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.  


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.


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:


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:



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.