around 2.30pm. When we talked about it later, we couldn’t remember why we’d suddenly changed our minds. But out of the blue, we decided to return to the Tate and have coffee there. Just after 2.30pm, a mad man drove his car into a crowd of innocent bystanders on Westminster Bridge. He killed a policeman outside the Houses of Parliament and was then killed himself. If we’d got that bus, we might well have been caught up in the mayhem. As it was, the Gallery was just outside the locked-down, cordoned off area and we all managed to get home safely.

I don’t know whether I believe in Guardian Angels, but I certainly feel like I had a narrow escape!

By the way, I apologise for not posting sooner but I had some IT issues and I just didn’t have the mental energy to sort them out…until now!

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…..

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!