Thursday, 9 July 2015

Not always an ideal companion

There are signs that mum's close ties with another resident are under strain because of questionable behaviour. This resident, mum's neighbour H, has been developing a reliance on my mother to an extent that is becoming difficult for mum to sustain. Mum said something under her breath today when H rebuked her for something mum said. Because they are both a bit hard of hearing this kind of problem is likely common, but I was a little disconcerted frankly.

We were having lunch as usual around a table in the dining room when mum said something that H didn't like and H rebuked mum verbally. I didn't hear what it was mum had said but H is like this with people generally, and usually says quite baldly exactly what she thinks. She doesn't masque her feelings, that's for sure. But if it was just this incident I wouldn't worry so much. There have been other things however.

I arrived today at the nursing home and because it was a sunny day when I had got into mum's room I suggested that we go to the park to sit on the bench and watch the dog walkers, as we usually do when it's sunny. Mum put on her shoes and I got her hat out of the cupboard. Then she prepared a scarf to wear and fetched her sunglasses out of the drawer next to the bed. We were ready then and we headed out into the hallway. As we passed H's room we could hear her calling, as usual, for a nurse. (She has a habit of calling for the nurse as soon as she notices that there is someone in the hallway, whether it is actually a nurse there or not.) Mum headed into her room and I continued down the hallway toward the dining room, which is between mum's room and the front desk, where I needed to go to sign mum out of the establishment.

As mum did not promptly arrive though I turned back and poked my head into H's room to see H giving mum some fairly complex instructions and mum standing there perplexed. Mum and I knew that the instructions were too long for her to keep in mind - H wanted mum to get a nurse to tell her (mum) when H's hairdresser appointment would be that day - or at least I knew that this was too much for mum to cope with at one time. But mum was standing there trying to keep everything in mind while H was telling her bossily what to do. I intervened and told H that mum would not be able to remember all the details she was receiving, and that I would promptly go and get a nurse to go to H and help her.

When I got to the front desk I met with a member of the nursing staff and I told her what H had been telling mum. She looked surprised and said, "H had her hair cut yesterday." I said that H was getting mum to do things, and that mum was not really equipped to look after H. "I'll go," the staffer said then, and so I turned away to fill out the leave form and then took mum downstairs so that we could go out to the park.

H is a lively and mentally-astute elderly woman and she is aged 93 according to her. She always chooses to sit with mum at the table but from what I saw today it appears that mum is starting to have second thoughts about the friendship. Because mum doesn't remember everything that well it is likely that she will continue to visit H - who has severe mobility problems - and to talk to her at different hours of the day. But I will be talking with the staff next time I find H bossing mum around to make sure that they are aware of the situation as it currently is. I think that these kinds of problems must be reasonably frequent in nursing homes - because the place is, as the name describes, a place where people live their lives, and lives are complex and intricate - but I also think that there must be general coping strategies known by nursing home employees that can be brought into play when such relationships are discovered. Not everyone has the same disability and people are, as we all know, unpredictable and not always ideal companions.

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