D-Day

When our eldest child finished school in 2010, we decided to torture the children by taking them overseas for a month, live in a little French village for 3 weeks, without internet or McDonalds, and enjoy a foreign culture, and learn about some World War II history.  It had been a rough year with the death of both my mother and my father-in-law in the space of five months, and the trip was welcome.  The anniversary of the Normandy landings is 6 June and since that trip I have been quite fascinated by the planning and execution of this battle, and the liberation of France.

This week is one for anniversaries of two D-Days.

My mother died on 10 June 2010.  Today is the anniversary of her death. The events of that morning are indelibly printed on my mind and it took me many months with some professional help, to stop seeing her dead body every tine I closed my eyes.  Nothing in  life, and especially no number of Law and Order episodes, will ever prepare you for having to identify the body of a loved one, or see them taken out of their home in a body bag.

I long ago stopped being sad about the sudden nature of her death – it was, as Dad said at the time, a good way to die; suddenly and without any warning.  Shocking for those left behind but a blessing for the deceased.  Dad, ever faithful, said he was grateful to God for taking Mum the way he did, as he could not have borne her becoming sick or having a stroke.  He hopes the same will happen to him.

I wonder what Mum would be like if she hadn’t died – how she would be with Dad becoming frail and worrying about him.  But they would have been together, keeping each other company.  She would have adored being a great-grandma, spoiling them in her own way by making pikelets and sprinkling sugar on them, cooking rice puddings, and making sure there were leftover rissoles in case they visited, and keeping her ‘brag book’ of photos up to date to show all the people at church.

That was not to be regrettably, although Dad is keeping his ‘brag books’ of his now two great-granddaughters.   However, I do know she would be so proud of Dad coping with all the changes in his life since she died, and hopefully proud of her children for taking care of him, and loving him the way we do.mum and dad

R.I.P Mum

Things I Do For Dad

There is a certain predictability about some of our days, which I like.  Dad goes to church Wednesdays and Sundays.  He likes to go shopping Tuesdays and Fridays –  it’s important to have fresh bananas every few days.  Once a month he goes to the library to change his library books.   The washing is done on Mondays.  Not Tuesdays, nor Wednesdays. He likes routine. As do I.

These days, I have some help from time to time with some of these activities – for example I have found a local Uber driver who does a lot of the driving to and from church, although when he can’t do this, I step in – either doing the driving myself or booking an Uber.  Dad has only given up driving behind the wheel; he still likes to drive from the passenger seat so it can be a little tedious at times.  I also have some help from a wonderful lady from Five Good Friends for a few hours each week.

There are lots of other things I do for Dad to make his life a little easier, such as:

  • Cook all his meals
  • Collect him for dinner at our house once a week
  • Prepare meals ahead of time if I am going to be away (not so often any more!)
  • Go to a shop in the next suburb to purchase the special cheese he likes and his molasses in a squeeze bottle
  • Change the dressing on his ulcer every two days, including cleaning the wound and moisturising
  • Make appointments for him
  • Take him to the doctor, dentist and other specialists
  • Do his buttons up in winter when his fingers struggle with the cold weather
  • Rub cream on his back when his skin gets dry
  • Order things he needs on-line
  • Take him shopping
  • Play cribbage every day (and lose on average 2-1 because he is frustratingly lucky – and clever)
  • Look phone numbers and other information up for him on my phone (‘that’s not just a phone is it dear?‘)
  • Listen patiently while he discusses Oscar’s eating habits, in specific detail
  • Look for Oscar when Dad thinks he has gone missing (he is always asleep somewhere, ignoring us)
  • Take Oscar to the vet and to his holiday accommodation when Dad goes away
  • Help him cut up Oscar’s chicken breast meat into precise sized pieces and put 25 pieces into individual freezer bags, ready for his evening meals
  • Deal with rodents, geckos and birds in the house (thanks Oscar)
  • Clean up the occasional Oscar vomit (see above), which is always on the carpet never on the tiles or timber floors (cats are awesome)
  • Advocate for him with doctors, government and service providers
  • Negotiate with the Insurers when they increase his insurance 30% every year
  • Take him clothes shopping (which includes helping him get changed)
  • Clean out the refrigerator
  • Put the bins out on Sunday nights (my husband and sons help with this too)
  • Fix Foxtel (his fingers sometimes accidentally change the AV source)
  • Source typewriter ribbon for him
  • Replace the correction tape in his typewriter (I need to look this up on Youtube every single time!)
  • Organise the mowing man and tradespeople
  • Take his ironing  home to be done (not by me!)
  • Make him a ginger cake or orange cake so he has an afternoon tea snack with his cup of tea
  • Act as digital carrier pigeon for correspondence with his brother in the UK
  • Post his letters
  • Take him to visit friends on occasion
  • Put his hearing aids in when I remember (so I don’t have to repeat myself three times)
  • Make lots and lots of phone calls and put together colour coded spread sheets should I get the chance to go away

