Wednesday 24 March 2010

The home strait

Back in January, when I was visiting my mother at the residential home where she was a resident, the manager took me to one side and had a chat with me about my mother. She explained in what can best be described as carer jargon that the staff at the residential home were struggling to cope with my mother's 'needs'. At first I did not quite understand what she was saying. Then the penny dropped. The manager was telling me that my mother had deteriorated to the point where I needed to consider moving her into a nursing home. I asked if the could move Mum into the nursing home next door, which is run by the same company. Yes, they could do that, but would check all possibilities that could be behind her apparent deterioration before they decided to move her. The next time that I saw the home manager she said that Mum had improved, which led me to think that the possibility of a move to the nursing home had been cancelled or rather postponed .

On another visit I was a bit disturbed when the carers asked me to take my mother's rings off her, as they are now too big for the ring finger on her left hand. Apparently she had been playing with them and had lost her engagement ring down the back of a chair. I managed to get her eternity and engagement rings off her on the pretext that I would clean them for her. She still has her wedding ring. Now my jewellery cleaning solution looks as if a dust pan has been emptied into it from all the gunk that came out of the rings. It was a bit of a shock to realise that Mum will never wear her rings again. They have been valued and are now hidden in a safe place.

A few weeks later I suppose that I should not have been surprised, but I was, to get a phone call asking me to go and have a look at a room in the nursing home. Although not perfect the room is pleasant, on the top floor under the eaves, with a lovely view of the surrounding countryside, the Dee estuary and the Welsh hills beyond, but I very much doubt that my mother is going to notice it. I did try to take a photograph of the view but the window only opens about one inch and when I tried to open it further an alarm went off! I quickly shut it. However, the alarm continued to ring, so I think that something else must have set it off. The room was newly decorated and a bit bare, so I though what a nice touch, when I went up to Mum's room a couple of weeks ago, to see a rug on the floor. As I tidied up Mum's clothes I stood on the rug and again noticed an alarm going off. Thinking nothing of it I carried on. Then there was a knock on the door. It was carer come to switch off the alarm. The rug is more of a mat, there to detect when Mum gets out of bed in the night. Since then I have avoided walking on the rug/mat.

The move into the nursing home took place about a month ago and Mum now seems to have settled into it. I have been to visit her several times and have found that many of the residents from the residential home are now in the nursing home. It has a captive audience, but it has certainly made my life easier. As it was only a year ago that I was looking at residential homes for my mother. Choosing this particular residential home has certainly been the right decision and has saved me the hassle and aggravation of having to find a nursing home now that Mum's dementia has progressed to the point that she needs nursing care. Then there would have been the upheaval of moving my very confused and now practically immobile mother. Sadly we are now on the last lap, the final furlong, the home strait. However you look it, the end is coming into view. By anybody's standards my mother has had a good innings. She was born two months premature long before the days of incubators and last month she celebrated her 91st birthday. The nursing home staff are brilliant with her and we are not having to start all over again with the staff getting to know her likes and dislikes etc. I would hate to have to do their job, but I am so grateful that they are prepared to do it.

One crumb of comfort in this whole debacle is that my mother always knows me when I visit her once or twice a week. But she does not know my brother, the son on whom she doted for so long. He visits about once every two months and has been asked 'do I know you?' and 'are you my father/husband/brother?' So much for dementia being short term memory loss!

Thank you for all of your comments on the previous post. The DWP have taken four weeks to stop paying Mum's benefits to me. In that time I have hung onto what had been paid to me and have built up a cushion which I hope will last for as long as Mum needs it. I intend to send onto my brother the larger bills and invoices for him to pay.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

A Family at War

There must be something in the air and it is not Spring. It is just over a year since I wrote the post Happy Families about the turmoil within my family. Now I find myself penning another post along the same lines. What is it, I wonder, about this time of the year? After I brought my mother up to Cheshire from Sussex, in April last year my relationship with my brother improved and recently when he has visited my mother I have invited him back here for a cup of tea. Only a few weeks ago the two of us enjoyed a chat and a cup of tea in our snug. Little did I know that behind the scenes he was up to his old tricks. I now regret that second chance that I gave him. I should have known that a leopard does not change its' spots.

Last month one Saturday morning there was a telephone call for me, just as I was sitting down to breakfast. I know that we are not early risers at the weekend but this call was from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). I thought that they were a Monday to Friday 9-5 operation. And this is the second time in a few months that they have phoned me at this time on a Saturday. It won't happen again. The phone now stays switched off, at the weekend, until after we have had breakfast. Husband watched with puzzled concern as he listened to my half of the conversation. My brother had written to the DWP asking for my mother's benefits to be paid to him. I was furious. When I managed to get my mother into a residential home near to me in Cheshire, he agreed that I would be responsible for my mother's welfare which strictly speaking includes her benefits. At that time the only benefit that she was getting was the state pension as my brother had not bothered to apply for the attendance allowance to which she was also entitled by virtue of being over 65 and having a long term health problem. So it was me who went to the trouble of completing the lengthy application form, on my mother's behalf for attendance allowance. After weeks of deliberation the DWP awarded my mother attendance allowance and decided to pay it to me, in the full knowledge that my brother was in the process of registering Power of Attorney in my mother's name. DWP rules meant that Mum's state pension would also be paid to me. Up until then that had been paid into my mother's account, which my brother had access to.

