Juggling Old Ladies, Pt II

For those of you following our mini-saga, a quick update:

Audrey is looking much brighter (see photographic evidence) and is regaining some strength: she has taken her first steps in over ten days. Doctors are still juggling the various antibiotics to best counteract ‘the infection’ whilst closely monitoring her kidney function via ultrasound tests. 

As for Ivy, we finally reached a point where we and the care team felt that it was no longer safe for her to remain at home alone. We had to get social services involved to find her an emergency respite place and after many phone calls we learned that she had got a place at the home she and Audrey spent time in in January this year. Cue sighs of relief all round.

Audrey had obviously been doing a lot of thinking while she’s been in hospital and has decided that perhaps the time has come for her to be ‘cared for’ too. Although privately we had been thinking this we had expected a bit of a battle in persuading mum that this might be the best route for her. Imagine our shock when she put forward the suggestion herself —.

Early days yet but we are trying to stay and think positive.


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.

I Am Sandwich Woman

1964: Child, Mother, Grandmothers and Great-Grandmother

And by that I mean, I’m not just fond of a bacon butty (which I most certainly am), I am becoming part of the so-called ‘sandwich generation’: “those who are simultaneously providing care, including financial support, to younger and older generations at the same time.” It is also a nod to Allison Pearson’s column about the fictional character Kate Reddy who finds herself torn between the needs of children and parents.

Women like my mother aimed to be married by the age of 21. Any older and you were in danger of being ‘left on the shelf’. Invariably babies soon followed. So it was with both of our mothers. By the time they were forty their offspring were leaving home for first jobs or university. When I was forty my children were aged 10 and 7. When my husband was forty our eldest child wasn’t even a twinkle in his father’s eye.

Like many couples we now have children who, although they are of college age, are still dependent on us to varying degrees. In DD’s case she still needs us to ferry her about to social engagements, while H may never be wholly independent  (he is learning disabled). At the same time our parents are becoming ever-more-reliant on our help and advice.

These, then, are our sandwich years: sandwiched between children and parents. Not for us the responsibility-free years enjoyed by our parents, who, from the age of 45 onwards only had themselves to please. These were (literally) their carefree (care-free) years.

Once or twice DD has said that she intends to have her children while she is “still young.” My initial reaction was to throw up my hands in horror. But she probably has the right idea. By the time she is my age (50) we, her parents, will be 83 and 94 if we are (un)lucky enough to live so long. In addition, she may also have the added responsibility of caring for her brother. So it would seem we are bringing up the next generation of sandwich carers.

Since 2010 we have been ‘keeping an eye on’ my husband’s mum and her aunt who live together in a nearby market town. They are both fiercely independent, capable, house-proud, northern women. Auntie has been widowed for thirty years and as such has learned to fend for herself. MiL (mother-in-law) was widowed in 2007 and has found it difficult adjusting to being the sole decision-maker.

For the time being our caring is a juggled, from-a-distance affair. This coming Thursday we will take MiL into hospital for a(nother) knee replacement operation. Then OH will pick H up from college for the half-term break. And finally I will take DD to stay with Auntie so that she doesn’t have to go into respite care whilst MiL is in hospital. Like I said, juggling.

Keep your fingers crossed that all goes to plan x


Contemplating The Big Five-Oh

I’m rapidly approaching 50. No, really, I know it’s hard to believe but I am literally days away from the big 5-0. Halfway to being a Centenarian. I don’t feel 50, whatever 50 feels like (that sounded a bit Prince Charles-ish, but you know what I mean). However, it does seem quite a long way from being 49. At the moment I’m still in my forties. That sounds quite young still, to me. Whereas 50 is pretty much knocking on the door of being old. Isn’t it?

The thing is I distinctly remember my mum being 50 (I was 28, after all, a young flibbertigibbet) and in a way it doesn’t seem that long ago. My husband turned 50 over eleven years ago and for some reason that seems even longer ago. Maybe the little grey cells are already disintegrating and deceiving me?

If you Google you will find any number of articles about 50 being the new 40, hell, one article even states it is the new 34. Bring it on I say! These are published to make their 50-something readers feel good about themselves. They appear regularly in newspapers like The Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail and in popular women’s magazines. There’s even a website and a Facebook page. Of course, there are the naysayers like Bernard Salt, writing (hilariously) in The Australian (my mum is a typical Picture Theorist BTW).

I don’t feel the need to try wingwalking (Carol Vorderman) but I do recognise the general feeling of contentment I have with my life now  (Ian Rankin) and only this week  I found myself dismissing an outfit as being ‘too young’ for me (Matthew Bourne). Matthew also commented that “(g)etting older only matters if you don’t feel good in yourself.” I would add that it also only matters if you don’t feel good about yourself. Apparently, I’m in good company with Michelle Obama on that one. She also turned 50 this year, as did Russell Crowe, Lenny Kravitz, Tracey Emin, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. Now, that would be some party!

What are the differences between me at forty and me at fifty? Apart from twenty pounds or so (and no, I don’t mean £s, more’s the pity).  The physical aspects of ageing don’t really spring to mind. Unlike Michelle Perrault I haven’t contemplated touching up my hair – yes there are hints of grey here and there – or plumping for botox… yet. I have slight aches and pains occasionally but I blame them on inherited bunions (thanks Dad). I daren’t ask family and friends but I suspect that I am more belligerent, less patient, more inclined to speak my mind (aka less inclined to tolerate bullsh*t). But apart from these minor idiosyncrasies, I am contented and that counts for a lot.

At any rate, being 50 seems like an appropriate time in my life to commit thoughts – whilst I still have them – to screen. Hence the idea to start the blog. Quintastic!