Posted in Aged Care, Communication, Working with Elderly

The Goodbye Wave

Warm Family Fuzzie-Wuzzies!

One of my fondest childhood memories is of our grandparents seeing us off, waving goodbye from their front porch. Smiling contentedly, and without fail at each and every departure time, they’d take up position watching and waving at the top of the steps.

Whether it be the big Sunday family lunch gathering or just a random quick visit to drop off groceries or pick up a bag of lemons from grandad’s garden – it didn’t matter the reason for the visit or how long we were there.  Waving us off was just one of those heart-felt routines that our grandparents dutifully undertook when it came time to seal the deal and bid us farewell.

Grandma Dollie
(circa 1977)

Of course, that’s after the obligatory round of goodbye kisses, hugs and hair ruffling that seemed to go on forever, before we finally got to bundle ourselves into the car for the ride home.

And I remember too, if we turned around at any stage during our exit, as mum or dad manoeuvred the car down the driveway, that they would still be stood there, happily waving and watching for our return waves through the back window.

Then, as we began slowly to pull away out of view, they’d both sing out in perfect unison:

Bye, bye….LOVE YOU!”

I sometimes wondered, after we had gone, how long they might have remained standing there! Waving away… clinging on to happy times in a now empty front garden.

Lovely too, was that even after the granddads were gone, both my grandmothers continued the waving tradition alone, never missing a beat. As if this treasured practice was integral to keeping the family unit bound and sacred forever.

I was too young to realise then, but it was indeed likely that this cherished ritual be the final thrust in my grandparent’s campaign to squeeze out as much valuable ‘together’ time as they possibly could.

I wish now, in hindsight, that I had waved back a lot, lot harder.

Waving – a universal language
(especially popular at train stations)

But, as it delightfully turns out, my grandparents were not the only ‘wavers’ I would ever have the pleasure of!

Thanks to my recent adventures in Aged-Care where I work with older adults in their own homes… I have been fortunate to encounter clients on my travels who also conduct a similar performance when it’s time to say goodbye. 

In fact, possibly as a ploy to prolong my visit, some of my clients even go so far as to walk me right out to my car!  I guess old habits die hard and chatting all the way, we discuss the cat’s weepy eye, admire the Azaleas and analyse the weather as we go.

Unfortunately, for some of my less sprightly clients who have forgotten that their mobility is not as reliable as it once was, I then have to turn round and walk (or wheel) them back inside again! The thought of driving off and leaving a wobbly pensioner on the footpath clinging to their letterbox just doesn’t bear thinking about! So, I don’t mind in the slightest having to spend a bit more time escorting them back to their front doors again.

Besides, it’s a nice little moment that I know will bring a significant amount of joy to someone else’s day. And to be honest, I consider it a compliment that it feels so comfortable for them to think me wave-worthy in the first place.

“Off we go… let’s get you back inside again, Mr Gadabout!”

Stranded at the letterbox

Why only today, one of my regular ladies, Florence, whom I’ve worked with for a couple of years now, makes it her business to accompany me out onto her front verandah where she likes to wait, waving goodbye as I hop into my car.

Having observed Flo become increasingly more and more absent-minded (her symptoms recently diagnosed ‘most likely’ as Dementia), to her it’s the most natural thing in the world to see me off. The same as she would a visit from any close friend or family member – except that I am neither.

“I’ll see you off, dear. And then I’ll put Walt’s dinner on”.

In my rear-view mirror I see the the nonchalant Florence surveying the rosebushes for mottled leaves as she continues her well-rehearsed wave, leaning on the rail for support and so she stays in my sights. Then, just as I reach the end of her drive and I do my return wave back, she looks up at that last second when I’ve straightened up and am about to disappear from her view.

Then, a final flourish with her wrist finishes it all off!

And it’s funny… as I pause for a brief moment to watch her go back inside to peel the spuds for her husband Walter (who actually died 12 years ago), I’m struck with nostalgic thoughts of warm childhood family times and the ghosts of ‘wavers’ past.

So unexpected are the feelings in fact, that I find I have to stop myself from the involuntary urge to call out a big cheery “Bye-bye….LOVE YOU!”

Awwww… feelin’ it

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, Working with Elderly

An Alzheimer’s Poem

Leaving our Loved Ones “Sad and Sick…and Lost”

Every time I visit 82-year old Ruth Cuddlepot I read this poem. 

She has it up on a wall in her kitchen near the toaster, just above the bench.  I know it by heart now because it’s so hard to miss and I stand there every Wednesday reading it (at least three times over) – while I’m waiting for her crumpets to pop!  

It’s a short, but popular verse and most experienced carers have encountered it on their travels in and around the Aged-Care industry. To be honest, I always end up feel annoyed after I’ve read it because as far as describing the hopelessness and grim reality of Alzheimer’s disease – it’s pretty spot on.

It is also completely SAD.

We all know this one, right? 

So, the story goes that back in her day, Ruth Cuddlepot forged for herself (and prospered for many years in) an outstanding career as a Headmistress in some posh private school for boys – at the time the only woman on record to obtain such a role.  She never married, didn’t have children and had no real family to speak of.  Therefore, a very well-to-do Ruth had mountains of cash and high-performing investments squared nicely away for that one ‘rainy day’ when she just might need it. 

That drab, dreary, drizzly day came a few years back when Ruth received the official crushing diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Being the no-nonsense insightful person that she was however, Ruth decided immediately that she would face her destiny head-on and set herself up for the inevitable; for when she could no longer work or take care of herself.

Indeed, there would be NO nursing home for Principal Ruth Cuddlepot! 

Without wallowing in self-pity and in typical Headmistress fashion, Ruth seized control to ensure her affairs were arranged down to the very teensiest detail. The health services, neurologists, an endless supply of support workers and the most fastidious fleet of solicitors were all put in place so Ruth could be completely looked after and cared for IN HER OWN HOME.

No matter what.  