Most importantly, be ready with a hug when he is feeling down.

 

 

 

 

Another trip down memory lane

One of the many privileges of caring for an elderly parent is the many memories that come up in conversation. I appreciate that those caring for parents with dementia may not have this particular pleasure. My dear old dad doesn’t have Facebook or even have a smart phone but today my Facebook memories reminded me that two years ago, Dad (then almost 93) and I travelled to Roma. 

Dad was parish priest at St Paul’s in Roma from 1962-1969, and describes it often as his and Mum’s ‘happiest parish’. He and mum had a young family, it was a vibrant country town, a beautiful cathedral-like church with a congregation that came from both town and properties outside town. They had good friends in a supportive community. 

So it was a lovely surprise for Dad to be invited almost 50 years after he left, to return to Roma to receive the debutantes. Who knew Deb balls were still a thing?  I heard him telling the story to someone just today that when he first told me that he had been invited and asked what I thought, my response was an immediate ‘Let’s go!’.  As much as I wanted to take Dad back to Roma, I was keen to see a relic from the past – the deb ball not dad’s friends.

As well as receiving the debutantes (that was an eye-opener for me – wow, just wow), Dad had the opportunity to catch up with old friends, and visit many places from his younger days, and of course visit St Paul’s.  It is the most beautiful church, and many of my memories are fond ones, even if I was very naughty.  The rectory, in my memory, had a verandah that was high off the ground.  My memory tells me this because I once cycled off it and busted my forehead.  In reality it is about 30cm off the ground.  The organ loft in the church, where I spent a lot of time sitting with my mother, was similarly not high off the ground but almost at ground level.  But the bottle trees that line the streets of Roma are still the same and just as beautiful as I remember them.

My Dad has the most beautiful smile, and I am sure his smile muscles were aching by the end of the weekend.  He still smiles when he talks about it.

collage

debpulpit

If it takes a village I’m the Mayor

As I have said before, it takes a village to care for an elderly person, but every village needs a Mayor and like it or not, I am the Mayor. I’ve never been voted in – I am the only candidate, by force of geography, in my case, and possibly a bossy personality. And probably gender, if research is to be believed.

[Actually I am also the CEO, my own Executive Assistant and oftentimes the CFO.]

A 2014 Princeton study showed that American women ‘stepped up’ twice as often as their brothers to care for elderly parents. Gender plays an important role in who cares for elderly parents. Personally, I’m surprised it took a formal study to discover this to be honest, because almost everyone I know caring for an elderly parent, whether that parent is Dad or Mum, is female. Some of those women are providing care for their husband’s parents, so being a blood relative is not even that important. Women take on the lion’s share of caring duties for the elderly. It’s the circle of life – just as you have pretty much finished caring for children – BOOM – along comes eldercare.

In the process, the emotional and often the financial, burden of caring for elderly parents falls to daughters-carers as well.

The author of the study describes how daughters feel ultimate responsibility about parent care (“But who else is going to do it?”) and also how they feel that their “legitimacy and affection are questioned if they look for alternative sources of parent care”.

“Whether the mechanism operates through internalized values of gender-appropriate behaviour or stigma for gender-deviant behaviour, either view suggests a higher base level of parent caregiving for women”

I gave up my full-time job to care for my Dad – since he stopped driving and had a fall and broke his wrist. I am not the ‘principal breadwinner’ in our household (plus Dad is not my husband’s father), so it was logical for me to do so, but it was an awful decision to have to make (for me) as I loved my work and the sense of fulfilment it gave me, but it was the right one for him. It’s not time yet for him to go into residential care. And yet I find myself still incredibly busy and exhausted. What was a ‘pop in once a day and organise dinner’ thing for dad had turned into sometimes spending four hours a day with him or doing things for him.  I am fortunate that we are in a position for me to be able to do this – many work full-time and care for elderly parents as well.

