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

Bureaucracy gone mad – Part II

For those playing along at home, we left off at XYZCare, coming out to see Dear Old Dad to ‘assess’ him in relation to his need to have his ulcer wound dressings changed on a daily basis.

A couple of mini dramas catastrophes followed the ulcer scenario.

Two weeks before Christmas Dad had a minor car accident. Thankfully with a wall. Fortunately, no one was hurt (and it could have been much worse) but having thought about it, that was the event that made Dad decide to give up driving. He had resisted gentle entreaties, and was loath to give up his independence but we assured him that we would put things in place to make sure he could get around.  And he got around a lot for a 94-year-old.  So transport became an issue.

Then, in the early hours of Boxing Day he had a fall and broke his wrist. The emergency room staff sent him home with me and my sister (who was visiting with her family at the time)  with some tape he could use to tape a rubbish bag on his arm (his right arm of course) when showering.  My sister and I exchanged knowing glances, but she helped Dad every day get the bag on to his arm.

Dad was coming away on holidays to the beach with us, so he had company,  people to play cards with, my sister to flog at scrabble,  and also people to drive him around and assist with the showering process, as well as the wound dressing. It is not very dignified to have your daughter help you getting into the shower but manage we did. Thank goodness for my sister’s presence, help, patience and willingness to be flogged at scrabble every day.

Having his right arm in a cast did not interfere with his ability to enjoy the beach and a glass of champagne with his daughters, and, fot the most part, did not dim his glorious smile.

Dad - deckDad - beach

 

My sister and her husband took him back to Brisbane with them and they extended their stay in Brisbane until we got home from our holiday, as we did not want him to be on his own.

On Monday, 3 January 2017, while I was still at the beach, and as planned, I thought I would make a quick call to add assistance with showering to the ulcer wound dressing.

Stop

On that day, there were a total of 20 phone calls between me, My aged Care, XYZCare and the ‘assessment’ team they used, recorded on my phone.

You see, supervising or assisting with a shower is not a nursing duty. The nurse that was coming daily was not allowed to do that. And because this was a ‘new thing’ (the broken wrist), XYZCare needed to do a new support plan to put in place the sending a different person to assist with showering. Even though the ulcer wound needed to be dressed immediately after showering.  Wearily I pointed out, several times, the sheer lunacy of this situation, and the added stress for Dad (and me) trying to make sure it was all done correctly and with a minimum amount of time and fuss.

However we never got there – the twenty telephone calls included a necessary call (actually about three calls) to My Aged Care to get a new referral. And to have it marked urgent. This was sent to XYZCare head office. It then had to be sent to the local office for them to implement (as per the initial request mentioned in the earlier blog post).   Literally  – 20 phone calls to and from various agencies involved in aged care and I am still waiting for a return phone call from XYZCare as to how this could be implemented. I waved the white flag, purchased a special waterproof sleeve on the internet that Dad could manage to put on himself, and hoped, that with my help, he could manage and not fall before the nurse came.  But one very kind nurse ‘took longer’ than she needed with Dad and ‘accidentally’ was there at the time Dad needed to take his shower, on the days she was rostered on.  Bless her for that small act of compassion and kindness.

Honestly, I would have started taking calm down pills if only I could have unclenched my teeth.

I have previously mentioned Yes, Minister, and I cannot help but wonder at the number of people employed in the behemoth of the aged care industry, to fill in endless forms and the  cost to the pubic purse. How much better could the money be spent on the actual people who need it?

“The public”,  said Sir Humphrey,  “do not know anything about wasting public money. We are the experts”

Next – Part III – good news in the form of private enterprise and Five Good Friends (aptly named).

Bureaucracy gone mad – Part I

One of my mother’s favourite expressions, articulated with great regularity while I was growing up, is that ‘patience is a virtue’. This is because I am not naturally a patient person and have been known to express my frustration loudly on occasion, even as a child.

My experiences as a grown up, navigating the bureaucracy of Aged Care in this country, have tried my patience to the point of frustration more times than I can count. And there are so many frustrations this blog post is going to have to be a series, not just one.

I hate that I occasionally cry out of frustration – it seems so shrill and weak. It is like all the patience has been sucked out of me leaving a vacuum that only loud, angry and ugly tears can fill. It comes to this I think because the high expectations I have of service providers are not met, especially at times of already high stress. In the case of Aged Care, it happens far too frequently.