She knew her condition would deteriorate; that her memory would crumble, and she would eventually “lose my marbles completely!”  Apparently, that’s how Ruth used to brazenly declare it, although I didn’t know her then and have relied on verbal reports from other carers to fill me in on all the background reading. 

Needless to say, she was one very smart woman. Although, by the time I had the pleasure of caring for the well-respected Ruth Cuddlepot, she was no longer the organised and efficient educator I had been told she once was. 

Ruth had, instead, evolved into ‘Ruthie’.  

And thanks to the personality-morphing Alzheimer’s, Ruthie had become a frail, yet openly happy and affectionate elderly woman…. WHO LOVED TO HUG! 

Even when her speech faltered, Ruthie could at least continue to communicate with a nice big welcoming embrace whenever I arrived for my shift.  I looked forward to it in fact!  

There she would be, perched in her favourite place on a big comfy chair in front of her enormous lounge room windows. The spot where she had the wonderful view of her ever-changing garden, the birds flying by to say hello… and where she could keep a watchful eye out for her next visitor whom she could throw her arms around and give a great big hearty squeeeeze to!

Really if it wasn’t so heart-breaking, it would be lovely.

Ruthie at her window...
 – waiting for the next hug-ee!

Recently though, Ruthie had started calling me Wendy.  

Which is fine by me, because you can imagine it happens a lot in this line of work (I’m also known as Debbie, Louise and Margie with some of my other cognitively-challenged clients). Let’s face it, remembering each of your carers’ name, rank and serial numbers is understandably not high on the priority list for some seniors.

Especially when they no longer know their OWN name!

I knew something had started to change in Ruthie when one day – the hugs stopped.  And another cruel stage of the Alzheimer’s curse set in… Ruthie Cuddlepot started to become aggressive.

Without much warning her moods became erratic and it eventuated that Ruthie couldn’t STAND to be touched.  Not even a handshake or a gentle pat on the shoulder.  You just wouldn’t dare in case she would flare up and start screaming and punching the air (or anything else within proximity) in what appeared to be the ultimate frustration within Ruthie’s muddled-up mind. 

This most heartless and indiscriminate Dementia had finally taken hold of her … it has been just awful to watch.

Finally, after accusations that Ruthie had started slapping and pushing her carers, we were told there was a serious incident last week where she had to be whisked away by ambulance and sedated in hospital.  

Quite honestly, it became apparent to all, that they didn’t know WHAT to do with her!

After all Ruth’s organising, having purposely prepared herself and her future to remain forever being tended to in her own home by an army of paid care-working bees and service providers, it now seemed this was no longer a viable option.  

I wonder now looking back, how Ruthie could have possibly planned for this final gloom-ridden phase of her illness?

Perhaps she’d anticipated that by this late phase: 1) she wouldn’t know where she was, and 2) she wouldn’t care? I hoped so for her sake.

The poem was right, and the best of Ruth had gone.  And sadly yes, we had failed in standing beside her.  Basically, it had become too unsafe to do so!  Poor Ruthie had become a danger not only to herself, but to everyone else as well.  And if a support worker is under any threat whilst looking after a client in in their home, then the people in charge needed to modify to an alternative arrangement.  

I was informed only today that the once proud and brilliant Ruth Cuddlepot had been relocated ‘indefinitely’ into a High Care nursing home facility.  

Just like the poem had foretold she was now sad and sick and lost.  Her beautiful forward-thinking mind now full-to-capacity on sensory-depriving medication to keep her comatose and manageable (for her own protection, we were told).

I have deliberated greatly about going to visit Ruthie but honestly, what would be the point? And as harsh and as self-serving as might sound – I don’t think I could bear it.  

The worst part is finding out she doesn’t even have a window.

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie

Posted in Aged Care, Exercise, Mobility

Letting Lettie Do It!

ACTIVE AGEING: Helping Older Adults, Help Themselves

Every day, our delightful neighbour Lettie-from-over-the-road, walks outside her front door, slowly down the steps and across the driveway to collect her newspaper from wherever it has landed on her front lawn.  It’s usually in the same spot every morning, give or take, depending if the delivery boy gets his projectile right and doesn’t instead end up riding his bike into the bushes!

(Three years on, you’d think he’d have this sorted by now).

On her way back towards the house, with mission accomplished and with paper stuffed purposefully under the wing of her arm, Lettie then likes to pause and glance over the neighbourhood.  She pretends to pick a bit of dead something off the Hydrangea bush at the bottom of her steps, then ambles cautiously back inside to (most likely) put her feet up from a job well done.

But it’s just painstaking to see!

Please come back, Grandma!

Nearing 94-years old, living alone and with seriously swollen ankles from kidney disease, ‘a bit of the diabetes’ and being almost totally blind thanks to advanced macular degeneration, Lettie has slowed down significantly in the last couple of years.

We know this because we have quite literally witnessed the progressive decline in Lettie’s mobility thanks to our lounge room windows facing directly opposite hers.

Needless to say, you can pretty much set your clock to Lettie’s daily paper pick-up ritual.  Unfolding before us almost like a big-screen movie, we get to watch all Lettie’s comings and goings – as she does ours. Which is actually kind of nice being that it offers a warm fuzzy familiar feeling to let you know all is right with the world.

But that doesn’t make it any easier to watch!

“Once I’ve had my weeties and taken all my tablets, it’s time to do the morning dash!”

Ummm, less of a DASH… more of an action replay stuck in serious slow-motion?!  Thankfully, Lettie enjoys joking that it takes her sooooo long and that tomorrow morning she’s thinking about packing a picnic lunch and making a day of it.

“I’ve got all day – may’s well take a cream bun and enjoy myself at the half-way mark!”

You want it?
COME GET IT!

Awkwardly steering her wheelie-walker to the top step, our hearts are in our mouths as her front wheels teeter close to the edge. Applying the brakes, just in the nick of time, Lettie then grapples her way down the steps in lunging fashion, by means of the metal railing installed by her family a few years back.