A quick scan of my friends and acquaintances in similar situations prove the point of this research – by far the majority of people caring for elderly parents are women (and no disrespect to the no doubt many men doing the hard yards, but I’m guessing they are only children or deserve a medal. Or possibly a parade in their honour.

  • The woman who took her very frail mother with her family every Christmas holidays to their beach house because her brother always made plans to go overseas at Christmas. Even on the odd occasion when he was in the country he came on holidays with them.
  • The full-time working woman with three brothers who visit their father once a week, who still does the lion’s share of care for him, including meal preparation, washing, and doctors appointments. One of her brothers lives in the next suburb to her father.
  • The full-time working woman with three children who had to move her mother to a nursing home close to her because her mother demanded to be near to her, even though she had a son, in the same town
  • The woman who purpose-built a granny flat for her mother, and cared for her for 15 years, while working, only to be threatened with legal action by her brother after their mother died because he thought their mother should have had more money in the bank, and assumed she had taken it (!)
  • The woman, whose children had all grown up and left home, whose own parents were both dead, who visited her mother-in-law daily and was almost the only visitor the woman had.

Are we ‘good’ or stupid? Do women have a level of empathy and caring missing in men? Are men only good at doing things that are of personal interest to them, or when asked? Or is this a perpetuation of the myth that women are more nurturing?  Does this also impact on the statistics for part-time vs full-time work, and contribute to the gender pay gap? If a woman earns less than her partner, it makes sense she would be the one to reduce work hours or give up work to care for a parent. Thus perpetuating the gender pay gap, which probably started when they had children.

I don’t know the answers to these questions and don’t have time to find out.  It is what it is, but I suspect most women take that attitude.

In 2015 there were over 2.7 million UNPAID carers in Australia and two-thirds of those were women, according to Carers Australia.

Statistics in Australia bear this imbalance out, even in paid employment. In 2011 the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that workers in the community service industries (which includes aged care), women form the majority of employed staff – 84% in fact, and the age profile shows that it is older women in paid employment in this segment – more than half are over 45 years of age.

Perhaps the old bloke Euripides has been right for centuries:

“To a father growing old nothing is dearer than a daughter”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Residential Aged ‘Care’

I write this in a state of mild rage and frustration.

Over the last two weeks The Australian newspaper has published articles about the state of the Aged Care system in our country.  Last weekend Rick Morton wrote an article titled ‘Adrift in the Uncertain Market For Aged Care’ and this weekend Andrew Burrell wrote ‘Families Demand Action over aged Care Standards‘. This article is currently paywalled but I will link to it in due course.

It seems the corporatisation of the residential aged care sector, much like the child care sector ( and I use the word ‘care’ lightly in both cases), has resulted in reduction of qualified staff, appalling staff patient ratios, and a quest to make millions out of  people least able to speak for themselves, in order to please shareholders.

Some of the examples in this morning’s paper and other investigations are horrendous:

  • A woman, whose husband has dementia, drives 40 minutes each way several times a week to visit him, and found him one day, half-naked, sitting in a chair covered in his own excrement.  He was not in his room – he was in a public area.  She doesn’t know how long he was there.
  • The same woman found him one morning in a sodden incontinence pad, and blood on his sheets from a tear in his scrotum.
  • Elderly patients left on toilets for hours due to staff shortages and fed pureed party pies in order to cut costs.  You can read that horror story here.
  • A resident having urine soaked sheets thrown at him; a resident being made to walk, while screaming in pain, with an undiagnosed broken thigh bone; a resident with undiagnosed pneumonia being taken home only to die a week later.  Those stories from 2015 are here
  • A resident in his mid-eighties left in urine soaked chairs, bed and adult diapers several times, then being sent off to have a circumcision as he kept getting urinary tract infections, and the facility’s doctor thought they would decrease if he was circumcised. The surgery took place while his penis was infected.  He died in agony 6 weeks later after contracting blood poisoning.  He was my maternal grandfather.

Sadly, a Google search with the words ‘Aged Care horror stories’ brings up pages of results.