As Shakespeare once said:

Expectation is the root of all heartbreak.

Some years ago, Dear Old Dad had the misfortune to contract shingles – in his eye of all places. We got on to it very quickly and while it was very painful, he bravely put up with it, along with the news that ointment had to be applied 4-5 times a day. Because he has shaky hands, he couldn’t manage this himself, although his cheeks, nose and ears managed to get some of the good stuff. Working full-time, it was only possible for me to do this for him morning and night. His GP wrote a referral to an in-home aged care service provider, let’s call them XYZCare, and arrangements were made for a nurse to pop in twice a day to apply the ointment. ‘Simples’, as the meerkat on TV says.

Things have changed significantly since then with the advent of a Behemoth called My Aged Care, which has created a level of bureaucracy, form filling and tail-chasing that would make the writers of Yes, Minister proud. In the words from their own website:

“The My Aged Care website has been established by the Australian Government to help you navigate the aged care system. My Aged Care is part of the Australian Government’s changes to the aged care system which have been designed to give people more choice, more control and easier access to a full range of aged care services.”

The emphasis is mine.  Sadly, the fact that ‘navigation’ is needed at all speaks volumes. It has not been mhy experience that access is easier.  In fact from an outside perspective, it appears to have made it much more difficult.

Somewhat fortuitously, being the practical person he is, Dad mentioned about 12 months ago, that should it be necessary for him to go into a residential aged care facility (let’s not call it  nursing home) at any stage, there was a particular one in which he would like to live. Having had some experience assisting my elderly neighbour with this process, I knew it was not as simple as ringing up and asking for a room, as you would a hotel. So an ACAT (Aged Care Assessment Team) assessment was organised, through My Aged Care (sobs), and I helped him complete the 28 page means test form, via another government department , both of which were sent off to the nursing home residential facility for his name to be put on the list. This took quite a while as the ACAT assessor didn’t come for several weeks. I gather they are very busy. And the fact that I really really do not want Dad to ever go into a nursing home residential aged care facility so the forms sat on my desk for some considerable time.

Most importantly, once done, the ACAT assessment approved Dad for a number of things including residential care, respite care, in–home nursing care, as well as an in home domestic care package. Until recently we had no reason to avail ourselves of these services other than nursing care.  And Dad did tell the assessor that he didn’t need any help anyway because he had me, and he doesn’t like being a burden on the taxpayer.  Bless.

When Dad developed an ulcer on his leg last year, it became necessary for daily dressing changes. Optimistically, I called XYZCare who had previously assisted Dad with his ointment, to get the ball rolling, and said, again optimistically, that I would get the referral from the GP as soon as possible.

Stop

 

This time, (and every time in future), I was told, I had to call My Aged Care, wait on hold for a period of time then be transferred a few times, get a referral from them for the nursing care, which was sent to XYZCare’s Head office, who told me that the local service provider (whose phone number I had) would then ‘pick up’ the referral from their system. I asked that it be designated urgent, given that the dressings had to be changed daily, commencing immediately.

The local XYZCare office is a 15 minute drive from my house, yet this process took a whole week (I would hate to think how long non urgent requests take)  and after three increasingly agitated telephone calls from me, before I had a call from them.  In the meantime, Dad to the local GP to get the dressings changed daily.

But wait, there’s more.

Even though he had previously been a client, they had closed that file, so had to come out and ‘assess’ him (even though we had a specialist report on the ulcer and its care, and the ACAT assessment), before the services could be put in place. My eyes rolled so many times with each phone call and delay, I swear I started seeing behind my own head.  Dad also didn’t understand as most of the questions were the same questions asked by ACAT.

This is not a criticism of XYZCare, but of the tangled red tape and hoops they, and the elderly they are trying to help, have to jump through, to get services in place.

Things went downhill from there. Part II coming soon.  Suffice to say my desk has a dent in it.

bang head

 

The Circle of Life

All my life’s a circle, sunrise and sundown
The moon rolls through the nighttime, till the daybreak comes around
All my life’s a circle but I can’t tell you why
The season’s spinnin’ round again the years keep rollin’ by

Harry Chapin

A few years ago now I wrote an article that ended up being published on Mamamia.  It was the story of the first few days after my mother’s death and the discovery of a suitcase full of things she had kept of the work of her three children, letters between her and dad, and her and my grandmother.  It was a surprise as my mother did not appear to be overly sentimental.  The article also touched on the grief my mother and father never acknowledged – the birth and death of their first baby.  You can read that article here.

