The Revelation

I bumped into some old friends today. They were about to go for coffee and asked me to join. I couldn’t, I just clammed up, I couldn’t speak, I felt my skin crawling and a deep and overwhelming discomfort washing over me. I walked away, muttering something about work, dropped some bread into my partner’s shop, nearly cried because I thought I had lost a five-pound note, rushed home and just sat and cried and shook.

This is not normal behaviour! However, this is the behaviour of someone who has reached a point so overwhelming that it is impossible to even try to remove your feet from the tarlike emotional quagmire that you are in.

So what was this final, insurmountable breaking point? My dad has been diagnosed with aggressive skin cancer and will be operated on as a matter of emergency. He’s nearly 78, you can expect him to have illnesses and to die at some point, probably soon. So why would this be the thing that tips the balance and that would stop me from functioning as I had previously done? It’s all the responsibility.

I feel that it’s probably time to put all of this into perspective. While I understand that everyone has issues and problems that they need to deal with, that break their hearts and sometimes their souls, I just can’t help but think that I’ve had enough already. I’m sick of the responsibility.

My mum died when I was 26, she’d been an alcoholic since she’d lost her own parents when I was 4. As a kid, aside from having to explain away to people why she was seeing black cats and moving ceilings, I also had to deal with her hospitalisation in a mental asylum and other spells in various hospitals and institutions. I was asked to meet her psychiatrist when I was 10 and forced to go and sit in a waiting room every day for the whole of a school holidays. They had a nice hot chocolate machine.

As I became a teenager, she drank more and became more violent, it was awful. I would sleep on friend’s sofas and spare beds (charitably allowed by their parents) and when the worst came to it I would sleep in my car (once I had one). There were times when I would get drunk and wade into the sea at parties and as a result I was dubbed “a bit intense”. It was my coping mechanism.

When I became an adult and swiftly moved out, my dad decided that he didn’t want to take responsibility for her either. Cue last-minute dashes to hospitals because she was suffering from jaundice, it was odd for her not to recognise her only child, or the time dad was hospitalised during my finals and mum went cold turkey, ringing me every 10 minutes, begging for me to buy her alcohol. By the time I had managed to move 25 miles away, Social Services would be ringing me to ask if she could live at my house. She never came to visit any of my houses or saw me graduate.

So when she died, my private therapist said that I looked like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

Cue a 6 year horrific and abusive relationship with a horrible and violent man.

That’s enough right? Surely that has to be enough.

In the last 12 months my father has been diagnosed with cancer twice. The first time led me to desperately google sperm donors in a fear that I would be left as the last one standing from my family. I have been cheated on, I have been made redundant, lost my home and my dad has been in hospital since February. I’ve had to choose a home for him whilst also moving in with my partner, juggle starting a new business while trying not to look like an awful daughter, jump through endless hoops, shout at people, not shout at people and generally try to hold it all together.

The tipping point actually wasn’t cancer, it was the delivery of the wrong air mattress, but that isn’t really what started the whole shaking thing.

That was the insurmountable knowledge that there is more to come. That this is just the beginning. How much good will does one person use up before people start becoming bored? At what point do platitudes lose their significance (I know that I’ve been guilty of a grimace when I’ve spotted someone who always seems to be down on their luck)? And actually, how long before I catch a break? I’ve always joked that I don’t have kids because I have too many other responsibilities, but you know what, it’s not a joke, it’s true. When can I finally have a holiday without worrying about a parent? When can I have a week that doesn’t involve a phone call about them (yesterday I received more calls about my dad than I did of people actually wanting to talk to me)?

You know what, I know that others have it worse, others have no roof over their heads or are the ones with the horrific illnesses, but this makes it worse, because it makes me feel selfish.

And there you have it, I’m damned if I feel bad and I’m damned if I don’t.

 

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My elderly parent

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This post is born from frustration and is dedicated to all children and spouses in a similar situation!

This is my 77 year old father. It’s his birthday this month. He’s rather sweet and lovely. He is in hospital. I’m not sure when he will go home, if he will go home or where he will go if he doesn’t go home. Here is why.

On 17th February this year I was woken by a phone call. It was the care line that runs my dad’s emergency care button. “He’s fallen over” they said, “could you go and pick him up or check on him?” I thought for a second and then asked them if they had thought about ringing an ambulance. “Oh,” they said “do you think we should?”

I got dressed and drove to my dad’s. There was a paramedic there and my dad was on the floor, he’d managed to wedge himself between his freezer and a worktop. He was in a lot of pain. The single paramedic couldn’t lift him and had called for backup. We waited and waited, my dad stayed on the cold floor. He never complains and yet there he was moaning, whimpering.

