Willing Grandpa to Die.

This afternoon – another grey, windy and torrential British winter’s day – I took my two children to see their poorly great-grandpa in a residential care-home (a misnomer, if ever I heard one).

Before we went in to the shabby looking building with its neglected gardens and a general air of ‘abandon hope, all ye who enter here’, I warned them both that Grandpa may not look, nor act, his usual spritely self. Furthermore, the people who were in the care-home with him, may do or say peculiar things, as they weren’t quite their spritely selves, either.

And I’d prepared them well. For, no one, including the surly, miserable and discourteous staff could be described as spritely. From the irritable care-worker who greeted us with her forlorn, scowling face, to the sarcastic and short-tempered nurse responsible for Grandpa’s ‘care’, the whole building was screaming desperation and neglect.

As Grandpa was eating his lunch (a term I’m loathed to use, as the assembly of food-stuffs might be better suited to a pig’s trough), we asked to use the toilet: ‘You might wanna use the staff one. Ha ha! Be cleaner. Ha ha!’ So mumbled a care(less)-worker. This pissed me off. So, the residents’ toilets aren’t clean. Why?

Whilst I waited for my husband to use the bathroom, I listened to a disturbing exchange of words and slurs, coming from the nearby lounge. A lounge in which 8 elderly people sat slumped in their piss-ridden chairs not watching a blaring TV set which seemed to have The Simpsons on a loop:

Resident: What time is it?
Care-assistant: Wha?
Resident: What time is it?
Care-assistant: 1
Resident: What time?
Care-assistant: Just told you.
Resident: What time is it?
Care-assistant: IT’S ONE O’CLOCK! ONE O’CLOCK. ONE O’CLOCK!

Capitalising her words does not convey the spiteful and sarcastic tone she used to address a woman, clearly confused and probably hard of hearing, who was once as spritely as my young daughter. A woman who once laughed, skipped, danced, loved and lived. A person. Someone who, despite her ill-health, still deserves to be treated with love, compassion and respect. Characteristics not in abundance at this shit-hole of a care-home.

Grandpa has advanced Parkinson’s. A condition which has cruelly inhibited his ever-weakening body for many years. He shakes, jerks, rocks, falls; and experiences paranoia, anger and much confusion. He has been described by his nurse as, ‘hard work’. In fact, he’s so much ‘hard work’, he’s been asked to leave. ‘We can’t have someone this troublesome here.’

I’ve experienced this attitude before. My brother was mentally ill and had the severe misfortune of being sectioned and subsequently becoming an in-patient at various psychiatric hospitals. He had a thing for running away. Considering the horror of the places, it was hardly surprising he wanted to escape. A senior psychiatrist told my mum, ‘We can’t tolerate this type of behaviour. He will be asked to leave if he continues to be a problem.’ What sort of behaviour were they expecting from a young man diagnosed with schizophrenia? Difficult? Yes, very fucking difficult. But considering he also had a thing for trying to kill himself, I felt the running away habit was fairly benign.

‘Troublesome’ behaviour needs to be viewed in context. I’ve seen family members and medical professionals react to Grandpa’s behaviour (and my brother’s) in isolation. Each individual action taken at face-value without an appreciation for the surrounding circumstances. Here’s a recent example:

Grandpa shouted at a nurse. The manager called my father-in-law to say there’s been another incident and the nurse is distraught. There will be consequences. But no one, including my father-in-law, asks why? Why did he shout?

Grandpa’s side of the story is different (it usually is). He says he was aggressively woken in the night and told to, ‘Open your mouth!’ (for medication). But, he didn’t hear the care-assistant initially, as he was asleep. She turned on his light and shouted ‘OPEN YOUR MOUTH!’

Unsurprisingly, this pissed him off. And I’m certain we would all react in a similar way if someone turned on our bedroom light in the middle of the night and tried to feed us pills! There is context. But, no one listens to Grandpa’s side of the story. He’s confused. He’s angry. He’s just being difficult. And therefore, he’s ignored. He may as well be invisible, just like all the other residents waiting to die.

Of course, he may well be lying, but if that’s the case, there would be a reason for that, too. But who has the time to explore further? And who has the time for empathy?

I am the only relative to believe he is not in the ‘best place.’ Everyone else tells him, ‘It’s the best place for you, isn’t it? Meals provided, lots of company. It’s alright, really.’ And they’re not simply just being positive. They’re all trying to convince themselves that, this foul-smelling soulless place with its cold, impatient staff; its mentally unwell and challenging residents; the pig-trough slop; the barren, unhomely and unfamiliar bedroom with a naked light-bulb swinging above a bed stinking of urine, is preferable to Grandpa being in his own much-loved and much-missed home. Would any of us wish to spend one night robbed of respect, dignity and compassion in such a place? Would any of us want to watch The Simpson sat amidst hollering, incoherent, lost souls taking it turns to plead to anyone who will listen, which isn’t many, to ‘Take me home. Please take me home’?

I hope that tonight, he will fall asleep in his miserable cell and drift away on a cloud free from pain and confusion; a cloud that will envelop him with love and lead him to his waiting, loving wife. For a life eked out in this miserable, God-forbidden, hell-hole of a care-home is simply not worth living for.

 

*Disclaimer: Grandpa is very poorly; Parkinson’s is just one condition contributing to his ill-health. He’s in pain and unhappy, and I simply do not want him to suffer anymore. He’s too ill to be at home, but considered not ill enough to be admitted to hospital, hence the limbo of the care-homes.