The article ended with the words:

I am going to take my dad on a road trip one day to that little country town – after I have found someone who can beautify Ann’s grave.  We can go and acknowledge that perfect baby  who never lived,  and my mother’s loss. 

Well it took a few years.  Dad was not keen – not that he didn’t want to visit the grave; rather he was worried about a lengthy car trip at his age.

At New Year 2015, we were in North Queensland having celebrated Christmas with family there.  We were driving south to another holiday destination (my husband loves a road trip!), and he suggested taking the inland route instead of the coastal highway and suggested we stay overnight in Springsure to find the grave.

It was very emotional finding that tiny grave. It was well looked after and most of the children’s graves in that little country town cemetery had fences around them – almost like a small play pen.  The cemetery itself is very peaceful, and with a description from the helpful shire council the small grave was found.  The inscription was small, and, as mentioned in the article above simply had the words “Infant daughter of the Rev A.G. Fellows.  Died at birth 25 July 1954”, confirming that my mother was not acknowledged. Knowing that she never visited the grave means that she probably never knew.  I can’t begin to imagine.

The photos I sent encouraged Dad, along with stories of some of the people we visited, including their best friends from that time.  He was still unsure of a long car trip. My husband mentioned the possibility of flying to Emerald, and hiring a car.  It was on like Donkey Kong!

The years faded away in the car on the road from Emerald to Springsure – each side road was recalled as a road to a property within the bounds of his parish; bridges over creeks were named; memories of floods and in one instance getting over a flooded creek with a coffin were recalled.  Stories of country weddings The large rock known as ‘Virgin Rock’ came into view on the outskirts of Springsure.

We checked in to the hotel and as I was carrying our bags in my phone rang – it was sister but I said I would call her back. Once a cup of tea had been made I returned that call.  I wish I had taken it earlier.  It was a call to announce the birth of her first grandchild, a little girl. Dad’s first great-grandchild.

We set off for the cemetery almost straight away. It didn’t take long to find Ann’s tiny grave.  I had alerted the parish priest that we would be visiting and someone had painted the little iron fence, and left flowers at the grave.  We stood there, silent momentarily, and  then 60 years of hidden grief for my father suddenly appeared and he cried, leaning in to my shoulder. He sobbed as if it had happened the day before.  But he then stood up straight,put his shoulders back and asked me to pray with him  He prayed for Ann and for my mother; that they were now united.  And he then also gave thanks to God for the safe arrival of his great-granddaughter that very day.  The circle of life. Full circle.  Grieving the loss of a child while celebrating the birth of another. My niece’s arrival into the world could not have come at a better time.

It was a wonderful few days – the local community in Springsure and Rolleston nearby came out in force for morning teas, and Dad was able to catch up with many old friends, including the couple who were his first wedding in the town.

I still cannot imagine my parents’ grief all those years ago; nor the years of grief that followed.  But I am so glad my father can now speak of it; and that he was able to see his daughter’s grave again.

Springsure

rolleston

Atticus Finch and Me

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it:

Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

Who doesn’t love To Kill a Mockingbird?  Both the novel and the movie.  I can remember the first time I read it, and it is still a favourite movie. The first time I re-read the book it was even better, as I could picture the characters – Gregory Peck was the perfect Atticus Finch.

My father was and is not a lawyer, but he is very much like Atticus Finch.  He has strong values to which he is faithful, has been and continues to be a good father, was and still is a leader in his community.  He is someone to whom others looked up, and always looked for, and saw, the best in others.  He and my mother lived a life of service to others, and the worst punishment as a child was to be told by my father that he was disappointed.

He is still, at 94, a man to admire.  I wrote a post recently titled Just Keep Swimmingmy code for the need to keep going when times are tough.  Little did I know how important the words were.