My own observational experience, as Power of Attorney for my former neighbour, who is now in a nursing home, is not pleasant.  It is a lovely looking facility – lovely grounds, modern and large rooms, aesthetically pleasing.  But they are chronically under-staffed and in the last two years staff have changed so significantly that I rarely see or speak to the same person twice.  Most of the staff are ‘aged care workers’, and English is rarely their first language.  If I can barely understand them, how can elderly, often hard of hearing residents cope?  In a 6 week period she went from being able to get around on her own on a wheely walker, to requiring a hoist to get her from the bed to the bathroom.  Once in the toilet, she then had to wait for someone to remember to come back and get her off again.  No one had called me, but it was obvious to me something significant had happened to her in that 6 week period to cause such a change in mobility.

I firmly believe that there needs to be an emotional connection between the elderly person and the carer or carers in order for appropriate care to be given.  All of the stories above are from relatives of the resident – what happens to those who have no one to look after them, or advocate for them?

This is why I am determined to keep my own father in his own home for as long as humanly possible.  A nursing home is absolutely a last resort.  With the help of providers of in-home care services, this will be possible.  For how long, I don’t know. But I hope and pray that his last days will not be spent in any discomfort feeling like no one cares, while shareholders of listed companies in the business of aged care check the stock market every day.

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Bureaucracy gone mad Part IV – It’s not over

In the early hours of Boxing Day 2016, Dear Old Dad had a fall while feeding Oscar Prince of Cats. Most people would cover their ears at 3am if their cat decided he was hungry but not my Dad.  As he leant down to put Oscar’ food on the floor, he lost his balance and fell hard, fracturing his wrist. But it wasn’t Oscar’s fault. 

That is the preface to this sad and frustrating story. My Uncle, who had been visiting recently, and who is also quite handy, suggested a grab rail on the wall of the kitchen where Dad leans while putting the food down.  Brilliant!!  Why did I not think of this?  I love it when a fresh pair of eyes sees a situation and thinks of a solution. My suggestion that Oscar be fed on the kitchen bench was unsatisfactory – for a number of reasons obviously.  

Genius

In hindsight, it was an act of purest optimism to make the call I then made. There is a quite useful company called Home Assist, which provides subsidised services for the elderly on limited incomes. In our local area, Home Assist is managed by Communify. They had arranged the installation of a grab rail for the toilet, and  a hand railing next to the front stairs, when Dad first moved into his current home. 

So I called and cheerily introduced myself, identified my father, and proved who I was to enable me to speak to them on his behalf.  This is how it went down:

Me:  I would like to arrange for a grab rail to be installed on a wall in my dad’s kitchen.

Janice (not her real name):  I see. Let me check the availability of our occupational therapist to come and do an assessment. 

Me:  (momentary silence while my heart sank, my teeth and fist clenched, and tongue sharpened). I believe he has already had an assessment for this very purpose.

Janice:  How long ago would that have been?

Me:  Approximately 5 years ago – when he had other handrails installed.

Janice:  Oh well, he will need another one. 

Me:  (momentary silence while I rolled my eyes, and took a deep breath). Janice, do you think he has become more agile and less frail between the ages of 89 and 94?  Is this really necessary?

Janice:  Yes. That’s our procedure. 

Me:  (optimistically). Could I send you the ACAT assessment report from just last month to save time?

Janice:  No we have to do our own assessment. 

Me:  (momentary silence, while I close my eyes and unclench my teeth)  Well, I guess I’ll just organise my own tradesman to do it at great expense. I don’t really want my dad to have yet another person coming in to his home and asking him the same questions other alleged service providers have asked him.

Janice:  Well, it that’s what you prefer to do. 

Me:  (sarcasm dripping from my voice). Thanks so much for your help.

I mean – really?  How hard do government subsidised agencies have to make it for the elderly and their carers?  Why would they need to send an occupational therapist out to visit him again, ask the same questions they asked before, to get the same answers, to tick a box, to allow someone to organise a tradesman to come and do the work, when it has been done before?  To keep people in a job?  Imagine how often this happens?  How many elderly people don’t bother because it’s too difficult?  Or takes too long?  I despair, I really do. I thought I was done with the bureaucracy but apparently not.   I don’t expect I will be done for a while either, regrettably.

You can read Parts I, II and III in this series here, here and here.

