Because one can suddenly change moods from ‘everything is fine’ to ‘Oh my God what if the worst happens’ in a nanosecond, my sister* came to stay for a while and we spent some time investigating both respite and nursing home care options. Just in case. For those of you reading this who know my Dear Old Dad, you should, you know, shush.
Of course we visited the loveliest and most expensive option first. It was all downhill from there. But the one that was the most hideous experience was not the most hideous looking of the aged care homes. Close, but no cigar.
It was the one which didn’t allow visitors to call and make an appointment to have a look around. Tours were conducted at 11.30 on Tuesdays. Only 11.30 on Tuesdays. It also bore the same name as a psychiatric hospital in a Law and Order Franchise. Perhaps this should have been a warning. We arrived a little early, desperate for a cup of tea. I asked the receptionist if there was a cafe where we could make a cup of tea. ‘Oh no’, she said, the coffee cart only comes on Mondays. OK then. That, too should have been a warning.
My face must have been a bit of a giveaway, because shortly after this, she offered to make us a cup of tea. Lovely! What appeared was what could only be described as frightened milk. Now, I know that many old people don’t mind a cup of tepid tea (my old person is not one of them and I am certainly not), but this could not be described as tea. I did manage to drink some out of politeness (I know, I know that’s not like me) but the half full cup was put on the floor. My sister’s remained full.
At the appointed hour when about eight women were gathered for the tour ( it’s always women isn’t it), Julie, the owner and tour guide appeared, coiffed and perfumed, wearing sensible shoes, with a fixed smile and hands that indicated they didn’t get dirty very often.
The guests were all there for different reasons – we to explore respite, two sisters whose mother had dementia, another whose mother was in hospital and who didn’t know what a RAD was (my sympathy for her was high because one needs a maths degree to understand it all) – but the tour was the same. And it started with the laundry. The laundry and the types of labels we were to use were of GREAT IMPORTANCE.
We then walked up the corridor and looked out the window to the neighbouring property – where goats lived. Julie told us breathlessly that once a week she drove the bus HERSELF to take a group of residents to visit the goats. “Oh they LOVE it’ she said. ‘They just LOVE it. Such fun’.
At this point I wanted to leave, but I was encouraged by my less judgemental sister to stay the distance. We have yet to speak of this.
Next we went past a common room where residents were seated gazing at someone at the front of the room speaking. Julie explained that one of the activities the home organised was ‘reminiscing’ – that the old folk may not remember much of what happened yesterday but loved reminiscing about the old days. Today they were talking about the Brisbane trams. My sister and I exchanged a glance, and I knew what she was thinking, which was the same as me – our Dad had asked that morning if one of us could find out from the budget papers in due course the total interest on national debt, as he ‘had some writing to do’. Hmmm – talks on the tram system in Brisbane were not going to be his thing.
Then we went to meet Eileen. Eileen loved having people being shown her room as she had a special quilt on the bed. Unfortunately Eileen was on the toilet when we popped in and Julie quickly shut the door so that was not part of our tour. Eileen’s husband was also a resident in one of the larger rooms – $1.1 million in RADs there so of course when Julie explained how she had driven Eileen to watch her grandson row at Kawana one day, and did her hair every morning, I understood why. ‘Oh she just LOVES it’.
Julie then told us lots of stories involving herself, and how the residents loved it. Every Monday Julie herself personally made 55 cappuccinos for the residents when the coffee cart came. Imagine! ‘Oh they love it’, she said. ‘They just LOVE it’.
We had an explanation of the smaller rooms and some which were a shared facility – those who share a room ‘just LOVE it’. They become GREAT FRIENDS.
Ethel, whose mother was a resident but ‘got her angel wings’, continued to volunteer and made cakes and slices every week to bring in. ‘Oh they LOVE it’ said Julie Again. Apparently one thing that they didn’t love though was a glass of wine – wine and beer were not served with dinner. Not necessary.
We were ushered into the ‘Boardroom’ to have a chat and ask questions. At this point I took out my ‘to do list’ and started working on it and wrote at the top of the list to never send my father here. Followed by ‘speak to sister about gut instincts’.
On a positive note, we know what we don’t want for Dear Old Dad and we laughed and laughed in the car for a long time. And had wine with lunch.
*Sisters are awesome