She then shuffles… barely lifting her puffy, slippered feet… across the driveway to the edge of the lawn where she then stops, statue-still with hands on hips, to peer at the grassy expanse before her.

Eventually, depending on the angle of the sun and the landing position of the newspaper on any given day, Lettie is usually able to perceive enough colour contrast to make approximate visual contact with her printed prize.

Ah yes! There’s actual science involved, don’t you know?

However… if the paper has made touch-down on the driveway instead of the lawn, poor legally-blind Lettie has NO CHANCE of finding it!  

As I guilefully explain to my pre-teen son, the grey-ness of the concrete doesn’t make the off-white coloured newspaper ‘pop’ like the bright green-ness of the grass does.

Lettie then ambles her way across the lawn and upon reaching her quest, snap-bends in half to scoop up the cellophane-sealed roll in a one-motion move. Turning stiffly, she then pauses to gaze at the street around her (more to have a rest than to actually ‘look’ at anything), before tottering her way back onto the driveway, then slowwwwwwly on towards the front steps.

It can be a good 20 minutes by the time Lettie has hauled herself up the steps to the security of her wheelie-walker at the front door, during which time I have hung out a load of washing, ironed the school uniforms, yelled at the kids and fed the cat!

My enthralled son can stand watching this senior’s snail-paced performance NO LONGER.

“Geez! Can’t we just go pick it up for her, Mum?” 

“Oh no, absolutely NOT, my child!” 

Then, chuffed that I get to impart my Aged-Carer’s industry knowledge on somebody (anybody will do) I then proceed to explain that as long as Lettie is able to collect her newspaper for herself – then let her, WE MUST.

And that regardless of Lettie’s diminished eyesight and her age-related health issues, it was important for Lettie, if she wanted to remain living independently in her own house, that she be able to do boring household chores such as this…  

… for herself.

I also knew, from conversations with her daughter Sue, that Lettie had very little other physical activity going on in her day.  Sue, therefore, felt it crucial that her mother be encouraged to continue this one daily routine, this one small piece of exertion, in order to keep blood flowing, muscles moving, her mind stimulated and hopefully result in a much better quality of life for Lettie all round.

In the meantime, Lettie gets to exist alone at home feeling good about herself; to know she’s maintaining independence, her self-respect and the satisfaction that she still (mostly) have control over her own future.

And that’s a really super important thing when you’re an elderly person, as I explained to my son (who oddly, has always been quite fascinated with Lettie’s activities).

“But what does she want a paper for anyway… I thought she was BLIND????”

I remember at the time staring blankly at Junior aware that with this last line of inquiry, he had actually stated the ‘blindingly’ obvious.  And as the wave of realisation washed over me… I thought it might be a good idea to give Sue a call for a bit of a chat.

“Nobody likes a smarty-pants, darling.  Go let the cat out!”

Move it – OR LOSE IT!

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Communication, Respect, Society

When Young People talk to Old People, BADLY

Getting our Kids Skilled-Up in the Art of Conversation

It must be wonderful knowing that your teenage son or daughter is mature enough to hold an ACTUAL conversation with your adult friends. Seeing them chat away freely when introduced; radiating confidence galore when asked if they are enjoying their new high school, all the time maintaining solid eye contact and without a dot of embarrassment or discomfort.

Whilst you stand alongside, glowing with pride and marvelling at what clearly must be some pretty bloody fabulous parenting skills, thank you very much!

Today I came close to discovering that my 13-year old son did not possess such ability.

And as a mum who thought she’d had it all covered: good manners, gracious conduct, appropriate behaviour and the biggie ‘respect for others’… it came as a rude slap in the chops, as I watched Junior’s social skills crumble and turn totally to mush.

You talkin’ to me?

Our visit this morning was to a medical centre thanks to my son’s recent sporting injury (long story, don’t ask) for follow-up x-rays and to be given the all clear to have the annoying brace on his arm removed.

An ideal location to meet and engage in friendly banter with seniors, it’s common knowledge in aged-care circles, that a doctor’s waiting room is ‘top of the pops’ to test even the most experienced of gasbags! 

It was as we sat bored waiting for our turn, when an older smartly-dressed man with walking stick and twinkly eyes, leaned over to my son and asked in a fairly loud tone (hearing issues, obviously), what had he done to himself?

I continued reading my mag, confident that Chatterbox Charlie (as he is known at home and at school), would be equally as open and responsive. The two of them would yak away in ‘blokey’ fashion and by the time we left they’d be best of buddies, possibly even a firm handshake farewell and promises to meet for tea and cake one day soon.

But alas, what was this? 

Instead, no!  Junior was beside himself! Turning sharply to look at me, his face strained in terror… he was actually pleading me with his eyes, as if to say, “Oh god, please Mum, SAVE ME!”

Mortified, with the realisation that my beloved was indeed a complete social flop after all, I attempted to verbally prompt him so he could explain to the nice inquiring man how he had sprained his arm in a game of football.

The old guy continued on, jokingly encouraging my son to join in.

“I thought you’re supposed to use your leg to kick the footy – not your arm!”

A sea of silver-haired ‘chattees’

As Junior turned bright red, awkwardly squeaking out some sort of inaudible response (all the time staring down at the floor, clearly wishing the tiles would open up and pull him down into the deep, dark depths of the earth where no scary old dudes could ever find him)… it dawned on me that some people might actually find conversation with an elderly person intimidating. 

Especially those they hadn’t met before. And I get that.

Growing up as a painfully shy teen, I remember myself, the feeling of horror when an adult would talk to me – especially one I didn’t know well. The worry of not knowing what to say, or sounding silly if I did say something, or being judged and thought an idiot. It was cause for real anxiety!

In lieu of that thought, I decided my son needed a lesson in the art of conversation, STAT!

Time for me to earn that Mother of the Year badge and get him properly prepped and trained up on some good old-fashioned Communication Skills 101.

Yes, I would be doing this for ME (and my shattered ego), but more significantly, I was doing it for my soppy, socially inept son. It was imperative that in today’s frantic and fiercely competitive world, that he be an efficient communicator; to gain the advantage over his peers by being able to competently talk and earn respect from the older people in his life.