I had a bad day last Sunday.  I wasn’t well, was tired, and something happened that made me upset, for no rational reason.  Dad needed something at the shops, and I had been to the shops that morning, taken him to church, was taking him somewhere else that afternoon, and I was generally a bit ‘over it’ that day.  I cried.  Ugly cried. I railed against the injustice of it all; the exhaustion. I guess I needed a cry – salty tears are a good cure for some ills – as I felt better not long after.  A phone call with my sister of course helped.  Figuratively speaking I gave myself an uppercut and decided to get on with it.

I realised that regardless of how difficult the situation was for me ( and let’s face it, it was only a momentary feeling, and one that I had had before, and knew it would pass), it must be so much harder for Dad – losing his independence, coping with so much change in a short space of time, facing the fact of the frailties of old age, and dealing with a bossy daughter who seemed hell-bent on changing his routines.

That realisation made me think of Atticus Finch and his advice to his children – to look at things from another’s point of view to understand what they are going through.  This had a calming influence on me  – perhaps it was not just the wise words, but the fact that I imagined Gregory Peck speaking them.

Change is difficult – coupled with old age it must be frightening.  And if Dad can do his best in those circumstances, then so can I.

I do hope Scout and Jem took care of Atticus in his old age.  I like to think they did.

atticus-finch

The Future is Here

Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present – Albert Camus

In an ironic twist, our two eldest children have moved out of home within a week of each other, and our youngest, in his last year of school, recently got his drivers’ licence and is driving himself to and from school.

For a brief shining moment I could almost taste the freedom and the rewards of many hard  ( but of course rewarding and enjoyable) years of parenting.  Then all of a sudden, in a twist of fate, things changed dramatically for Dear Old Dad, I found myself caring for him – going from popping in once a day to spending many hours most days with him.

Last Friday night, I found myself home alone – with my spouse going to the rugby, my youngest out at a school event, and of course, the two eldest out of home.  Instead of dropping a meal down the road to Dad, I thought I would treat him to fish and chips so bought the fish and chips and a couple of drumsticks to eat with him at his home.

It was a nice change for him as he usually eats at home alone, unless he comes to or house for a meal.  But we ate early and dinner, including dessert,  was all over by 6.30pm

It was, as my spouse texted me, a glimpse into my own future – fish and chips at pensioner hours, and ice cream for dessert, followed by an early night. No Friday night frivolity for me.  The future is indeed here!

Just Keep Swimming

Just keep swimming – Dory, Finding Nemo

The loveable but forgetful blue fish in Finding Nemo (and of course Finding Dory) had a simple  and positive outlook on life.  When  things get tough or rough it’s important to ‘just keep swimming’.  A bit like Winston Churchill who once famously said that if you’re going through hell it’s important not to stop’.

Of course, caring for Dear Old Dad is nothing like hell, but there are plenty of rough times.

There are days when not much seems to go right.  And that’s just for me – not Dad!

When I’m having a frustrating day with Dear Old Dad (or myself as a result of what I do with Dad) I usually text my sister #justkeepswimming. Sometimes this is done with fingers stabbing at the keys or jaw clenched; more often with a wry smile. Yesterday was one of those days:

7 am – get to my PT (pretty much the only exercise I get each week due to chronic pain situation in my stupid feet). On the drive there, I calmly ponder the day ahead – before I go home I shall call into Dad’s place to change the dressing on his leg ulcer. This now has to be done only every three days instead of daily, and I had cancelled the daily visit from the Anglicare nurses only last week. The rest of the day stretched ahead of me. Monday is my day for not going out again once home – a day for ‘getting stuff done’.  At the moment I am still working part time until my replacement starts and I am anticipating a good start to the week. 

7.30 am. Regular three ring call from Dad to let me know he is alive and up and about. Three rings and he hangs up unless he needs to talk to me. I realise I wait with bated breath to not hear the fourth ring.

8.05  am. Phone call from Dad while I am in the car on the way home. 

“Where are you”

“I’m in the car on my way home”

“But you said you’d be here at 8”

“No darling, I said I would be there at 8.15; that you should get into the shower at 8”

“I’m sure you said you would be here at 8”

“Well I’ll be there as quickly as I can”

*remind self to make sure that he actually hears what I say when making arrangements.

8.15am Get to Dad’s house, right on time. Notice his wound is leaking through the dressing. Prepare dressing tray and take off old dressing. See his ankle is very red and angry looking and quite damp. Then notice a not so nice odour coming from his ankle. Take photo of wound. Clean wound and put new dressing on.  Make light of what I saw.

