I didn’t mean to disappear, but it’s been quite a week, and now I have a story to tell …..

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.

42 responses

  1. Thinking of you, Jane. The nursing home handled this very poorly indeed. But you are right to focus on your mother’s needs first, and wage war against the system later. These issues are so difficult to navigate and manage (I’ve had my indoctrination over the past year) — I’ll keep you in my thoughts and I’m sure others will do the same.

    • Thank you, Laura. I know that yours is the voice of experience, and you’re quite right. I’m focusing on supporting my mother, and being thankful that I have an understanding employer and that there are some wonderful people in the caring professions still.

  2. Hello Jane. I have been an avid reader of your blog for awhile now and have enjoyed reading your posts. I often contemplated commenting but reading your post today compelled me to write ~ Although I do not reside in G.B. I am very familiar with it and keep an eye on all sorts of social and political issues there ~ I know I would be devastated, to say the least, if I was in your position ~ It seems more and more that these types of things are happening and the more our society places value on economic gain and profit the more we see these less than humane situations. I know first and foremost you will be focused on re-locating and getting your poor mother settled as best as possible but hope once you have assured yourself that she is to continue to get good quality care, you will write those letters and make the calls to the powers that be . The sheer ineptness and seeming callous and lack of empathy in respect to how this was handled is appalling really and cannot see what possible valid excuse they could come up with . Surely they knew for some time that things were precarious ~ something similar happened with the school I sent my daughter to years ago. They only notified the parents the school was broke and would be closing with less than a months notice . We were powerless and left to our own devices. My thoughts are with you and your mother and hope for the best outcome possible for you both. Thank you too for the enjoyment you bring with your posts.

    • Thank you for your kind words and for your understanding. There’s something that kicks in at times like this – you with your daughter and me with my mother – and makes us do what has to be done. My mother is my priority at the moment, but I am formulating questions and planning to write some letters and do what I can to draw attention to the issues.

  3. The world of elder care and nursing homes is so complicated, and so unreasonable at times, isn’t it? I don’t have as much direct responsibility for my father’s care as you do for your mom’s, but I do have tremendous sympathy and respect for the efforts you have to make, and I’m shaking my head at what has happened. Wishing you and your mom all the best!

    • At one level I don’t have responsibility – the authorities would sort everything out – but I’m involved because I know my mother better that they do, and because she finds it difficult to understand and remember what’s happening and to explain her feelings. Sometimes you just have to do these things.

  4. Good luck with the transfer of care. How awful and that it all has happened so quickly without adequate notice. Older people find change difficult but it sounds as though your Mother is being quite positive about it 🙂

    • Fortunately my mother has always been gregarious and that will help her, but she doesn’t entirely understand what is happening and the change, and parting company with friends and staff, will be unsettling. Thank you.

  5. I sympathise with you so much Jane – I have a 91 year old mother in law who is still at home, but has bouts of ill health and hospitalisation. It’s so hard to know what to do. I’m just appalled that you and your mother should be treated like this, and I do hope you get things sorted out for the best for her. Sending best wishes.

    • It’s lovely that you can support your mother in law at home, but it must be difficult. I feel that I’m doing a job I’m not really qualified for, but social services have been at the home full time sorting things out and I think that once she gets over the change the new home will suit my mum. But I’m still upset that she and the other residents have been put through this.

  6. That’s horrible! I’m so sorry that you are dealing with this but glad that you have a support system. I hope the new facility is just as good as the one that’s closing. And you and your mom find a community there too. I hope that the appropriate governmental authorities get involved with the closing facility. What they’ve done to their residents is shameful.

    • The authorities are handling things very well, and they picked out a few possible new homes, because I really didn’t feel I had the expertise. The one I chose is seems very friendly and homely, and I think it will suit my mum. She comes first, but I will make some noise about what’s happened too.