To impress the pants off his teachers, his footy coach or even his own grandparents by engaging them in some light, but thoughtful bit of chit-chat for goodness sake!

And at the same time, emphasise to my son that it didn’t matter what age a person was. That all it took was a little friendliness and a good dollop of empathy to show kindness towards another human being – and to make them feel good. That many ageing adults spent days, sometimes weeks sitting alone in their homes, desperate for company and to feel part of society and in touch with others in their community.

Could he even imagine what that must be like?

Only the lonely

So, while I laughed and chatted to my newest dear friend happily sitting alongside us; about the weather, his dreadful arthritis and the outrageous price of petrol, I felt Junior watching on taking it all in. I wasn’t completely daft though; I knew in reality my son’s interest would be only fleeting and that soon enough he’d zone out, switch on his iPod and go back to mindlessly picking at the tag on his arm brace.

But blow me down, before you could ask ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’ my amazing little man surprised us all as he turned to the lovely white-haired lady sitting on the other side of him.

Without missing a beat, smiling and looking her straight in the eye, in a big clear voice said, “Hello, are you having a nice day today?” To which her reply was “Why yes, thank you, dear… and how nice of you to ask!”

My faith restored, watching the two of them chatting comfortably, I nearly leapt out of my chair with the excitement of it all! My son was a fantastically social-skilled superstar after all!

Unfortunately, I don’t think the poor little guy will dare go anywhere in public with his lunatic mother again.  Possibly my cheering and ‘high five-ing’ the nosy receptionist was a little over the top… THOUGHTS?

Hearing Aids are fab
…WHEN THEY’RE SWITCHED ON!

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Technology, Working with Elderly

HELP! The Computer Swallowed Grandma!

You wanna do WHAT with my Cookies?

Before we go scoffing and rolling our eyes too loudly when it comes to mustering the patience for showing an ageing parent how to “logger” themselves onto a recently erected PC, iPad or tablet device, consider this:

—–> Your mother taught you how to hold a spoon, wipe your bottom and count to ten.

Did she poke fun at you then?

Or, when a grandparent who is desperately trying to master the art of “this emailer caper” just so she can stay in touch with her grandkids (yes, your children)… because nobody writes letters anymore and rather than being left behind and feeling cut-off from her family, she is at least making the effort to come to grips with all this “technical gadgetry” even though it is completely foreign, slightly intimidating and it just feels so damned impersonal to her.

I bet Grandma would like to give HIM a finger…

And isn’t it just gorgeous (we try not to patronise) when she announces how mod and trendy she must be when she FINALLY manages to “pop off an email” to her darling 10 year old grandson, Max. It’s only taken her most of a day but she persevered and got there in the end.

Although, whether or not little Maxi actually received the email is a different story!

“Umm, did I push SEND…

Or was that the SAVE button…

Is there a way of getting it to come back???”

And then now that she’s so proficient and computer savvy, she even remembers to sign off with “LOL from Grandma” just for effect… because that’s Lots of Love, naturally!

You have to admire her for being so plucky and at least giving it a go, don’t you?

“Oh, Maxi will be SO impressed to see how his grandmother knows “dot com stuff!”

More and more it seems I’m getting asked by some very frowny-faced clients when I arrive at their homes, if I could please have a look at their jammed-up, unresponsive computers or merely to explain what “that funny noise” means and how “it only started making it after that dreadful storm yesterday”.

Do you think perhaps some water got into the wiring, Dollie?”

That the “inter-web must be broken” or “I think I’ve broken Google” after accidentally deleting all the desktop icons. Or asking if one needed to locate an ‘App’ i order to bring up the local bus timetable. Or wondering why “my internet is so slow and it won’t let me start typing anything in”… only to discover one poor soul had inadvertently opened over 30 windows and had 14 tool bars running!!

“Would it be easier if I hopped on to ‘The Twitter’ instead, Dollie?”

In my experience (and being that it would be totally inhumane and nasty), there is no merit gained from sniggering into the face of an earnest older person who is already feeling inadequate.  They understand and accept that all this new whizz-bang technology is completely over their head and that of course they know how ridiculous they must look to us younger smarty-pant types.

Instead, I sit down, and LISTEN to what they are trying to achieve and if it sounds like something basic (such as the ever-popular ‘not being turned on at the wall’), then I tactfully suggest we try giving the switch a flick and see how that goes.  

“Oh, it happens all the time, Mrs Terrabyte, no need to feel embarrassed.  In fact, I sometimes do the same thing myself!”

And then we laugh. Until she reveals for the life of her she can’t remember what her wretched password is… and could she use mine instead?

So here’s a cute little poem I found “on the line” that suits the occasion and ends very nicely too.


To cute?  

Of course in real life, we would never wish to lose dear ol’ Grannie into the deep dark depths of the cyberspace abyss (or have her gobbled up by a worm) in a million years. 

Who else is gonna tell us what cupboard she hides the ‘cookies’ in… tee hee!!

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Aged Care, Dementia

Dementia Diagnosis for Aunty Win

A Letter to my Fam-Bam

I received this email from my cousin Rochelle recently.

Thought I’d share it here (because I can), and also to emphasise how shitty and random this increasingly common disease called Dementia is. Not to mention the despair and frustration for families who are left heart-broken and grief-stricken as they watch on hopelessly; it is totally NOT FAIR.

Aunt Winnie taught me that girls don’t have to aspire to be receptionists or typists or office note-takers who run around after others… “unless you want to, then that’s fine, too.”

Instead, if you’ve got the gumption (her favourite word) – you can make a great career doing something you love, settle down and hopefully find a nice boy “wearing not-too-tight slacks” to make a good enough life together.

It has eventuated that I have done both.

Aunt ‘Winnie-the-Poo’ – – –  YOU ROCK!

(We miss you so much).

Winnie – younger days
(great hair!)