I realise not all care-workers are heartless and indifferent, and that, not all care-homes are this dire. However, in my experience, too many are. And it’s a scandal we pretend doesn’t exist.

The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback

 

 

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23 Comments Add yours

  1. Lisa V says:

    My heart goes out to you. My dad died of Alzheimer’s and was in a home like you described at the time of his death. They say he died of a heart attack (I still think they gave him one too many pills). I completely understand where you’re coming from. I know it’s hard, but I know your great-grandpa knows and values your visits. I wish I knew more to say to make things better. Thinking of you and praying for your great-grandpa…xx

    Like

    1. Annie says:

      Thanks, Lisa. I’m ok now. Shell-shocked yesterday. Awful end to a full life, isn’t it. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. kathybruton2 says:

    Gut wrenching isn’t it? I’ve seen those deplorable conditions and wished the same thing for a loved one. Wishing him (and you) peace from across the pond.

    Like

    1. Annie says:

      Thanks, Kathy. Hmm, wondering whether this is essentially a Western problem. Do developing countries treat their sick and elderly with such disdain?

      Like

  3. kathybruton2 says:

    Gut wrenching isn’t it? Wishing him (and you) peace from across the pond.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. kathybruton2 says:

    Ooops. I’m so impassioned by this post that I commented twice… First time on my phone and it didn’t show up… Oh well. The sentiments remain the same. God Bless..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Annie says:

      Tee hee. No probs. WordPress can be a buggy fellow! Thank you for your loving vibes. x

      Like

  5. samdfb1 says:

    Wow. Thanks for sharing that. It was gut wrenching and revealing in equal measure. I think the issue of care homes and their (mostly) deplorable conditions are a Western issue. How very sad. Man, it sounded rough yesterday, sounds as though you prepared your kids well beforehand, so yeah for that.

    Like

    1. Annie says:

      Yep, pretty rough. Surprisingly, both kids were oblivious. I thought that would have been shocked, but apparently not. Unless, I’ve missed something & they’re about to start having horrific nightmares!! xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. samdfb1 says:

        Yikes. Let’s hope not! xx

        Like

  6. How awful, no one should be “cared” for like that. I’m a nurse (albeit early retired) and I hang my head in shame everytime I read about the uncaring profession. I understand your sentiments and with carehomes being in the news lately, for all the wrong reasons, I would suggest you complain to the local authority the care home is in. It may not help your darling great grandfather but maybe someone elses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Annie says:

      Thank you. Really appreciate you taking the time to read the post. Realise it’s a departure from my usual jolly posts!
      Ah, well, issues within the family prevent me from complaining externally. He’s soon to move on to the next solution…somewhere. xx

      Like

  7. The Anxious Dragon says:

    I feel for you, and for your grandpa. There are some course of action you can take to report this abuse (and thats what it is). If you look up the care quality commissions website, there is a section where you can look an individual home and make a report on it.
    One single report wont make much difference, but if a pattern of reports happens then they can take action. If staff are showing such obvious distain for the residents in front of visitors it does not bode at all well for their treatment when visiting hours are over.
    Thank you for sharing, and I hope one way or another it is resolved for your grandpa soon, Tracey xx #abitofeverything
    P.s you can complain anonymously if needed x

    Like

    1. Annie says:

      Thanks, Tracey. Ok, think I will! And yes, it probably won’t make much difference, but still worth it. And complaining anonymously would be helpful considering the repercussions with a family in denial!! xx

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Izzie Anderton says:

    How sad for all of you. All care homes are not the same and maybe the family should consider moving Grandpa to a home that’s more compassionate and well run? My Grandma was looked after in a home until she died in August last year and the staff were kind to all of the residents in their care. I hope you manage to resolve the issue soon.

    Like

    1. Annie says:

      Thanks, Izzie. Here’s hoping. x

      Like

  9. Intrigued by the title,sobbing by the end.I would be horrified if this happened to a family member.It was bad enough watching my Nan revert to her childhood and talk to people who weren’t there as the cancer took over her brain but this is something else.I’m sorry he has to suffer like this.I really do hope things get better for him one way or another.Bless him xx

    Like

    1. Annie says:

      Eeek, sorry, Julie. Making people cry wasn’t quite the plan when I started the blog. Sorry to hear about your nan, too. Horrible.
      Thank you for your love and good wishes. Much appreciated. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  10. agentspitback says:

    Oh, this is so heartbreaking! This is just awful! I would be just outraged. No one deserves to be robbed of their dignity. You should give some “feedback” sometimes people just need a little prod.

    Like

    1. Annie says:

      Huge prod! How do things compare in Oz? My Grandpa lived in Perth for a long while, and I remember his care-home being fantastic. But, entirely different circumstances. xx

      Like

      1. agentspitback says:

        I think there will be good and bad wherever you go. Things are changing in Australia. They are encouraging people to live longer at home with more support and programs available.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I feel for you and your lovely Grandpa. What an awful thing to have to go through for all of you. I am sure some of these care homes are wonderful but there is plenty of stories such as yours – too many. I know when I was in hospital last year, I had to listen to some unpleasant stuff but again there was lots of wonderful things too. My parents are no longer with us and neither made it to old age and sometimes I find a little comfort in the fact that they never had to experience residential homes. It is a scandal as you say and one that needs addressing because they are only going to be in more demand in the future. I hope things start to improve soon. Nicky x

    Like

    1. Annie says:

      Thanks, Nicky. Really appreciate you taking the time to comment.xx

      Liked by 1 person

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