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.
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.