To my dear family,

I’ve been back from overseas for almost 2 weeks and there have been a few changes with Mum (our Winnie), so thought I’d send a group email update so you all know where that’s at.

Unfortunately, and as predicted by most of us, her mental health has declined significantly.  

I took her to her GP and she completed a MoCA test (half hour competency testing), where the results were not flash:  ie: 10 out of 30 is bad.

Poor mum scored 2…(TWO!)  Is that even a number???

Thank the Lord she defiantly remembered where she was from, although truthfully, I think she must have fluked the second point by just sheer good luck!

We also discussed her anxiety levels and turns out, they’ve put Mum on a little ‘upper’ to assist with her mood.  Arthur is great with mum and loves her to bits which I could cry with relief about cos he’s such a caring wonderful man.  

Obviously, as a retired school teacher, he revels in the role of directing and correcting!  (Plus, the Citalopram will be doing it’s job – keeping Mum calm and ticking along, happy to stay back after class with another special Arthur ‘detention’ !!!)

In the meantime, the Geriatricians will without doubt, assess Mum for ‘Care-Home’ level assistance, and I assume officially diagnose her with Dementia. This should happen soon.  Hopefully, while I am still in the country – although I may be called up any day now so not sure what we do then… 

Thankfully, in all the zippity-do-da (haha another one of her ‘funnies’) most stuff can be sorted online and organised via email etc.  And legally, I don’t need to go to the lawyers- which is just perfect.

Happy family, beachy days
(and the discovery of ginger beer!!)

The best thing is that the staff at the Respite home where Mum is now are all on the same page as I am.  And they have been concerned with her deterioration for a while – the head nurses have an amazing rapport with her, plus they’ve kept me fully up to speed on things. 

I am just SO impressed with the set-up there!

Win gets to stay in her current apartment WITH Arthur – and the Care Team actually comes to her! This includes 3 showers a week, getting dressed daily and undressed, breakfast, lunch and dinner, dispensing medications, clothes washing, housekeeping etc.

At the moment, Mum is just having shower and dressing assistance (extra $100 a week).  Once the new level of care comes through, we will apply for a subsidy as their combined total assets is less than $119k.

This new level of care will be paid from Dad’s deceased estate account (ie: $23k – and then the good old government takes over…PHEW).

I did have Mum come stay with me by herself last week (and my girls too, much to their horror), for a night recently. She spent the WHOLE TIME thinking Arthur would be coming to pick her up at any second – watching out the window, pacing up and down etc. 

I could tell she really would have preferred to go back ‘home’ to Arthur; we had to phone him a few times during the night when the panic set in. 

You should have seen it the next day, though, when they re-united.  I just about died… they had the biggest SNOG I’ve seen in ages! In front of all the staff…everyone…THEY DIDN’T CARE!!!

(I think I was actually JEALOUS!)

Arthur & Winnie’s ‘golf’ wedding cake
FOURRRRR!

Mum’s just fine where she is and like I said, Arthur loves her to bits. So as weird as all this is, Winnie’s definitely safe and cared for. She actually does realise her memory is bad (kind of), but quickly seems to forget she had that flash of realisation and so we just move on.

She happily accepts shower assistance, and for her own dignity and personal presentation, I’m terribly thankful for that.  Physically, Win looks and IS well.

Don’t know what else to say but I really hope this email doesn’t cause any concern for you guys.  I really feel she is in the right place and I think we should all feel blessed that she married Arthur last year – as crazy as that seemed at the time…. WHO IS THIS MAN WITH THE GIANT MOUSTACH WHO IS IN LOVE WITH MY MOTHER? 

Because it certainly takes the load off me – not that I’m complaining…

It’s just hard, you know?

Anyway, I hope all is well with you guys – sorry if I’ve rambled on but I wanted to put you in the picture seeing as you are her family,,, the people who love her the most. 

God, does she even remember?  

You know what…I really don’t know any more.  Today for example, she called me Geraldine.  As in Aunty Gerry, her twin, who died when they were in their 20’s.  And I can tell when she looks at me that she’s not ‘Mum’ anymore.  I hate that the most about this awful disease.

Anyway, I’m waiting for confirmation of my next placement abroad – not sure when or where that might be but I’m loving my Oncology nursing and the fabulous people involved in the industry so that makes it all worthwhile (as well as being the best distraction from the Win & Arthur show!)

Will keep you all updated as the rest of the saga of our gorgeous mum/sister/aunty’s life unfolds. 

Love you guys,

Rochelle

PS: please, don’t worry about mum.  She is fine, really.

PPS: we must all get together in the SAME room one day.  Life’s too short. – I could end up losing my mind, just like Mum.  ARRRGGGHHHH!

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Technology, Working with Elderly

RADIO: Helping the Elderly ‘Stay Tuned’ Since 1947

“Why won’t my wayward wireless stop whistling?”

Really, it’s of little surprise that many of the older adults I visit in their homes, enjoy listening to their radios. 

More specifically, those with deteriorating vision or being that they might be frail or unwell (with mobility often compromised), they can find themselves in their late ‘golden years’, no longer able to indulge in traditional media entertainment pleasures the rest of us hipsters take for granted.  

Vices such as watching television, reading a good book or wallowing for half a day with toast & coffee over the Sunday paper is simply no longer an option.  

Popping on the ‘wireless’ therefore makes perfect sense!

But it’s making a funny noise, Dollie

Not that they are missing much, surely? It seems telly these days is unrelenting with it’s bombardment of rubbish ‘reality’ shows targeted solely towards the younger more impressionable audience, thereby leaving bewildered seniors often unable to relate and feeling overwhelmed at such bad taste and a definite absence of depth. 

Instead, having a nice string of yesteryear tunes crooning away on the radiogram in the front room, works beautifully to lift sullen moods and put some zing into a lonely or sometimes socially isolated pensioner’s day.  Memories of happy, more sprightly-er times are jogged by meaningful classics, as well as offering the much needed ‘company’ my clients might now be lacking.

