I arrived around 4:30 in the afternoon to find Mum's household quiet, with half the residents out on family visits. The lounge was dripping with decorations and the dining area set up as one long table, where a buffet was being set up. The Lead Care Worker was dressed in Santa garb. She told me that Mum had suffered a little accident today.
My heart skipped a beat, but she quickly explained that she'd visited Mum's room earlier to find that she had vomited copiously everywhere, having entirely scoffed a large box of biscuits. (Hmm... I think that must have been my Brother-in-Law's gift). Apparently, Mum had been very distressed that I might find her in this state and they'd spent time restoring the room (and Mum) prior to my visit. It's still strange for me to imagine Mum being anxious to impress me - it seems so backwards, but I guess I'm the Parent now.
We found Mum asleep in bed, with a bad case of bed-hair (there will be no portrait of Mum this week). I gave her my present, which was a mostly a selection of size 16 clothes from Marks & Spencer, and I set to work ironing in some identity labels. Mum sat on the bed, looking adoringly at me and chatting away.
We moved through the standard checklist of conversation that comes up every visit nowadays:
1) have I heard from my Sister?
2) how is my job going?
3) who is that man in all the photographs on the walls?
answers: (1) "nope", (2) "umm" and (3) "your Husband of almost 50 years"
Mum's reply to answer (3) was, "Really? I never thought I'd hang onto a man THAT long!" (It's becoming apparent that Mum was something of a Man-Eater in her early years).
When I'd finished doing the labels, we walked down the corridor to the Lounge and joined the rest of the residents, who were sitting watching "Happy Feet" on TV. Mum introduced me to everyone.
In light of the documentaries I've watched recently, it was interesting to note that the staff members on duty were busy up the other end of the room getting on with their tasks whilst the residents were left in the care of some animated penguins. When I sat down amongst them they all became a bit more animated themselves and each of them was keen to have some interaction with me (I've noticed that they mostly ignore each other). They'd ask me how the penguins had been trained, or where penguins lived, or whether the penguins were really talking, because it seemed like they were talking... Each of them looked very happy that I was there to respond to them and I saw the truth of what Gerry Robinson had noticed - the importance of someone simply being there responding to the residents rather than merely servicing them.
However, it's obvious that there IS interaction at other times and I think the Care Home had done a good job of Christmas this year. The decorations were pretty amazing and spoke of a lot of effort expended, and I heard that there had been Carol Singers and parties in other households leading up to the big day.
Merry Christmas, Everyone!