Juggling Old Ladies

That’s what it feels like at the moment.

Ten days ago MiL was admitted to hospital with suspected severe cellulitis. It turned out to be an infection in the replacement knee joint which she had fitted last October. After the operation to ‘wash out’ the joint (a benign term but by no means straightforward. I wouldn’t want to put you off your dinner so won’t go into details here) she was to go to the HDU : High Dependency Unit ‘as a precaution’. As it turned out she spent the entire weekend on HDU for reasons/s unknown. It scarcely mattered to mum because she was either asleep or confused almost the entire time she was there. When she eventually ‘came round’ after 3 nights on the unit she couldn’t understand why she wasn’t on an ordinary ward and we were not informed enough to tell her.

It was on HDU that we first heard the word ‘sepsis‘. In addition, the staff nurse on her pre-op ward had already expressed concern about mum’s ‘kidney function’. This was mentioned again on HDU as well as the fact that the intravenous antibiotics being used to treat the sepsis would likely cause further kidney damage. All very worrying. Since then, however, none of these things have been mentioned. Doctors on the geriatric ward have been trying to find the right antibiotics to treat ‘the infection’ and believe they are ‘getting on top of it.’

Mum’s confusion has lessened to the extent where she is all-too-aware of what is going on around her. She is concerned about her weakened state (she has after all spent a week completely bed-bound) and about the state of her legs: they have taken the brunt of ‘the infection’. And these were not ‘good’ legs to begin with. Her right leg in particular has taken several hits in the last two years: a leg ulcer on her calf eventually required surgery; once that was healed she was able to have her replacement knee joint revision surgery in October 2014 (hospitalised 6 days); 11 days after leaving hospital she fell and fractured her tibia (hospitalised 17 days); and on 2nd January this year she broke the same tibia after yet another fall (hospitalised 7 days).

After returning home from hospital in January she was at home for a week before her GP recognised that she and Aunty were not coping and arranged respite care in a nearby care home. After two weeks they were judged fit enough to return home. Although they had initially resisted the need to be ‘looked after’ mum was dismayed to be ‘kicked out’ and had even started asking us how much it might cost to stay.

Spring saw Aunty admitted to hospital with ‘an infection’ (pesky little blighters these infections, eh?). She also developed cellulitis and was discharged after 15 days. Now she is home alone the care workers who attend twice a day for half an hour are concerned about her. We are concerned about her. And mum is concerned about her. Aunty is no longer able to work out when to take her medications and what to take. She talks about feeling like her legs might give way beneath her. She is depressed and anxious because MiL is in hospital and none of us know when she will be coming home. But Aunty is resistant to returning to the care home: “I’ll be alright.” Will she? And if she isn’t? If she falls and ends up in hospital will we blame ourselves for not insisting that she goes into respite care?

We are juggling old ladies and it’s bloody tricky.

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