An hour later he was in A&E at the QEQM in Margate. I found it worrying that I had stopped to buy fuel on the way to the hospital and yet managed to arrive before him. The overworked A&E staff undressed him and put him in a bay. We sat and sat. Dad was on morphine by this point and still in a lot of pain.

After 4 hours, we finally were sent for x-rays. The porter on the way back wheeled my dad’s trolley into a wall. “It’s ok”, he said, “I’m leaving the job anyway. I’m just not really into the job anymore”

It turned out that dad’s arm was broken, however he was still in a huge amount of pain. They decided to discharge him. I had to question how they thought that my father could be discharged. He is blind, unstable on his feet at the best of times, had a broken arm and was whimpering about a pain in his leg. The hospital sent in a physiotherapist. “You’ve been in here recently.” “No” replied my dad. “Yes, you have, I recognise you from the dressing on your head!” (He hadn’t been in the hospital) The physio gave my dad a lecture about falling over and told him to move his leg. My dad couldn’t, he was in pain. He moaned and cried. The physio left. At this point it was revealed that my dad also had a broken pelvis. I left the hospital, drove home and cried. We had been in A&E for 13 hours!

The next day I went to visit him. The ward staff told me that they were going to get my dad walking on crutches. I was astonished, “But he has a broken arm!”, “No, he doesn’t, it’s just twisted.” Dad was cold, tired and confused. “How can I walk? I’m in so much pain”

The following week the hospital decided that dad needed a blood transfusion. They repeatedly attempted to put a cannula in his arm. When they finally tried to transfuse blood, it didn’t work and the blood came out everywhere. My dad begged them to stop. “This is Mr Scott,” the junior doctor said on the ward the next day, “he refused a blood transfusion yesterday.” My dad looked at me, “I’m starting to get a bad reputation and I’ve wasted blood.” “That’s ok Dad, I’ve donated 21 pints so we have plenty in the bank.”

In total the hospital moved my dad’s ward 4 times without notifying me. They spelt his name wrong on the board above his bed. It was upsetting. At one point they even put him in a room on his own with no stimulation (Dad is registered blind). One afternoon I arrived to find that they had sent a home in Deal (35 miles from his home) to come and take him. He refused to go. Good on him. Another day a hospital worker had decided to make a joke about dad’s bladder cancer. Apparently, he wees too much in the night!

Finally, he was moved to Faversham Hospital for aftercare. Much closer to home, much easier to visit. It was designed as a step down. I sat and chatted with my dad. He was worried to go home. I would have been too, he could fall at any time. We discussed his options. We decided to rent out his house to pay for care and to see what happened, possibly even to buy a sheltered flat for him. He was using a zimmer frame to get about and I’d bought him some nice “sticky” shoes to keep him upright.

Finally, last week a social worker came to visit him. She assessed him. My dad and I are yet to read the assessment, but apparently my dad said that he wanted to go in a home. When the social worker heard how many savings my dad had, she told him that he could keep his house. That was nice, right. She also told him that a home would cost my dad £1000 a week. He worked out the maths. He could keep a roof over his head for 4 1/2 years.

She rang me the next day, “He definitely wants to go in a home” she said. I asked her about sheltered housing. “No, definitely a home!” I asked if they had any prefered homes, the CQC reports are always frustratingly different from the websites that we see online. “No, no prefered homes. We don’t like to show preferential treatment.” I asked again about sheltered housing, the reply was negative. I was also told that my dad needed to be discharged into a home. There was no idea given of when the discharge would be. She said she’d leave me a list of homes with vacancies.

I went and spoke to my dad. He quite liked the idea of sheltered housing. For the same price as a home I could get him take away every night and privately funded carers to check on him. For the price of a home we could get a Michelin starred lunch every week. We agreed, go in a home temporarily and then maybe a sheltered flat. Dad was pretty definite that he wouldn’t be going home. His physios had told him so.

The list of homes didn’t arrive!

This morning I received a phone call from an occupational therapist telling me that my dad wanted to go home…..to his house. They wanted to assess his house for his discharge….which should have been today! “What?”

Now I’ve just had his social worker calling to tell me that she’d left a list of homes for him on the ward for me to collect!

I’m confused. For want of sounding like a terrible daughter, he can’t go home. I am an only child, I have no cousins, aunts, uncles or children to help me with any of this. The responsibility for my father’s future has been plonked firmly in my hands, with confusing and conflicting advice from so called professionals. My father and I have been patronised and dupped. How am I supposed to decide the well being of a sentient, sane and intelligent human being, who’s body is failing him? Where is my advice, my support, his support? Why is my dad being treated like a senile old man?

I complained about his treatment in hospital, nothing happened. I’ll probably complain about his discharge, nothing will happen. If my dad was my age, I question if he would have been treated in the same manner as this. If it was me, would I be going through the same treatment?

Rant ends.