As it turns out, my handyman works for Communify, and laughed when I told him the story, and expressed some sympathy for my position.  We have already made a time for him to come over and install it.

Honestly, I would take a tranquiliser if I could just unclench my teeth.

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I’m always wasting a good worry.

I can’t recall what made me start being a worrier. My mother once told me that I was born looking worried, but personally I have yet to meet a newborn that doesn’t look like it is terribly concerned about the conflict in the middle east, or the current economic crisis.

As a child, a trip in the car meant that I worried about running out of petrol. A school camp meant I worried about the weather, that I would be cold, or that something would happen to my parents while I was away. Our parents saying we needed a family meeting meant that I worried they were going to tell us they were getting divorced (honestly – they never argued, showed no signs of unhappiness, but that was my first thought).  I read a book once about a young woman with leukaemia – from that moment on, every bruise made me think about the fact that this was the first sign of the disease.

At school I of course worried about exams, my uniform being right, getting a detention (never happened), and that the train bridge across the Brisbane River would choose the very moment my train was going over it to collapse, plunging the train and all of us in it into the Brisbane river. Twice a day five days a week I worried about this and had an escape plan every single time.

I loved the Peanuts cartoons and especially Lucy Van Pelt. In one of my favourites she is talking to Schroeder, telling him that she had worried about an exam all week. She worried and worried and worried and got an A. In the final frame, Lucy says “I wasted a good worry”. This, it seems, was to be my life’s story.

When I became a mother there was so much to worry about I couldn’t possibly list them all. I worried someone would break in and abduct the baby while I was in the shower. I worried they were eating too much or not enough. I worried that a visitor with a cold would end up in a hospital visit for my child.

I’ve not stopped being a worrier, but at least now I more often than not can tell when I’m doing it unnecessarily. And I have a swathe of quotes about worrying to remind me why I shouldn’t:

  • Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere.
  • Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and focus on what could go right
  • Worrying will never change the outcome
  • Worry is a misuse of your imagination
  • I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.

Note – worrying may not change the outcome but I’m confident I’ll be the best prepared in an emergency.  if it happens

I started looking after Dad when he was 88 and to be honest he did not need a lot of looking after then. When Mum died he lived a 45 minute drive away but I made the trip there times a week to drop off meals and assist with the odd thing with which he needed help. But the endless worry about him started the day Mum died. What if he fell and couldn’t call, What if he calls an ambulance and they can’t get in to the house?

As he has become older there are more things about which to worry, which seems to correlate to the level of his movement and independence and general health. Thank goodness he does not have dementia!

  • I worry about him being lonely
  • I worry about him hanging the washing out, as it involves walking down three stairs
  • I worry that, if he hasn’t answered the phone, he is lying on the floor unconscious
  • I worry if he gets a cold, assuming it will turn into pneumonia
  • I worry that something will happen to him when I am away, which means I don’t go away very often unless someone is available to care for him
  • I worry he will fall down the stairs at church
  • I worry about him being too hot or too cold
  • I worry about him falling in the bathroom
  • I worry how he will cope every time there is a change in his circumstances
  • I worry about his finances
  • I worry about the need for him to one day go into a nursing home

I DON’T worry about him driving or any other people on the roads any more thank goodness, as that particular avenue of pleasure has been voluntarily given up. He does however worry about my driving. Maybe it’s genetic.

When he broke his wrist a few months ago I worried about EVERYTHING – how would he dress, undress, shower, eat, balance, cut up Oscar’s chicken meat.

As it turns out, most of the things I worry about are wasted worries, and as I cheerily tell him (while not always believing it myself) – every problem has a solution!

We had an intellectual discussion one day, Dad and I, about the concept of worry and anxiety and he told me that his father had often quoted something to him and his brothers about worry – he couldn’t quite recall the whole thing but said part of it was ‘worry is rust upon the blade’. So out came my iphone for a google search (he always marvels that I carry an encyclopaedia around with me) and I found the quote:

worry

I have left the quote ‘as is’ without attempting to make the language gender neutral.

So what to do? I accept that I am a worrier. I notice when I am worrying and practice not catastrophising to the worst possible scenario. I certainly don’t (to my knowledge) show Dad that I am worried about anything to do with him.  I have started practising meditation to slow down my brain and stop the thousands of small but annoying worries that flit through my bring each day.  As it turns out meditation is a skill that takes a lot of practice.

