Sunday, April 03, 2005

Home from Home

I'm flying back home next week to visit my mother who is not at home but in a home. She suffered a severe stroke nearly three years ago and spent six months hospitalised including three months in the most depressing, nightmare-inducing geriatric ward I have ever experienced. The stroke damaged the left hemisphere of her brain and has left her paralysed down the right side of her body. This causes far greater disability than you might at first actually makes you totally dependent on others, all the time - 24/7 as an American might put it - and having damage in the left hemisphere also means her power of speech is severely diminished. She can now only mumble at best.
The hospital told me bluntly there was no hope of recovery and they needed the bed so I had to find a place for her in a nursing home.
In the past, whenever the subject of nursing homes came up she would always say, "don't be putting me in one of those places..." and "if I end up like that I'll put a plastic bag over my head!" Ironically she couldn't do that now if she wanted to.

So I went to see some nursing homes and made a list of the top three for my mum to choose from. I did all that quite efficiently - asking questions, looking around...detached and objective - but then taking her to see the prospective homes without saying the word "home", without telling her this was permanent and without letting her see how unbelievably guilty I felt about it was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. I was pushing her in her wheelchair through the doors of one place and I just wanted her to shout "NO!! Stop...I'm not going in THERE!" But she was very quiet, subdued...
The place we/she decided on is very "nice"...airy, light, modern - not like the dark Gothic stereotypes in films or on TV.
It is still "a home" though and not "home". She has been there for just over two years now. The last couple of weeks though she has lost her appetite and refuses to drink. I also no longer have the feeling that I am getting through to her on the phone. Yesterday I tried to speak to her again on the phone but she didn't respond. I phoned the matron straight after and asked her what I'd been thinking for over a week but hadn't dared to express, "do you think she has given up?" She said, "well, I didn't want to say anything but...actually..."

So maybe she has found a way to use that plastic bag.

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