Wednesday, 5 December 2007

go west

Almost all my Mother's relatives live in the north-west of the UK, about a 2 hour drive west from here. Meanwhile, I harbour ambitions to travel at some point, once Mum is settled somewhere and being looked after. There is therefore an argument for finding a Home for Mum that is within reach for the other relatives rather than being on my doorstep.

Today I took Mum west, to see one of the Homes I visited a couple of weekends back. At that time, I had been looking for a place which had independent apartments or bungalows to replicate my Mother's present living arrangement while providing support if and when it was needed. Now I realised that she needs a LOT more care than that. She should not be left alone and is very dependent and frequently disoriented. With her mobility severely impaired, I realised that the bungalow option was especially no longer appropriate. So I took Mum to see the more modern of the two places I had been happy with last time, with a view to getting her assessed by them. I suspected now that one of their 'households' would be better for Mum.

The Home is still in the process of opening, so the Manager and her Deputy were being pulled in all directions by consultants with powerpoint presentations. Nevertheless, the Manager took us round a household which hadn't yet been opened: 8 bedrooms set around the perimeter of a vast communal area which was part lounge and part kitchen/diner. All the walls had handrails around them (useful for Mum who wobbles unsteadily along on tip-toes). The rooms were a decent size with a bed, two chairs and a coffee-table in a window alcove, dressing table, LCD TV, a generous amount of drawer and closet space and an en-suite wet-room. The lights in the wet-room go on as you enter, and a pressure pad in the mattress means that if you get up from your bed in the night the bathroom lights up. The Manager explained that the pressure pad system could also be used to alert staff if someone was prone to falling out of bed, but in Mum's case could be set so that it only triggered an alert if Mum was out of bed for more than 10 minutes or so. Out in the kitchen area, it was explained that staff would be around day and night, that meals would be served at regular times in the dining area but that Mum could ask for anything at any time and it would be made for her. If she wanted eggs at 2 am then staff would make eggs.

Mum looked delighted with everything, but then she puts the smiley act on for all strangers, so I found it difficult to gauge her reaction. I think, in fairness, that she was responding to the kind people who we met rather than the facilities (perhaps she's social while I'm more materialistic, or maybe I just feel forced into that role in this case). However, the staff were all very warm and friendly. The Events Manager even ran downstairs to the hair salon to fetch Mum a comb when Mum expressed embarrassment about her windblown appearance.

Next we sat down with the Deputy Manager, who answered my questions and talked us through setting up a "Life Plan" for Mum. This will be a continuously-updated document stating Mum's memories, relationships, life events and her wishes and needs. There was too much to fill while we were there, so I was recommended to take it away to complete and mail it back to the Home. We sat in the café on the ground floor and had a pleasant lunch while I filled in areas of the Life Plan and Mum listened in to other conversations, as is her habit. As we left, Mum was already talking about "when I move in". I think we have a winner.

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