8.30am Go home. Send a photo to the wound nurse at the vascular specialist to ask if she thinks it is not right.

8.40am. Phone call from Dad. Reminds me that I was meant to call the physio to make an appointment for him at a time convenient to me.

8.45am Call physio and make appointment for Friday at 8am. Make cup of tea while on phone.

8.50am start working and I am on fire!  Kick a few goals in a short space of time.  Regrettably forget to drink cup of tea.

11 am Telephone call from nurse at vascular clinic. She tells me it looks infected and to get him to the doctor asap for antibiotics and immediately put the previous wound dressing on; the one that needs changing daily. Take a deep breath.

11.10am  Call GP and make appointment for 3.15 (earliest they could do).  Also call vascular specialist to make appointment for this coming Wednesday, just in case. 

11.30am  Back to Dad’s place to tell him I have to change the dressing again. The wound and the skin around it look even worse in the three hours that have passed. Change dressing according to the daily routine from the last three months and say a silent prayer that we won’t have to do this for the next three months. 

11.40am Go home. Work some more. 

1.00pm Go to my own appointment for deep tissue treatment for chronic foot pain. It hurts. A lot. 

1.35pm  Eat an entire packet of red frogs.  Not helpful.

2.55pm Collect Dad for the doctor. He is not happy he can’t see his regular doctor and I hide my annoyance because it is the only doctor who is available and he is lovely, kind, concerned and respectful. He thinks the infection has come from the adhesive from the new dressing, pulling on Dad’s thin skin. The nurse comes in and finds a new dressing to stay on until Wednesday when he sees the specialist. 

3.20pm Go to chemist for antibiotics. 

3.35pm Drive back to his house and have a cup of tea. I have thankfully remembered to put his dinner in the car in a small esky. It’s a small win for organisation skills and cooking enough food the night before for leftovers.

4.00pm Back home bit more work at my desk.

5.30pm Wonder if I could have some wine but don’t because I am doing Febfast and am committed and I would not be able to give myself a star on my star chart. Yes, really , I have a star chart.  But at this moment I am hating Febfast.

6.00pm. Start preparing dinner for my own family, wine glass full of diet lemon lime and bitters in hand. 

7.30pm Collapse in a heap on the couch and remind myself to #justkeepswimming.

In the words of Scarlett O’Hara, tomorrow is another day.

scarlett

It Takes a Village

It takes a village to raise a child – African proverb

It also takes a village to care for the elderly – Me

The old African proverb is absolutely true – the concept of a village has changed somewhat over the years and can now include people overseas via FaceTime rather than the people next door.

The proverb now needs to be applied to the elderly in our communities.  My Dear Old Dad lives on his own. He needs a village and he has one and it includes:

Me – chef, chauffeur, nurse, pincushion when he’s frustrated, shopper, postmistress, cribbage player, Oscar vomit cleaner, general organiser of his life, carrier pigeon for letters to his brother via email.

My husband – patient listener, conversationalist, light bulb changer, dinner companion, occasional chauffeur, hacker of plants and weeds, forgiver of how much money it costs us to look after him, occasional provider of free legal advice

Oscar – spoiled cat, companion, listener, sharer of his thoughts.

My sister – host when Dad goes to visit or when I am away.  See the reference to ‘Me’ above for when he visits and replace cribbage with scrabble. Also frequent visitor and sharer of photos of Dad’s great-granddaughter.  Also emotional scaffolding for me when required (often).  Is much more patient than me.

My brother-in-law – companion when Dad is visiting, willing cribbage player, chauffeur, also frequent visitor and dinner companion.

My brother – frequent visitor, scotch and red wine drinking companion, cribbage player and participator in theological discussions. Fish and Chip carrier

My children – bin putter-outers, mail collectors, Oscar carers when Dad away, patient repeaters of everything they say because he is a bit hard of hearing and they keep forgetting

My sister’s friends – caring people who take an interest and listen to him, also occasional scrabble players

Neighbours – keeping an eye out, bringing the bins in.