“Hearing Vera Lynn always reminds me of my Edith and the times we used to sit in the back of the truck on our way to the dance at the town hall. Drinking home-made cider we’d nicked from my dad’s basement… we felt sooo naughty”

“…but naughty in a good way, Dollie!”

Dame Vera Lynn 2019
Still a star… and still sporting a nice bit of red lippy
.

Talkback radio too, is ideal for supporting a forlorn or neglected senior through long periods of solitude and that despairing, yet understandable need for human interaction. They get to stay fully up to speed with the latest news and current affairs of the nation (usually in the middle of the night when they can’t sleep) plus share opinions and views with people of the same ilk.

“And, it’s great fun arguing the next day with Mavis and Lettie about the previous night’s topic.  Can really get the blood churning – because I’m always RIGHT of course!”

Similarly, for some of my older gents who adore (and can’t live without) their daily infusion of Sport.  Sadly though, thanks to medical conditions and the sheer exhaustion of it all, many have had to give up attending actual LIVE football games or cricket matches.  

To quote dear old 97-year old Bert with ‘a gammy leg and both me dicky knees’:

“The logistics alone would just about kill me, Dollie!”

Instead, he attaches himself to his little black transistor (circa 1972) via a pair of well-used nicotine-stained earplugs and lies back in his armchair to bellow at “that frigging umpire” until he nods off with the excitement of it all.

I have to say now (in a big loud voice), earplugs or headphones are a superbly handy device for a lot of the hearing-impaired people I come across.  Needless to say, they’re also a godsend for a spouse (or a budgerigar) who otherwise gets stuck tolerating the din!

“Jeee-zuz, Ref…my wife’s gotten pregnant from less contact than that!”

If I turn that dial THIS way… then twist this knob THAT way….
Do you copy
? OVER
.

However… as marvellous and New-Age as all that is, I have other dear clients whom I help in their home, who can’t manage their broadcast transmissions to save themselves! 

And it doesn’t matter how ludicrously large the knobs on their radios are, or how basic the design or how seemingly straightforward the technology is to operate… THEY WILL STILL FIND A WAY TO STUFF UP THE SETTINGS!

Today for example, I arrived at 87-year old Bill Whistley’s home and as I walked up the path, I was hit with an adorable Guns & Roses melody ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ booming off the Richter scale and making the crockery in Bill’s glass cabinet rattle.

“Blimmen ‘eck, I’ve tried fiddling with it, Dollie… but since I started my new pills, I’ve lost the feeling in my hands a bit. Can’t seem to land it on anything except THAT goddam racket.”

And in all the fluster, poor ol’ Bill decided to deal with the ear-splitting screams of Axel Rose the only way he knew how – by shutting all the doors and stowing himself away in his spare room.  It never occurred to him to just switch his radio off at the wall!  

“Oh, thank Heavens you’ve ended the wickedness, Dollie!”

Yet Bill is not alone with this terror of the airwaves!  I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve walked into my client’s homes (I give up knocking as there’s literally NO CHANCE they can hear me) to find a brilliant selection of Hard Rock or Heavy Metal booming from within.  

Dollie to the rescue – check out some of these pearlers!

**************************

“My house is so quiet during the daytime… it’s just nice to have something break the silence.  Mind you, be good if it were something I could whistle to”

(You mean you CAN’T whistle to Spiderbaits’ toe-tapping version of ‘Black Betty’?)

Oh the damn thing has a mind of its own. I set it on a nice bit of Sinatra but the next day it’s somehow flicked itself over and I’m left with that lot screeching at me!”

(Alice Cooper, anyone?)

Oh is it, Dollie? I hadn’t noticed… I thought I was listening to Roger Whittaker!”

(‘Eye of the Tiger’… good for what ails ya)

My son will be here later, I thought I’d leave it for him to sort out. Didn’t want to meddle in case I broke something. Plus it means I get to see him more often”

(Led Zeppelin at brekky time for a ‘Whole Lotta Love’)

“To be honest, Dollie… I’m deaf as a post so ANY noise is good”

(Just static was ‘playing’ in this lovely lady’s living room – LOUDLY)

What’s FM then? I thought it said ‘AM’ and ‘PM’. So I’ve been switching the dial once I’ve had my lunch, over to the ‘PM’ for the afternoon session. Wondered why the tunes suddenly got a bit rowdy!”

(Let’s just hope he doesn’t actually end up “Burning Down the House’)

It’s been begging for a fight all morning… I’d turn the dam contraption off if I knew how!”

(Yes, ‘Sexual Healing’ – always good for a bit of rough’n’tumble)

Bloody things been making that racket since I dropped it down the back of the bed/in the sink/onto the cat…”

(who DIDN’T get their kids to sleep with that lovely ‘Smoke on the Water’ lullaby?)

Death Metal, anyone?
(yes, that is a thing)

Let’s face it, as some smarty-pants from somewhere once said:  “RADIO:  It’s like TV, only the pictures are better”.

Which is all very well and good – but it doesn’t really explain why I seem to be forever having to adjust my clients’ knobs !!!


HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie
Posted in Elder Abuse, Scamming the Elderly

A Letter to a Scammer

Scams Against the Elderly are Going Unchecked in Our Suburbs

  • Too hard to prove!
  • Too sleazy to catch!
  • Leaving victims too embarrassed & too ashamed to report it!

***************************

Dear ‘Tom’ the Tree Man,

Firstly, thank you for kindly offering your Tree-felling services at the home of an elderly client of mine, Mrs Maria Popalotova, approximately six months ago.

Lovely Maria is a proud but humble, 89-year old Bulgarian-born lady who, although substantially vision-impaired, still lives alone in her large family home, stews jars of fruit (picked from her very own garden) and as the neighbours can testify – sings soprano in FULL voice whilst doing the housework chores. Suffering arthritis and prone to the odd fall (understandable when you’re officially legally blind), Maria is still mostly independent and in damn good nick for a mature girl.

Somehow, Tom, I suspect you may already have known some of this at the time?