Worrying about our loved ones is natural.  Oddly I do not worry about him dying – I know this will happen; but it is because I know Dad is not at all worried about dying.  He has such a strong faith and I do believe he is ready.  I just hope he goes to sleep one night and when I don’t get my 7.30 am phone call to let me know he is up and about, and I check up on him, that I find him looking at peace, in eternal sleep.

Lost and Found

I spend a lot of time looking for lost things.  My own, my husband’s, my childrens’.  And especially my father’s things. Mostly I am looking for other people’s belongings, not my own.  After all it is not really lost until Mum can’t find it.  Inevitably – and often quite quickly –  I am successful, but Dad’s garage door remote control defeated me.

When Dear Old Dad gave up driving just before Christmas, I took one of his garage door remote controls to keep in my car, as collecting him for an outing, was much easier if I could drive into the garage, and also easier for him in terms of stairs to be negotiated, concrete ground and shelter from the weather.

This has worked well for a long time until the great meltdown of 2017 where I found that I was having to drive Dad somewhere every day, and sometimes twice a day.   Dad goes to church twice a week; Wednesdays being one of those days.  Uber became the preferred method of transport, once I discovered you can pre-order Ubers.  And then I found a local Uber driver who became a regular driver for Dad. Everything was coming together nicely.  [insert evil genius laugh]

However we have had lot of rain  cyclone blow through town recently and it was necessary for the Uber drivers to drive up Dad’s very steep driveway and into the driveway to collect him. This required Dad to open the garage door with his remote, and take the remote with him to open it again on the return trip.  What could possibly go wrong?

Last Wednesday, the Uber driver collected Dad for church, and I collected Dad from church to take him to a medical appointment. And then we went home, driving up into the garage using my remote control to open the door.

Some days later, he announced that he had lost his remote control.  We retraced steps.  He had used it on Wednesday going to church.  It had been in his pocket.  But didn’t use it on the way home.  I called the driver – not in his car.  I got on my hands and knees and inspected under the seats in my car.  No sign.  Called the doctor’s surgery. Nothing handed in.  Called the church – not there either.  All of this convinced me it was in the house.  I checked the pockets of every pair of pants he owned.  I looked under the bed. In the bins.  Under the desk.  In the corners of couches.  Under papers on the desk.  In the kitchen drawers.  Behind the filing cabinet. In the freaking garden.  It was nowhere to be found.

So I did what any sensible person would do – assume it was lost forever, assume the other one would one day go missing and immediately reach for my phone and google the remote to purchase a replacement.  And I found it immediately on a specialist remote control website.  In fact, they could sell me a generic remote for less than half the price of the real deal.

I love a bargain.  So I bought two, assuming again that at least one would be lost in the future.  It’s why I have a spare wheeling walker in storage and a spare walking stick.  Just in case.  Doesn’t everyone prepare for the worst like this?

After just a couple of days the new remotes arrived and I went back on the website to download the instructions to get the remotes to sync with Dad’s garage door.  It was at this point that I noticed, in very small writing ‘Do not purchase this remote if your remote has the words ‘Merlin +2.0’ on the front.  I knew – I just knew that when I glanced down at the remote in the coin tray in my car what I would see.  Sure enough:

 

remoteremote

I was in the car, parked by the side of the road.  I’m sure the people passing by heard me beating the steering wheel.  Should this not be written in LARGE RED LETTERS rather than small writing as an afterthought?  I called the remote company hoping perhaps there was a mistake (idiot).  Nope – patiently, the man in the ‘people who don’t read instructions department’ explained  I had to send those ones back, order the proper one, pay for it plus express post and I’d be right.  Of course the legitimate remote was twice the price.  I helpfully suggested that they use the LARGE RED LETTERS idea on their website.  He didn’t respond.

Wearily I pointed out to Dad that I had made a mistake but the new remote would be with us soon.

That night we had the family all together for dinner.  I was relating the saga of the lost remote and my son, who had driven Dad to and from church the previous Sunday said ‘Is it black and green?’.  It was in his car.  Dad hadn’t used it on Wednesday; he had not used it since Sunday.

