Well, it’s Sunday – and it’s been a little while now since I stepped out from behind the blog and the books. As my life is about to change a little, I thought I’d indulge myself today with a bit of an update. Make a cuppa, and find a comfy chair – it’s a bit of a long one!
Blog related stuff first, and I suspect that many will have noticed that my summer “break” – much looked forward to, and frequently mentioned – didn’t really go quite as I’d intended. And it was entirely my own fault – I have to accept that I’m just totally incapable of saying “no”! There are now occasional gaps though, and that will continue – whole groups of days when I post nothing at all, not feeling the need to apologise for it any more, and I’m actually finding that quite liberating. During my “break”, I did manage to fit in the reading of a few books that won’t be appearing on my blog for some time – some forthcoming reads needing an early assessment and sometimes a quote, that have, without exception, been an absolute joy. I sadly made fewer inroads into my “want to read” list – and even fewer into what I call my “promises”, the reviews I’d planned to do but just hadn’t been able to get round to reading.
With apologies to everyone I’ll disappoint, particularly those authors who’ve sent me their books and especially those who have been waiting a long time, I think the time has now come to move on – admit defeat, set aside the backlog, and start again. I see a blog tour or an upcoming release that I find impossible to resist, and the commitments – however pleasurable the anticipation – always start to pile up again. And then there’s all that social media. When others so generously and unfailingly share my posts on Twitter, it would be terribly rude of me not to do the same for theirs – although I might not do so every day (today has been a “fail” day), and maybe not every one.
So, that brings me to the personal bit…
It crept up on me slowly – my inability to say “no” might just apply a little here too – but Mum is now staying with me at weekends and spending most weekday afternoons with me too. Her vascular dementia is worsening, and it’s been very difficult watching its progress over the last few months. Books – as always – have been my escape and salvation, and my thanks to every author who’s provided me with so much enjoyment as life has become increasingly challenging.
Mum (93 in December) is now unable to prepare food for herself, and we started meals-on-wheels some weeks ago (lunch four days a week, just to give me a break): it did take a while for her to understand that she should eat the hot meal when delivered, and I still sometimes find the meal tray in her fridge or dumped uneaten in her bin. She’s become frightened of going to the lounge at the sheltered housing development on her own when they have coffee mornings, films or entertainment – she can’t remember where she lives, and is unable to find her way back to her flat. She forgets – daily – how to turn on her television, and can’t change the channels. She won’t shower on her own – she’s too afraid of falling.
We’ve tried carer visits – they do a little cleaning, make her a cuppa, chat with her for a while – but even if we increased their frequency, it’s not really enough any more. Mum’s started ringing me at night, telling me she doesn’t know where she is – she doesn’t recognise her lovely flat as “home”. And she’s quite sad and very lonely, her perception of time very distorted (“I haven’t seen you for ages” – often when I’ve left her a few hours earlier). So I take her to lots of local events for the elderly (especially where there’s singing involved – she may not remember where she lives, but she knows every word of songs from the 40s, 50s and 60s!), and she really enjoys the company. She loves chairobics and line dancing, we go to the cinema (she particularly loved Mamma Mia 2…), the occasional classical concert, the theatre, the odd shopping trip, outings in the car, afternoon teas and lunches out. Her memory may be non-existent – thank heaven for diaries and post-it notes, when she remembers to look at them – but she’s still capable of deriving immense enjoyment from our outings, and long may that continue.
But the time has definitely come for the next big decision…
I’ve been looking for a while now at more permanent care options – we’re extremely lucky that we have the means to enable us to pick and choose – but really struggled to find anywhere I liked without a very, very long waiting list. And yes, just in case you’re wondering, I did consider mum moving in with me – but my house isn’t really suitable, and I really think she’d be far happier and considerably safer in the care of professionals. I will admit I was thinking about my own quality of life too – I’ll be 63 next week, my life now revolves entirely around mum’s needs, and I would rather like to be able to enjoy life just a little before I become unable to do so.
And then, as I was beginning to despair, we had a major stroke of luck – I read about a new-build care home, flagship of a very highly rated local chain (Hadrian Healthcare), opening in Harrogate in November. Mum’s had her assessment, and they’ve now offered her a place as one of their first tranche of residents. It’s called The Manor House at Harrogate – just across the road from Valley Gardens – and we went to take a proper look on their open day yesterday. It’s absolutely perfect – and she’ll be moving in around three weeks’ time, as soon as their CQC certification is in place and the final touches completed. The picture below is an artist’s impression, borrowed from their brochure – but it more than lives up to its promises, both inside and out.
Her room is just gorgeous – very large, with a massive south-facing bay window overlooking the gardens, plenty of room for some of her own furniture and as many personal possessions as she wants to take, and a well equipped ensuite bathroom. It’s on the ground floor, a short level walk from the beautiful dining room (fine dining, with meals planned in consultation with the residents), and near both the hairdressing and beauty salon, the Bettys-style tearoom, and two more comfortable lounges.
The staff we met yesterday were wonderful – care is 24-hour, and as hands-on as each resident wants or needs. Mum immediately took to the care team who will be looking after her, kissing them all goodbye and telling them how much she was looking forward to living there (in fact, she’d have happily waved me off and moved in there and then…). I was really impressed by the social events co-ordinator too – who chatted with her about her plan to explore and capture everyone’s life stories so that they really get to know their residents as individuals, to inform the programme they’re putting together so there’s something for everyone. And when Mum’s condition worsens – as it inevitably will – they do have a floor specifically designed for the needs of people with more advanced dementia, so she shouldn’t need to move again unless she needs more intensive nursing.
When I’ve mentioned my plans to others, they’ve tended to say that I must be finding this a difficult decision. Maybe I should be, but I’m actually not. I’m just delighted that Mum will be safe, and will now have the level of care she needs and deserves: she certainly won’t be lonely any more, and I’m positive she’ll be a great deal happier than she now is, alone in her flat. And as the home’s only eight miles away, I can still be very much part of her life – when she can fit me into her busy schedule, of course.
So until the move takes place, and while I manage the multitude of things that need doing both before and after, do forgive me if I let the blog and social media slip a little. I’ve committed to a lot of by-dates and blog tours, and I’ll take a look as soon as I can to see what remains manageable – if I find I’m struggling, I’ll let people know well ahead of the dates. I will be getting better at saying “no” for a while too – but I promise I’ll always say it nicely – and I’m also going to stop making review promises for dates I just can’t guarantee to keep. One thing I do plan to change permanently is the way I’ve been agreeing dates with authors for reading and reviewing their books – I’ve missed so many targets, with no possibility of catching up, and it’s made me feel that I’m letting people down rather badly. So, with apologies, fixed dates for blog tours only from now on – other reading will be on an “as soon as I can” basis, although I will keep an eye on publication dates when I can.
So if you’ve read this far, thank you. And wish us luck…! xx