I use the money to pay for any clothes that my mother needs, toiletries, sweets, hairdressing, chiropody and dental charges and at the end of each month I have transferred the unspent money into my mother's bank account, which meant that my brother had access to it albeit a week or two later than if it was paid to him. But that is not good enough for my brother. He wants the benefits paid to him, which means that I have to spend my money, rather than my mother's money, on my mother. Then claim back from him what I have spent. Since I brought my mother up here my part time job has become very part time, as I have had to turn down some offers of work, which means that I really do not earn enough to support the level of spending necessary some months. As it is I have to buy everything for my mother separately and keep the receipts. Claiming back what I have spent is another unnecessary hurdle in my already complicated life. How much money does he need? He already has access to my parents/mother's savings and now that my mother's bungalow has sold, he has the six figure proceeds from that to think about. I know that he pays the care home fees out of the savings, but does he really need Mum's benefits as well? It is a matter of principal and I have to ask myself how much lower can he stoop?

The DWP have advised me that benefits do not have to be paid to the holder of Power of Attorney, but because my brother has asked for them to be paid to him they have to do so.

Monday 8 March 2010

Make do and mend

My previous post, Christo's Legacy, was a post too far for my ageing laptop computer. The photographs were slow to load and as I was putting the finishing touches to the post, blogger swallowed half if it. My attempt to resurrect it, from the ruins that I was left with, were in vain. I had to remove all of the photographs and start again, which meant that time that I had allocated for visiting was used for post writing. A couple of days later I had more problems when I was trying to re-arrange the widgets on my sidebar. The widgets were all over the place, including places that I would never get them into, if that was where I wanted them to go. At this point husband decided that we would look at blogger's help pages. We found that other bloggers were having similar problems but there did not appear to be a solution to the problems. Then just as we were putting the laptop to bed for the night it expired on us. The following day husband decided, after fiddling with it, that the hard drive had gone. Perhaps blogger was not to blame for the problems after all.

I was slightly dismayed when husband talked about repairing my laptop. This is the third time that it has let me down in the last nine months. It is husband's hand me down and is approaching five years old. I am not sure what that equates to in human years. About pensionable age I would imagine. Last time that it let me down, we had agreed that the next time it let me down, that it would be replaced. So husband reluctantly agreed that I could have a new laptop but he was also going to repair the old one and sell it. I was expecting a trip to PC World but no, husband maintained that a higher spec. less expensive laptop could be bought via the Internet, which is what we did with a two day delivery. I saw the brown and gold UPS delivery van reversing down the lane, from the bedroom window, and husband was standing on the doorstep before the driver had got down the path. The box was opened in the kitchen and as I was about to put the packaging in the recycling bag, I thought perhaps we should keep this in case it doesn't work. Husband set about commissioning the laptop, but you have probably guessed by now that it didn't work and it was soon back in the packaging which thankfully we had not had to fish out of the rubbish. So that hard drive, that husband had ordered, came in useful after all and my ageing laptop has had yet another reprieve and is back in business. But before it has chance to let me down again I intend to replace it. However, for now I am going to catch up with all of your posts.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Christo's Legacy

Last year when I posted about a visit to the Great Dixter garden of the late Christopher Lloyd some bloggers said that they would have liked to see more photos of the garden. Today would have been Christopher Lloyd's birthday and I have decided to post some more photos from that beautiful day in May, when we visited Great Dixter.

Christopher Lloyd, or Christo to his friends, was born in 1921 and died on 24 January 2006. After gaining a degree in horticulture, he taught, then wrote gardening columns before writing his many gardening books and maintaining the gardens at Great Dixter, where he lived all his life. He developed a flamboyant gardening style, with a bold use of colour, which was widely admired by many in the gardening world. Today the garden at Great Dixter is in the capable hands of Fergus Garrett, the head gardener appointed by Christopher Lloyd. In September last year Fergus Garrett was the guest speaker at the local horticultural society, that husband and I belong to. He spoke passionately for, one hour, about the garden at Great Dixter with only the aid of slides. He had no notes and there was not one or

As it was the beginning of May at the time of our visit, I had expected that there would not be much to see in the garden at Great Dixter, but we were pleasantly surprised. The garden was a riot of colour with tulips, alliums, paeonies, honesty, lilac, bergenias, wallflowers and forget me nots all going great guns, and I was pleased to notice that there were even a few weeds!

Having paid our entrance fee, the first area of the garden that we came across was the Sunk Garden with the Barn to the side. (Please click on the photographs to enlarge).

To the side of the Sunk Garden is the Oast House

and the Walled Garden.

From the Walled Garden we went into the house, parts of which date back to around 1460. The house was extended for Christopher Lloyd's father, by the Edwardian architect Edwin Lutyens. We were only allowed into three rooms in the house and photographs were not permitted.

Outside the house and in the garden again, we found ourselves in the Topiary Garden.

From the Topiary Garden the path took us to the High Garden.

Then we walked through the Orchard Garden, which I do not appear to have photographed,and onto the famous Long Border.

After all that we made our way to the shop where we bought our first ice creams of the year, sat in the sun to eat them and resolved to return at a different time of year to see the garden when other plants would be in flower.

The Great Dixter house and gardens are now run as a charitable trust.