I only meant to be away for a couple of days. I planned to focus on some complicated work things for a couple of days and then catch up with the bookish side of life at the weekend.
And I was on track, until Saturday, when an unexpected piece of news knocked me sideways.
I was visiting my mother in her nursing home on Saturday morning, as usual. One of the staff said you, “You don’t know what happened yesterday, do you?” I didn’t know and so she took me downstairs to see the owner.
I was told that the nursing home would be closing on 7th August.
There had been no warning, there had been no attempt to invite me to the meeting that happened the day before, and there was less than half of the 28 days minimum notice required by law.
One of the owners told me that she and her partner had been having a terrible time, that social services were impossible to deal with, that income hadn’t kept with costs, that the costs of agency nurses needed to provide cover was ridiculous, that their health had been affected …
And maybe all of that was true, but it wasn’t what my mother’s daughter needed to hear, and it wasn’t what a nursing home owner with one ounce of compassion should have been saying at that particular moment.
My mother is physically and mentally frail, she didn’t fully understand the consequences of what was happening, how much would have to be sorted out so quickly, and so I kept calm and tried to chat with her as I usually would.
This week I’ve had to take time off work to deal with social services, to call and visit possible new homes, and to spend time with my mother. It’s lucky that I have an understanding employer.
Social Services identified three possible homes that would suit my mother’s needs and I picked the one that I think will suit her best. A small home, with sea views, not too far from home. I’m going to see it tomorrow and then I shall go and see my mother and tell her about it. She’d like to go herself but it isn’t really practical.
The staff at my mother’s nursing home and social services have such a huge job on their hands, keeping things going, assessing people’s need, finding them the right places.
We have been lucky, but it’s been a painful and emotional week.
I’m not using names, because I want to protect people’s privacy, but there are so many stories.
A lady who comes in daily, on a mobility scooter to visit her husband. I shall miss seeing them sitting together, quietly and companionably, with the understanding that comes with years of marriage. She was so worried that her husband would be sent somewhere she couldn’t reach, but yeasterday she heard that they had the last place in the home she had hoped for…
A lady who is in her nineties, who has become very, very frail in recent weeks, and her daughter still doesn’t know where she will be going …
A lady who first came to the home to visit her husband, who later moved in herself, who doesn’t want to leave the home that holds so many memories. But she knows that she has to, and there is no place for her in her home town …
There has been such a wonderful atmosphere in my mothers home: it has been a loving, caring, supportive family home, and it really is heartbreaking that it won’t be there next week.
I’ll miss visiting and spending time in the lounge, and so will Briar who has made many friends.
It’s hard to put my feelings into words, so I’m going to quote a county councillor who said exactly the right thing.
“The closure of this home with just two weeks’ warning is disgraceful. Even the legal minimum of four weeks’ notice would be traumatic enough. The residents there are very frail and elderly. This is putting them under too much strain. The company involved should have taken its responsibility to these people far more seriously.”
My mother is taking things quite well, but she doesn’t fully understand what is going on and that she probably won’t see many of the friends she has made again. I do her worrying for her, and I fear that it will hit her when she wakes up in a strange bed, or when something is bothering her and she looks for a familiar face.
Last year, in the spring, my mother was up and about the house as usual one day and immobile in her bed the next. When she went to her nursing home she was poorly and unhappy, but the care and attention of the staff, and later on the companionship of others who live there, drew her out of herself, and she became the mother I knew again.
She’s much frailler, physically and mentally, and though she misses the promenade she has been quite happy in her new home. I wouldn’t have wanted her to move and, unless she could have come home, nor would she.
And so I owe a huge debt of thanks to the staff who have looked after her, and who are still looking after her now. Thay had no warning, they aren’t sure they are going to be paid, their employer is handling the situation appallingly, and they all deserve much, much better.
I know, of course I do, that there are bigger questions to be asked about funding for nursing homes, and for how we look after an aging population. But for now I have to look after my mother.
But I also I know that, even, if this closure was inevitable it was badly handled.
And I know that there are unanswered questions.
Here’s one of them. Why, when staff and residents were told on Friday, when the letter and minutes I received (finally) on Tuesday confirmed that, why has the media been told that the news was broken on Wednesday?
I have more questions to ask, and I have letters to write, but this isn’t the time or the place.
But that is why I’ve not been here.
Bookish business will resume as soon as my head is back in the right place.