Meanwhile, two new wrong versions of the remote were paid for, sent back with a begging letter for a refund, a new, legitimate remote ordered, paid for, with express post, while the ‘lost’ one, which was never in fact lost, had been sitting in my son’s car, while I went slowly demented trying to find it.

#justkeepswimming

 

 

 

My Father’s Gifts

Today is my birthday.  I am 55.  55!  How did that happen?  It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was turning 21.   My father was almost 40 when I was born so it is always easy to remember how old he is.  He did not marry until late (well, in those days, 30 was considered late), so consequently Mum and Dad’s  four children, including the first who died  were born over a 9 year period until his 40th year.

dad and me

Aren’t we adorable?

My day started today with a cup of tea in bed with some sourdough bread toast, and the paper, one of the cats and the dog in the room with me, and a gift from my husband.  I stayed in bed for a while – a rare occurrence.  But I did get to see Dad early, as today coincided with the need for the ulcer dressing change that has to happen every two days.

He greeted me with his beautiful smile and a big hug as he said ‘Happy Birthday’.  I took off the dressing and sent him off to the shower, then fixed him up afterwards.  This ulcer business is SLOW.  It is almost closed but after four months, it feels like it is going to take another four months.

I was not in a rush so stayed for a chat.  He told me that while he was waiting for me to be born, he was practicing making jigsaw puzzles.  Someone had given him an old sewing machine that had been converted with some sort of small saw, to enable it to make jigsaw puzzles.  ‘I was getting quite good at it’ he said.  But he was interrupted by the doctor telling him he and Mum had another girl.  He said he didn’t finish the jigsaw puzzle.

A few days ago he pondered what he could get me for my birthday.  At 55 I don’t think Dad needs to be bothered with worrying about that any more because I can honestly say there is nothing I want or need at this age.  But it got me thinking about the many gifts he has given us or taught over the years and here are just a few of them:

  • Education is important  – Dad is a very intelligent man.  He topped the nation in Greek studies at some point.  He still knows his Latin Roots.  He can intelligently discuss any subject (except perhaps how a computer or iPhone works).  A good and well rounded education was very  important to our parents and all three of us have in turn made sure our own children have had the best education.  Dad did not earn a lot of money as an Anglican priest, so to put three children through private schools was always a stretch and they sacrificed a lot to get through that very expensive time.  We have all had successful careers due to that good start in life, which means we are now in a position to help him out financially if he needs it, even though he doesn’t want us to.
  • Values – Dad has always had a strong faith and strong values.  While we may not have always followed them or been true to them, we always come back to them.  He has never wavered.  A fair few CEOs and politicians could take a leaf out of his book about how to live values and values based leadership
  • Resilience – my goodness he is resilient. My sister keeps reminding me of how resilient he is, whenever I am fearful of the impact of some change on him,  and I wish I had that strength of character, or at least to that extent.  When I think of how much he has been through since Mum died and how much change he has coped with my heart bursts with pride.  He has taught me that the sun will come up after a tough day, and to have faith that things will get better.
  • Budgeting – my husband and other family members will laugh at this one but honestly he has taught me this.  I remember each week he would write up a little book – every pay had a particular sum of money allocated to different things, and I started doing the same almost 20 years ago for those regular bills like rates, electricity, school fees and also christmas presents so that we didn’t have a hideous surprise in January. If I didn’t want to use the shampoo and conditioner they bought, I had to pay for my own.  As soon as I started a part-time job, I had to pay a small amount of board (which I later found out they saved to pay for my wedding).   I opened his mail once while he was away and his electricity bill was so small I thought it was a mistake.  I commented on this to one of my kids who said ‘yeah it’s really weird – grandad only ever has the light on that he’s using’.  Quite!
  • Reading is the best entertainment – he still uses his library card at the age of 94.  And reads the paper every day.  And writes to politicians.  It is a bit sad that he has never learnt to uses an iPad or a computer as he would be reading things on it all the time!  Reading was a night time ritual for us all – and I could read before I went to school; not because I am so smart, but because my parents or siblings would read to me every night.
  • Cards and other games are also good entertainment – we were a big card and board game playing family, as we didn’t acquire a television until I was about 8 years old.  One that required one to get up off one’s arse to change the channel to a selection of only four channels .  In black and white (Yes I am that old).  When we get together we still play cards.  He is a cunning old fox with cribbage and scrabble and it is hard to beat him.  Family lore has it that Dad would only read the scores out when he was winning.  He also taught me to be competitive.
  • A smile will cure most ills – Dad has the most glorious smile; one that always reaches his eyes.  On the few occasions that he is grumpy, he will always find something to smile about.  That resilience thing in micro.