In fact, Maria remarked to me not long after meeting you, that it was uncanny when you turned up on her doorstep one day, out of the blue, like you did. Straight after that huge storm we had; the one where horrific winds caused such massive destruction in her suburb.

Oh, what a godsend you were, Tom!

How else could Maria ever have realised the danger she was in with that large eucalyptus tree in her backyard leaning so perilously close to her bedroom window? 

And, as you so earnestly advised her, it would only take one more big wind – and it could literally DESTROY HER ENTIRE HOUSE, didn’t you say, Tom?  Crikey, Tom… you told Maria that THIS would happen:

Really, THIS?

And, therefore, it was imperative for Maria’s own safety, as you told her at the time, that the tree be removed IMMEDIATELY.

Oh, and what luck it was, Tom… that Maria had all that cash hidden away on the ledge above the kitchen stove, in her little secret teapot… the pretty white one with the pansies on it. Coincidentally, the precise amount you required to start the job, Tom – exactly $2000. What luck!

And a BARGAIN, you said, considering how the now terrified Maria’s life could be at stake if the teetering tree wasn’t removed by Friday. Why, it was pittance, really.

As you said, Tom, it would be foolish (and very “un-Australian”) NOT to pay you! And so she paid you willingly, Tom, because you were just so caring and concerned for her wellbeing.

Which is why Maria understood completely when you ever-so-politely insisted, that you have the cash up front to buy materials NOW.

IT WAS BECAUSE YOU CARED, TOM!

To be honest, finding people that actually do ‘care’ as much as you do, Tom, is pretty thin on the ground these days. Especially after hearing all these dreadful stories about elderly people being scammed by all sorts of dodgy tradesmen and fake utility servicemen. 

Innocent elders who are conned out of money that they’ve saved up during their working lives; nest-eggs for retirement enabling them to enjoy their golden years; or just money set aside for increased medical costs from potential health issues associated with ageing.

And then there’s the appalling fraudsters, the lowest of the low, who just randomly turn up at people’s doors, unscrupulously offering so-called urgent maintenance of phone, gas or power lines.

Because nobody DARES mess with a potentially broken one of these. 

As a scare tactic – IT’S PERFECT!  

Then there’s the scoundrels posing as contractors who scope out neighbourhoods, watching for lonely and vulnerable older adults who, often desperate for company, are more than happy to believe the “nice man” at their front door. 

And that these ‘necessary’ property repairs, such as broken roof tiles, brickwork, cracked concrete paths, driveways or garden maintenance – are absolutely genuine.

Come to think of it, Tom, a bit like the work you offered to do for Maria, wasn’t it?

It’s actually quite sad (and scary) to think that innocent senior citizens living alone are such easy targets to these con artists, merely because they choose to TRUST people. 

Such a nasty world out there, Tom, when you think about it… to know that someone could sink that low?

Nothing dodgy about this van.
No! Not a thing…

And I’m sure it wasn’t your fault you were delayed, Tom. 

As Maria said, you probably had a lot of other work in the area that needed doing, too. In fact, it was only a few weeks back when she said she thought you would return any day now. That you and your little unmarked yellow van would pull into her driveway with all the special equipment (that she paid for) to get that pesky tree down before it did any major damage.

SHE STUCK BY YOU, TOM!

Even when the contact details on your most professional-looking business card came back with ‘number not in service’…. she still had faith that you’d honour your word. Maria actually worried about you, Tom, and she hoped that nothing bad had happened to you.

Isn’t that sweet?

Funny thing about the big allegedly ‘dangerous’ gumtree, and perhaps you were looking at it from the wrong angle, Tom? But a man from the council came to check it out the other day and confirmed that it could never have been a threat to Maria’s home. Even if it did fall over – it just wasn’t big enough!

Strange, huh?

Sadly, Tom, in the last month or so, I have noticed a change in dear Maria. She is so much quieter than she used to be; she seems fearful and she’s lost a lot of her confidence and now relies on outside help with her daily routine more than she ever used to.

It’s painful to watch her become this way, Tom – almost as if she has given up on, well… PEOPLE?

Definitely hard to believe she’s the same bubbly lady who once sang (with gusto!) in the shower, bottled her own nectarines and enjoyed social bus trip outings with the local ‘Senior Citz’ club. 

Instead she prefers to just stay at home alone.  And just sit. 

Her family now worry because Maria has become so frail and unwell that she can clearly no longer cope by herself. 

Just… heart-breaking.

Anyway, wherever you are, Tom… thanks so much again for all you’ve done.  I heard only last Friday, that Maria’s home had been sold and she has since been re-located into an aged-care facility situated miles away from the life and the people she once knew and loved.

So in the meantime, one question… sorry, Tom. I know you’re such a busy and important man and all…

Would you mind if some devious sleaze-ball did this to YOUR dear old Mum?!?!

We are NOT amused.

Yours in disgust, 

(On behalf of our beautiful, broken Maria)

Cheers, Dollie


Posted in Aged Care, Respect

The Wooden Bowl

Just a nice story about Compassion & Respect (and PEAS!)

“I guarantee you will remember this tale of The Wooden Bowl, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now. It goes like this:

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and 4-yr-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. Every night, the family ate together at the table.

Unfortunately, the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped his glass, he always spilled milk on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.

“We must do something about my father,” said the son. ‘I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.”

The husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather would eat alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner at the big table. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. If he dropped the bowl, it would clatter with a loud noise, but at least it would not break.

This went on for some time. When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence. 

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?”

Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little wooden bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.” The 4-yr-old smiled and went back to work. 

The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. They looked at each other, and felt a cold sensation wash over them. Though no words were spoken, both knew they had acted poorly and needed to take action. 

That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

<Author Unknown>

A big ol’ BOWL

“On a positive note, I’ve learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things:  a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life’.

I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back sometimes.

I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you.  But if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can – happiness will find you.

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decisions.

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I dont have to be one.

I’ve learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone.  People love that human touch; holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.”