My uncle  – Dad’s brother who lives in Wales who has visited regularly over the last few years, companion, pen pal, sharer of thoughts, provider of scotch for Dad and champagne for me (favourite uncle)

My cousins – occasional visitors, lunch companions, and provider of meals

Outside helpers – cleaners, gardener, ironing lady, handymen

Church friends – sharers of his faith, occasional chauffeurs, providers of stamps for his philately hobby, telephone correspondents, and one cribbage player

His GP – not my favourite part of the village to be honest, but DOD has complete faith in him and is a regular visitor to the medical practice

Other specialists – at 94, things are starting to not work as well as they should so we visit quite a few medical specialists, most of whom are very kind and caring

This is a big villagefor one person!!  But it’s necessary to enable DOD to stay in his own home.  He is eligible for a government funded care package – however my experience with My Aged Care has not been happy and I don’t want to leave his care at home in the hands of government agencies when they have proven that they are incapable of responding in a timely way to requests for assistance (more on that in another post)

As Honore de Balzac once said:

Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies

There are now private businesses which can provide home based care, and I am sure I will be using their services in the not too distant future.  I honestly believe that the best care the elderly can have is where there is an emotional attachment between the carer and the person for whom care is provided.  Will that work if people are paid to be carers?

Time will tell.

A Company Cat

What greater gift than the love of a cat? – Charles Dickens

Disclosure:  I am a cat person.  Some might refer to me as a crazy cat lady.  So be it. I have always had at least one cat in my life and the stories around the acquisition of cats in my life since being married are quite hilarious, to me anyway if not my husband.  In summary – ” My wife wanted to get a cat. I didn’t so we compromised and got a cat.”

About a year before my mother died, my daughter and I were in the process of colluding to get a kitten.  Not just any kitten but a kitten whose mother was a Ragdoll and father a Birman.  Possibly the most beautiful cats I had ever seen.  The deal was done; but the breeder had one more kitten left to sell, so I convinced my parents (who were also cat people but were without one since retirement) to let me buy him for them.  I was prepared for all objections.

So two little kittens came home with us for 24 hours before Mum and Dad took possession of one the following day. Or rather the kitten took possession of them and their hearts.  Their names are George (ours) and Oscar.

What a good decision that turned out to be (in many ways).  Oscar soon became the light of their lives, and whenever I called or called in, I would get a blow-by-blow description of what Oscar had been up to.  He was like a new child, and treated as such.  A spoiled child.

When Mum died, Oscar became even more important – he was Dad’s sole companion.  It is now well recognised the impact pets have on humans, but particularly the elderly.  Decreased blood pressure, decreased depression and stress, increased communication and motivation.  Personally I’m not sure it has that much to do with the pets themselves, but the company and activity they provide.  I have seen nursing homes with chooks who become very attached to the residents.  Then there is the nursing home with a resident cat who seems to know when someone is about to die and settles on their bed.  Not so keen on the Grim Cat Reaper to be honest.

But back to Oscar.  I now get even more detail about Oscar and his day – what time he went to bed, what time he demanded food in the middle of the night, how much he ate for breakfast, how many lizards he ate and then threw up, and his preference for organic chicken breast rather than regular chicken breast.

It became abundantly clear exactly how much Oscar means to Dad in the early hours of one morning.  I had a call at 4am – Oscar was very distressed and panting heavily. My first thought was snake bite so I threw on a dressing gown, grabbed the cat basket, drove to Dad’s place, caught Oscar and off we went to the 24 hour vet (or Vee Eee Tee, as we refer to them in the pets’ hearing), which was a 25 minute drive away, silently praying to every deity that he keep breathing.

The vet found a large engorged tick on Oscar’s back and he had to stay in for 24 hours for treatment and observation, as the poison could still cause more damage.  Dad reached out to hold the vet’s hand and said ‘please don’t let him die; since my wife died, he’s all I’ve got’.

So I’m standing there, bare feet, pyjamas and gown, holding the car keys, feeling like the third wheel, but feeling a bit weepy at hearing this vulnerability from Dear Old Dad.  But I get it – Oscar had become someone Dad could look after and talk to. I saw him once a day, whereas Oscar was the permanent resident and listener to Dad’s stories, and sharer of his thoughts.

We drove home just as the sun was coming up and shared a cup of tea before I returned to my own home.  His farewell hug was a little bit tighter, and his ‘thank you’ a little bit more intense that morning.

Oscar resumed normal programming shortly after losing one of his nine lives.

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