  7. Oh Jane what an awful situation. I do hope you manage to settle your mum happily in the new place. Well done for dealing with such a difficult time so calmly and sensitively. I can Understand your sadness over the whole thing. There certainly are questions which need to be answered.

  8. I’m so sorry to hear about this, Jane. It sounds as though the situation has been handled very badly and I can’t believe they would do something like this at such short notice. I wish you and your mother the best of luck.

    • Things have been handled badly by the owners. I think they tried to ride out their problems and failed, and then, because they aren’t involved with care on a day to day basis, that forgot how huge the ramifications of their failure would be. Fortunately the staff and social services are doing a great job

  9. What an awful situation – shame on them. My fingers are crossed that the interim plans you’ve had to make this week work out for your mum and you. Sending hugs and best wishes

  10. I’m so sorry to hear this. My mom is in a nursing home too, and I often fret over this exact situation happening. Much strength and hope to you and your mom. I am crossing my fingers the place you see next week is a good one.

    • it’s difficult sometimes to know what to do for the best, when you have to be both daughter and responsible adult, isn’t it? I’m confident in the new home, but the change will be difficult. Fortunately situations like this are rare, and I do hope that your mom’s nursing home will be there for her as long as she needs it.

  11. Sounds like you are more in control than you think with all the difficult decisions. Remember to take care of yourself and before long things should be settled for you. Change is always difficult but hopefully your mother will adjust, as will you and new friends made. Take care of yourself.

    • I think there’s some sort of survival instinct that kicks in at times like this. We know where my mother is going now, her care notes will be passed on, and I’ve passed on some things from a family perspective and made sure the new home knows they can call me if they need to. They’ve helped people through changes before and I’m sure they can do it again, but it’s hard not to worry,

  12. Jane, adding my concern and best wishes. I am glad that you were able to find a possible new place and I hope the tour goes well, and that your mother can be moved & settled as quickly and easily as possible. You seem to be coping amazingly well and I’m sure that is helping your mother even more than you know.

    • Sometimes you just have to cope, because there’s nothing else that you can do. It’s helped that the authorities and the nursing home staff have been supportive, and now the decisions have been made I have to stand back, let them get on with things, and get back to being a daughter again.

  13. Jane, sadly this highlights much of what is being talked about in the press seemingly daily. I hope that transition for you and your mum is easy and that Briar also helps where he can. I hope some answers are provided for you and also for those poor souls who are losing their jobs.

    Hold on to your inner strength and come back when you are ready.

    • There are big questions here about the funding of care, but for now I have to focus on my mum, The professionals are doing a good job, I’ve let them know that they can call on me, and I know the change will be difficult but I also know that we’ve done everything we can.

    • It would have been best for her – and for other residents who are more frail and less equipped to deal with change – if they could have stayed where they were, but I think the new home my mum will be going to is the best of the available choices.

    • It’s been upsetting for everyone, but the way residents, staff and families have worked together has been wonderful. I’m sure my mother will settle in her new home, but it’s going to take time.

  14. I’m a regular reader of your blog and feel I know you, Jane. I’m sorry for this distress. It’s hard enough managing the needs and affairs of elderly parents; makes this sort of thing doubly disturbing. I wish you and your mother well and trust that you all will make more friends and memories in your mother’s new home. Take good care.

    • Thank you Kathy, it’s lovely to find out who is out there reading. My mother is quite sociable, and I hope that will help her to get through the change, and to make those new friends and memories

  15. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this. It is heartbreaking to read all your stories and I hope that everyone manages to find something suitable soon. Good luck for the coming weeks.

    • I’ve seen this kind of story on the news from time to time, but it’s only now I’m on the spot that I realise how huge the impact is, and how difficult a change of home can be. Everyone has somewhere now, and the lady with the mobility scooter did get that place.

    • The owners have behaved badly, but the staff and the authorities have worked hard to work things out. The change will be difficult, but I think that the new home is the best one available for someone with my mum’s needs and hopefully with time and care she will settle in well.

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