There are many other things of course – these are the ones that spring to mind when I sat down to type.  I used the following quote at Dad’s 90th birthday party.  I remember looking for the perfect quote about fathers, and found it.

How lucky are we to have had a father like this?

 

kelland

Bureaucracy Gone Mad- Part III (A Story of Hope and Redemption)

Where we last left off, I was left waving a white flag trying to get some assistance for Dad to shower when he had a broken wrist.

We struggled along and after a couple of hiccoughs disasters with a reaction to a new dressing then an infection, his ulcer started slowly improving and the dressing only needed changing every two days.  I decided to do this myself without including XYZCare, thinking it would not be too long from being healed.  Six weeks later and that damn ulcer is still not completely healed.  BUT Dad is happier and I am able to do the dressing change first thing in the morning for him.

However, for me, what had been once ‘popping in’ to see Dad once a day,  dropping dinner down and having a game of cribbage, became several hours a day some days, with shopping, visits to the doctor, chemist, bank, the library, church, haircuts etc etc. Coupled with ongoing chronic pain I was starting to struggle.  I know how lucky I am – my Dear Old Dad says ‘thank you’ to me every single day, and is rarely grumpy or cranky, and his big smile, even in dire circumstances, makes me happy. But I knew I needed help.

I had been following the story of Five Good Friends* since its inception – it seemed to me to be a home care service with a real service mentality.  As Dad had already been approved for a Level 2 Home care package through ACAT, I gave Five Good Friends a call to find out more and they were able to explain exactly what it meant, how much it was worth and what it would cost Dad, or me. Which was nothing!  Not only that, but I had a real person to talk to, who gave me her mobile phone number and email address.  No pressing ‘1’ for this or ‘2’ for that and talking to a different person each time.  I was sold on their model and their very real service mindset for the elderly people their carers look after, and the technology they were going to be using for us to be able to communicate directly with the carers coming to help Dad.  The new Consumer Directed Care rules from February 27 this year, made choosing the care provider easier and meant that all care could be provided by the one organisation even if not necessarily the same person, depending on the tasks.  It helped enormously that the two ladies who came to visit, both admired Oscar.  That pretty much sold Dad who was originally a bit dubious about having strangers coming in to visit.

But wait! (of course).  As we had not used the approved package before, I had to call My Aged Care (horrors) to activate the package.  Thinking somewhat foolishly this would be an easy process, (yeah, you’d think all optimism would have been destroyed by now) I gathered all of Dad’s and my identification and referral numbers, took a deep breath and made the call.

In short, because I wanted the care package to start soon-ish because of some medical treatment of my own, this elevated the request to ‘urgent’.  Which meant that they had to do a WHOLE NEW ACAT TEST.  WHICH WOULD TAKE 1-2 WEEKS.  I am not making this up.

So, I wearily asked the person on the phone, Dad has to have another ACAT test, where he will be asked the same questions, and all but about two of the questions would have the same answer, in order to activate a service that had already been approved?  Yes.  Yes that was and is in fact correct.

I *may* have sworn.  I *may* have referred to the system as a total waste of taxpayers’ money, while assuring the person on the phone I was not upset with her at all, but the dreadful system she worked in.  She agreed with me and said it was all terribly complicated.

The absurdity of this situation officially reached peak levels.

So My Aged Care activated another plan, the Commonwealth Home Support  Package service,  which they were able to do with the push of a button, with the referral going through to Five Good Friends straight away. They will choose an appropriate person for Dad based on his needs (as discussed) and introduce him or her to Dad.   Once ACAT is done (again) and the level 2 home care package approved (again), his approval will go into a queue. The carer won’t change but new forms will need to be completed to change over from the current CHSP

And we will be underway.  Even Oscar is exhausted by the bureaucracy and felt the need for a bit of hand holding.  I can feel my teeth unclenching and my shoulder blades starting to unhinge from my ear lobes.  The relief is palpable.

 

Oscar

It will be alright

 

* #notsponsored #justverygrateful