Wednesday, 27 June 2007

do unto ourselves as we would do unto others

My friend’s mum has been seriously ill and in hospital for weeks. She spent weeks in intensive care, then the high dependency unit before going to an ordinary ward. Her mum was nursed one to one and then 1 to 3. In the medical ward she was one of 15 patients to 1 nurse. My friend can’t understand how one minute you need this level of care and then next the care has to be provided by family members. Now mum is coming home. Or rather she’s going to be taken home by my friend and they are going to turn the dining room into a bedroom. She needs rehab and can’t manage at home yet although hopefully the aim would be for her to go home eventually. There’s a loo downstairs and they are trying to think what to do about a shower or bath. They have a funny staircase so they don’t think a stair lift would work.

So when I went round there the other day I asked the questions: have you had the discharge planning meeting yet? You know so that you can sit down and work out what will happen, how mum will manage, what level of care she needs at home and what help they can give her. And then you should have an assessment too as a carer to see what help you need’. And of course the answer from her was a blank stare. I repeated myself and said look I happen to know about this stuff if they are going to discharge your mum home then both you and her should have a pre discharge planning meeting and an assessment of both your needs. You can say you’re happy to provide all her personal care, if you are, but that you would want some help with the housework in order to be able to run the house and do your job as well. All this was news to her.

What astonishes me is how people like this manage to slip through the net. My friend is articulate, smart and sensible. She is assertive without being pushy and won’t normally take no for an answer. We live in a local authority area with really excellent services for users and carers and no shortage of voluntary sector provision, although this is under pressure. She had assumed that she would automatically get everything she needed in the way of help without having to ask for it. So I have sat down with her and she has a long list of what she wants, what her mum wants and how she needs help with her family, her work and her home if she is to provide the lion’s share of the support her mum needs.

How does it happen that we go to pieces when we have to ask for something for ourselves? I am so assertive (maybe even rude?) when I am trying to sort out work issues but trying to get an appointment for the GP before the end of the month or to tackle my daughter’s awful teacher is an impossibility. I know I need taking in hand and perhaps it is the feeling of being out of my depth or anxious and worried for my child but I would sooner pick up a spider than speak to my daughter’s teacher about her maths homework and how none of us understood it (so that is my husband, him with a double first from Oxford and me with a BA and an MA both shuddering and juddering in front of Mrs X. Where exactly is the sense in that, pray?)

Sunday, 24 June 2007

life is ordinary

I can't believe how long it's been since I've had time to sit here and type thoughtlessly into this machine. The time since our holiday has passed in a blur. On Friday I finally sat down and transferred the photos onto the PC and sat and watched the slide show of them all. It was lovely to watch the holiday replay itself and see Rosie turn browner and browner with each new photo. I was in awe at the absolute beauty - of her unconscious gorgeousness and of the island where we were staying. The resort was a horrid little English enclave to be sure but going just a few hundred metres out of the centre we found deserted coves and bays where we could sit and just watch the view. And tiny little bays we clambered down to very carefully so as not to fall over and where we could dip our toes into the clear water. All alone on a small island filled with 10,000 visitors!

Rosie of course made friends with every adult she encountered charming them with her blonde hair and big blue eyes. The children she found trickier - she was shy and nervous of not being the 'cool' one (she's most definitely not that!) But oh how she enjoyed herself in the water, splashing and jumping in and swimming for as many hours as we would allow before dragging her off to explore the history and natural side armed with a copy of 'my family and other animals'. We didn't really get very far but it was fun trying. Rosie read it too, not bad for an 8 year old, and loved trying to imagine that she was seeing the very same creatures found by Gerry in the book.

And since then we have tried to keep hold of the relaxation and closeness that every holiday brings and every working day pushes farther and farther away from our grasp. Working in the garden trying to create a bigger vegetable patch, planting up all the little plants from the greenhouse (a plastic tall one, I long for a real thing, next year?) and we label and mark and plan endlessly. Rosie helps in the garden although main tasks are snail related. These she collects and makes houses for and names each and every one. And I place the house at the end of the evening in a spot where I hope they will find their way into the chicken enclosure rather than the vegetable patch!

The new ducklings are enjoying themselves and they do indeed seem to have taken to our home like, well, a duck to water! They love the little pond dug for them by Rosie and her dad and have enjoyed being moved around the garden while we try to find the perfect spot for their duck house (in reality an old rabbit hutch). They have to fight off the attentions of the chickens who clearly think they get too much food and also from the jackdaws who also dive bomb them in an effort to eat the chick crumb. I am touched by my husband who gets up each day now at six to open up the house and to wait to make sure they are ok. We all stood anxiously while they took their first swim. Rosie makes Pip and Daisy scrambled eggs for breakfast (I think this is a bit odd and creepy, too much like cannibalism) and cuts them nettles too.

We have thought about moving, for schools and a bigger house, but I don't want to push our luck. Here is where our happy memory store has been made and although each holiday I exhort the family to store up the views to get them through the winter months to be truthful it is the ordinary everyday that actually sustains me. Rosie singing to the snails, picking up chick chick and putting her on the climbing frame, running through the field with the dog, the kids' laughter as they tell each other 'dirty' jokes far too loudly in the garden, the combat of swingball. This is what shall shall sustain me in the months and years to come.