Pesky, trouble-making peas…

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers,
Dollie


Posted in Aged Care, Working with Elderly

Lovely Lips for Lois

Love amongst the Lipsticks!

I witnessed the most perfect display of selfless and unconditional love today.  An unexpected, yet beautifully-presented scene that just randomly played out before me – in a rotten old Target store, of all places.

And while I’m pleased that I happened upon such a thought-provoking little interlude, I’m also doubly chuffed that I managed to snap a very nice photo of it as well. Working in the aged-care industry, I’ve long since realised the value of capturing the special moments as they come along – no matter how inconsequential they might seem at the time.

A picture is worth a thousand words, don’t they say?  

I hope you’ll find this heart-warming photo, which I’ve saved ’til the end of my story (can you bear the suspense?) – worthy of being talked about. Clue: it is.

In the meantime, a picture of some cheeky-looking Galahs to tide you over:

Who’s a pretty boy then?

Let me set the scene:

Firstly, and you may not know this, but shopping centres during the week days, transform into what can only be described as the perfect ‘pensioners paradise’!

Yes, indeedy. For while the rest of us are off being dutifully occupied at work or school or whatever, teams of opportunistic Retirees get to roam freely in herd-like fashion throughout the malls.  Albeit often a silver-haired, slowwww moving herd – but a herd all the same.

Chatting leisurely with other like-minded Golden-Agers, casually pushing trolleys or towing low-maintenance free-wheeled trolley devices… they get their errands run unhindered, un-flustered and un-pressured. Enjoying the shopping experience at their own pace and without judgement or frowning upon from any of us raucous unruly lot, thank you very much.

Not to mention packing out cafes and teashops to the brim when they’re primed and ready for the proverbial nice hot cuppa – and creamcake too if blood sugar meds allow it.

Fear not though, for by the time we self-appointed important peeps all barrel into the shops and supermarkets to hunt and gather for the family feast, these older folk are long gone.  Back at home, unpacked and un-shoed…they’ve completed their quests and are now poised in recliners snoozing, or awaiting the early edition News update on the telly.

Yet, here I found myself, thanks to a late cancellation, breaking all of society’s sacred unwritten rules… I decided to make an impromptu visit to my local shopping centre.

And as I stood in the Toiletries aisle languishing in my glorious mid-morn freedom, deliberating on whether to go the strawberry or the vanilla flavoured lip balm (it’s a tough life), I could hear a softly-spoken male voice at the cosmetics section behind me.  Upon changing my angle, I saw it was an older gent with white hair standing alongside what was evidently his matching elderly wife in a wheelchair. 

With stiff stooped shoulders and her wasted hands lay motionless in her lap, she clearly had serious health problems (a stroke or maybe MS?).  However, that wasn’t an issue for this pair who, oblivious to me and my life-threatening lip balm dilemma, were focused on choosing LIPSTICKS.

And even more fortunately for her, I thought – her husband was doing it spectacularly!

“Honey Beige, Melting Melon, Glazed Caramel… what the heck?  Some of these colours, Lois… sound more like food to me.  That reminds me, we’ll do the groceries after this”.

Lovely-sounding-hubby was now donning his reading specs in order to decipher the ridiculously teeny tiny writing found on most lippys.  A man on a mission and with no shop assistant in sight, he clearly felt at ease in what was typically a woman’s domain.  Regardless of her health state, his wife was still a lady and therefore there was no reason in the world why she shouldn’t maintain the beauty regimes that allowed her to feel feminine and ‘normal’.   

“Pink Opal… Berry Beauty… Flushed Fuchsia.  But they’re ALL pink!  There’s just such a lot to pick from, Lois.  And I was thinking ‘pink’ was just PINK!”

In my head I had to agree…. STUPID SAME-COLOURED LIPSTICKS!

Pink, Pink – YOU STINK!

“Nude Mauve!”

“Erotic Blush!”

“Ravishing Rose!”

“Good gracious me, darling… a bit naughty-sounding some of them, might be a bit much?”

I laughed out loud at this comment, nearly blowing my cover but managed to change position while edging closer to the action.

“Here, let’s try this one, Lois.  Forever Precious it’s called… that’s definitely you, darling.  And it’s such a pretty pink.”

As Lois sat motionless, in her purely supervisory capacity, her adoring spouse crouched down before her to apply yet another shade of pink to the back of his wife’s lifeless hand.  They’d obviously been at it for a while because they seemed to have the routine down pat.  He would mark her skin for testing, pause to stand back and admire, then discuss yes? Or no? (with himself) before a gentle wipe with the tissue in preparation for the next one. 

So, yes by now I was melting on the inside – it was just gorgeous to watch!

“This Smokey Pearl one here… that’ll match your new pink blouse, Lois. The one we bought for Bryce’s graduation.  But let’s get the Charming Coral one as well.  Just in case, yes?”

Apparently, Lois could speak but it must’ve been only just, as he had to lean his ear right into her face to hear her.

“Ha ha yes!  ‘Charming’ – just like me!  Ha ha ha… good one, darling”

Brilliant! Lois was being silly too!

“Here’s one…Spiced Coffee.  Oh, for goodness sake, Lois!  How about we have a think about it all and go get some ‘spiced coffee’ of our own at that nice café over there; they might have some ‘glazed caramel’ we can have for morning tea.  What fun!”

As they wheeled off out of the shop, I couldn’t see Lois’s face, but I felt sure she would be smiling and thoroughly enjoying herself.  Having such a kind and genuinely loving man by her side, helping her choose lipstick no less.

WHAT MAN DOES THAT?!

And how he spoke to her…. the way he interacted with her!  Such patience and grace, the undeniable care and commitment he showed for his dear disabled wife; it was truly truly admirable. 

In fact, I had no doubt that Lois, in her sad wheely-bound existence, thanks to this sweet and devoted man – got to smile every single day of her life .

Now, as promised——- THE PHOTO!  

Enjoy.

A Thousand Words.

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie