Deadlock

This last month we’ve been through a lot,
I’m sitting here and taking stock,
On several weeks of constant stress,
Through mum-in-law’s change of address,
By no means an easy relocation,
Still drowning in administration!
Mum-in-law on mind around the clock,
But at least we’ve broken the deadlock…

It’s like Hercules fighting Hydra,
Cut one head off – two others bite ya,
(Not implying House Manager’s a snake,
But still, she’s been a huge headache!),
Repairs still ongoing in old place,
Whole letting out saga yet to face,
To all our systems it has been a shock,
But for now – we’ve broken the deadlock…

But though it’s driven us deranged,
This is still what I wanted – CHANGE!!
We could not have gone on like before,
Maintain status quo there anymore,
Mum-in-law’s now settled, happy, near,
Her jumble at the old house cleared,
We took our chance; we took our shot,
And – at last! – we’ve broken the deadlock…

Never thought that we could cut that cord,
There’s no going back on any score,
Moving forward – if on an incline,
Changed circumstances to match her decline,
And whatever problems it might bring,
Still believe that we’ve done the right thing,
And I know that there’ll be future knocks,
But thank God! We’ve broken the deadlock…

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Missing Memories…

I know – in the grand scheme of things – that this is not the biggest deal in the world, but still really gutted about it all the same…

MIL never had any family photos to speak of beyond the few she has in frames about the house, so a bright side of the Great Flood saga of 2012 was OH finding some bags full in the attic.

It took weeks, but I salvaged the non-water damaged ones and – with a bit of detective work as to who was who – put together a really lovely big photo album of all the family photos, from MIL and FIL’s own parents and grandparents right through to our wedding in 2012. It had the only photos of her and OH as a baby or a child that exist; MIL’s wedding photos; her AmDram, tennis and bowls clubs pictures; family holidays; old and new pictures of her sister, her cousins, her friends, literally everything – right through from sepia to digital age…

We presented it to MIL on a family dinner in a “This is Your Life” style event, and she was over the moon with it. One of the few truly positive memories I have of her.

But now…

It’s not in the old house. It’s not in the new house. Charity clearers and builder chap were asked to keep an eye out, and still couldn’t find it. We didn’t pack it. Carers haven’t seen it. It’s literally nowhere to be found – out of all that junk, the one thing I desperately wanted to keep for her, for my family, for future generations (not that there are going to be any – but just in case…).

What the hell has she managed to do with it…?!?!?!?

Either way, it’s gone, and I am gutted… :(

Kicking myself for not having scanned them all in first.

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Monopoly

Renovation work is continuing apace back at my MIL’s old property – there was / is sooooooooo much to do – from clearance to repairs to redecoration to industrial strength clean etc etc (none of which we could realistically turn our attention to while MIL was still in the house – dealing with the wolf nearest door at and all that).

Took two 12m skips to clear the place of MIL’s assorted junk (and that’s even after having moved a lot over to the new place, cleared the place of valuables beforehand and had a charity clearance done first!). She always was something of a hoarder and liked her (horrible) knick knacks, but I hadn’t quite appreciated just how bad it truly was there until we got down and dirty there (so to speak)…

Total cost including labour, skips and materials is going to be about £4k – which she is paying from her savings. There is no way around that if we’re going to get the place rental ready in a short time frame, and then she should have a good £1,200+ coming in each month from that in addition to her £2k pension (her rent at the assisted living is £900pm). All the income from the property (aside from agency fees / income tax etc) will be going to her – needless to say – so hoping no dodgy LA questions there later down the line in terms of what’s currently being paid out… I’m keeping all communications / bills / quotes etc there and a running list of what’s been paid by who and when for prosperity!

I have to say the guy we’ve settled on has been brilliant – friendly, flexible, fair, always in touch and has been sending me photos every few days of the work that’s been completed. Plus he is doing everything as one job – saves having to deal with a million different decorators, carpet fitters, clearers, cleaners, tilers, gardeners etc etc.

MIL blissfully unaware of anything going on there – she hasn’t asked about the house once, and we’re certainly not going to bring it up – too many questions!

Anyhoo, given the work should be completed by end of this week, am starting to think ahead about renting it out. Know we have to have a boiler / electrics inspection and certificate and get in landlord insurance in MIL’s name (but we will be the acting landlords on a practical level – and by “we” I mean “me” in reality!). We’ll go through a letting agency (worth paying the fees for to have everything done by the book) – hoping they can help us sort out the practicalities there…

Anything else I should be thinking about…?  Feeling a bit out of my depth here…

We have a lodger in our house, but the rules are different there. And now acting as landlord and lady for MIL’s place – what a couple of capitalists! It’s like playing Monopoly, but more rules (but hopefully no jail).

Meanwhile, our own place is in dire need of a lick of paint and the garage is currently looking like a bomb has hit it – but one thing at a time!

Trying to persuade OH that we can actually afford a once a month cleaner to come in and do a “big” clean for us. Between work, commuting, MIL and ongoing renovations to her property, it’s all we can do at the moment to keep our own flat looking even vaguely respectable…

(Says she, who has just spent all morning cleaning while OH slept till noon!)

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Area Manager Meeting

So had interview with Area Manager of MIL’s assisted living complex yesterday – House Manager (fortunately) didn’t attend.

All very civilised.

He seemed a reasonable guy – though didn’t / couldn’t obviously give too much away. We aired our concerns in a professional way, and tried not to get too personal about House Manager herself. We did show him the emails from the care agency flagging up unprofessional behaviour on the HM’s part, which we hoped would speak for themselves there…

He had heard a markedly different version of events from HM herself, which isn’t surprising (frantic back covering I’m sure going on there – I know whose version of events I believe at any rate) and said he’d not had any complaints about her before, but would speak to her on our behalf. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that discussion!

On the upside, he did say we were doing all the right things by MIL, and could see that as a family we had a long-term plan and were not sticking our heads in the sand. He also clearly understood the dynamics in play amongst the residents – he knew exactly which lady was stirring up trouble (the same one who racially abused our Polish movers and had a fit that MIL’s bed when they moved it in wasn’t up to her high standards!) and that she was a bit of a known busy body (though with influence there among the rest). Fortunately he agreed that MIL can still be considered independent – even with a care package in place – and was certainly by no means the worst resident health-wise within the complex (there is another gentleman who has much worse dementia, but said busy body lady doesn’t seem to have a problem with him as he’s been there a long time and was an owner rather than a tenant (an important distinction in the residents’ little world – apparently!).

As ever, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – and whether House Manager’s attitude will improve as a result of his intervention remains yet to be seen.

However, all in all, it went about as well as we could have expected at this stage – and we won’t hesitate to escalate it further if HM continues to cross the line towards MIL…

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Blood Boiling!!!!!!!!!

Dear Area Manager,

As discussed in our recent meeting, please find below a summary of events concerning my mother, Mrs Merlot – including supplementary evidence provided in below appendix.*

My mother moved into Assisted Living Complex on the 18th April 2015, and enjoyed a successful first two weeks under the excellent management of the then relief manager on duty. My wife and I, multiple family friends and representatives of Care Agency all commented on how well my mother had settled and taken to communal living in general.

My mother, a sunny and sociable individual, is perfectly independent in her daily living, despite some issues with short-term memory loss. She has visits from Care Agency only in order to assist her with transportation, now that she is no longer in possession of a car. We temporarily increased her rate of visits from once a day to three times a day in the short term solely to help my mother adjust to the move, which most elderly persons of 78 might be expected to find somewhat on the stressful side. This has since been scaled back to the standard rate of one visit per day.

Unfortunately since House Manager’s return from holiday on 27th April 2015, we have had a number of issues concerning her unprofessional attitude and open hostility displayed towards my mother, as outlined as below:

• On her return from holiday, House Manager immediately contacted my wife to say that Mrs Merlot could not live at Assisted Living Complex and claimed that the cat was in the flat without appropriate permission. This was in spite of the fact that House Manager had not actually met my mother prior to the call, and that we had permission in writing from the landlord that she was permitted to have the cat, as I believe many other residents also do. My wife confessed herself afterwards as surprised as to the abruptness and hostility of House Manager’s manner over the course of the call.

• I met with House Manager the following morning to discuss her concerns, and also found her to be very abrasive in her tone, which also included the unnecessarily direct statement to me that, “We’re not a care home, you know!”. I attempted to reassure her as to my mother’s full independence and capability, but unfortunately we could not reach agreement in this respect.

• Representatives from Care Agency (Carer and Carer 2) have reported that House Manager has been approaching them in an abrasive manner and sharing confidential information regarding Mrs Merlot with other residents and encouraging them to do the same. We find it unprofessional, unacceptable and inappropriate for the carers, who after all have no influence over my mother’s living arrangements, to be addressed in this fashion.

• Carer from Care Agency has also reported that House Manager has behaved in a bullying manner towards my mother by telling her to her face that she has Alzheimer’s and will have to leave, and threatening her with taking away her much beloved cat. This to us seems the utmost in cruelty displayed towards an otherwise sweet, elderly lady, who cannot as easily fight back.

• House Manager had previously raised as a potential security issue that my mother’s address was attached to her key ring (which I am to blame for adding, not my mother). We removed the address section on House Manager’s request and replaced it with merely the flat number, which at the time House Manager stated would be acceptable, only for a few days later for her to raise the issue again stating the exact opposite. She has been reported as having been very heavy handed and confrontational towards my mother in this respect, abruptly forcing my mother to hand over her personal property to her on demand and telling her that she’ll get into trouble should she lose ever them. We have since removed the flat number from the key ring in order to placate House Manager in this respect.

• On discussion concerning any of the above with House Manager, she has denied all knowledge of ever having approached the carers or ever having said that my mother could have the flat number of her key ring. She has contradicted herself at several turns both over the course of our face to face meeting and on the phone with my wife.

• My wife suggested to House Manager that if there were any issues with the keys or anything else going forward, that she feel free to have a word in our ear and we would be sure to address appropriately. House Manager rebuffed this offer of cooperation by stating that “she didn’t have time to be calling us over every little thing” and that her job was “to have a working relationship with Mrs Merlot – not with you”.

I am enclosing documentary evidence of all of the above, as well as a copy of my mother’s rental agreement as issued by Private Letting Agency, which makes no mention of any eligibility criteria in terms of independent living at all (which, in any case, I strongly believe my mother would meet) and also states in writing that my mother is permitted to have the cat at her flat. At no time over the course of arranging the let or meeting with the owner, Mr Landlord, were we ever questioned by any party as to my mother’s suitability to reside at Assisted Living Complex. I would suggest if there are any flaws in the integration policies regarding private lets at Assisted Living Complex made available on the open market, then this is a matter for the executive to address, rather than my mother being targeted as a result of any such administrative failings.

I find it highly disappointing that not one ounce of compassion or understanding has been shown towards my mother since the time House Manager returned from holiday. Rather, the treatment she and the Care Agency representatives have received at her hands has bordered on bullying, harassment and victimisation of an elderly woman.

I can only wonder as to House Manager’s treatment of other residents at Assisted Living Complex who have the misfortune to also fall victim to any similar form of physical or mental weakness (some of whom I have met myself while in the communal areas of the complex, and I understand in other cases are receiving round the clock care) – a frequent occurrence, I would think, with so many people of an elderly demographic living under one roof.

I place my trust in Property Management Group management to address the issue of House Manager’s attitude and behaviours towards my mother. Please be advised that if I do not see an improvement in this respect, I will not hesitate to escalate this further towards Property Management Group executive, media outlets and related charitable organisations.

Kind regards,

My Husband

(But written by yours truly!)

 

*Not included here, obvs.

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This is War

As some of you might have read on a previous post, the house manager for MIL’s new assisted living place has been giving us a few problems of late – i.e. kicking up a fuss about us not having the right permission forms for the cat (among other things) and definitely not liking the fact that MIL had dementia.

She seemed to think we expected the place to be a care home – which we don’t – MIL is perfectly fine within her four walls and what she struggles with outside of those, we have external carers in to assist her with (i.e. taking her shopping etc). As far as we know, MIL hasn’t put a foot wrong – other than being repetitive and once asking in the shared lounge what time breakfast and lunch were served – and in both our and the carers’ opinion has settled remarkably well.

OH went round on house manager’s request for a “chat” a couple of weeks back – which as we suspected from the phone call with her prior, was destined to be not so much a “chat” as a politely pre-arranged battle ground. Suffice to say (in OH’s own words), he showed her both the velvet glove and the iron fist, and a ceasefire was called after that – they both agreed that we all know assisted living is not a long-term solution, but for now she is well enough still to be there.

So was not happy today when I got an email from the care agency saying that the house manager (in carer’s presence) had upset MIL by insisting she didn’t have her address on her key ring (a “security risk” apparently) – and carer confirmed she was really unnecessarily rude about it, both towards MIL and the carer herself. But MIL doesn’t have the full address on her key ring – only the flat number, which she uses to navigate herself about the place. Surely no harm in that – even if her bag were stolen while out (and the carers always accompany her out anyhow), how would anyone be able to equate just a door number with a block of flats…?? Also raises the question of what house manager was doing with MIL’s keys in the first place – didn’t get a clear answer on that one… We already weren’t particularly happy with how home manager had previously “confiscated” the address section of MIL’s key ring when she first stopped in to her flat “to say hello” (hah!) – we understood perfectly her point about security, but she really seemed to have gone about it in a heavy-handed way.

I sense we are going to have “issues” with this lady – more so than we have already… If MIL was causing a massive ruckus, then that would be one thing, but she isn’t. Fortunately house manager doesn’t have (I don’t think) the power to override a private let (as opposed to a direct contract with the property management company).

If there is more to the story than I know or the carers know (and I’m prepared to admit there might well be), then why isn’t this woman letting us (whose contact details she definitely has) know, rather than challenging MIL directly…??

Arggggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh.

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Battle Rant

Don’t mess with the Merlots,
You just will not win!
My husband is fearsome,
When it comes to his kin,
So woe betide you there,
If you get under his skin!

He’s a military man,
And believe me that shows!
Still controlled, still composed,
When his anger’s arose,
Will bulldozer all those,
Who dare one of us to oppose.

He’s one of life’s good guys,
Not quick to get irate,
But when it comes to conflict,
He’ll step up to the plate,
Not scared to enter into “strong debate”,
Husband’s a hyberbolic heavyweight!

This manager’s no match!
She should not even try!
He ran verbal rings round her,
Had her left all tongue-tied,
He’ll fight mum-in-law’s corner,
Till the day that she dies.

With this jobsworthy woman,
He’ll give more than tit for tat,
My mum-in-law’s staying put,
And that is just that!
If she’s happy, we’re happy,
And so too is the cat!!!

This is why we’re a team,
My warrior husband and I,
I’ll fight you with a pen,
But he’ll go eye to eye,
Just thank God mum-in-law,
Has us both on her side…

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Russia

A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma
As Winston Churchill of Russia once said,
Same goes for that vast unknown hinterland,
That lies within my mum-in-law’s own head…

Does she sense at all what lay behind this move?
To “memory lapses” these days will often admit,
Does she suspect quite how much for her we really do…?
Or realise she has the carers in just to “babysit”?

She’ll go with the flow, there we’re lucky – I know,
Seems content to just put her whole life in our hands,
Seems to trust us completely to do the right thing,
Just how much of it all does she still understand…??

I’d love to be a fly on the wall of mum-in-law’s mind,
To this unknowable riddle there discover the key,
But there are no answers – and there will never be,
Not for her, not for husband and never for me….

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Crystal Ball

I wish I had a crystal ball,
I wish that I could see,
What the future holds in store,
For husband, mother, me…

Mum-in-law in assisted living,
But how long will she stay there?
How long before she’s acting up,
And being hauled off into care…?

Who will win this whole battle,
Between house manager and us?
She’s piped down for the moment,
But fully expect future fuss…

Years or months or weeks or days,
Till MIL gets lost in her own maze?
Knocks on doors and makes a scene,
Cries and raves and rants and screams…?

I wish I had a crystal ball,
Might not like what I may see,
And yet forewarned is still forearmed,
For I hate this uncertainty…

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Battle Lines

Has it really only been a week since we moved mum-in-law in…???

For some reason, it feels much longer ago….

Our feeling – touch wood! – is that mum-in-law has coped remarkably well. Carers and friends also note she is very upbeat and adapting well to what for her is not so much a change but a monumental life upheaval. No dramas to report after that one phone blip last Sunday, and no calls from the complex reporting any issues either…

Which makes it all the more galling that the Home Manager (as opposed to Relief Manager who was only covering the last two weeks while the permanent one was on holiday) returned to work yesterday and is all of a sudden kicking up a right old stink…

We didn’t have the correct permissions for the cat (though no one ever mentioned we had to fill out a form for that, on top of gaining landlord’s and letting agency’s written permission).

Mum-in-law hadn’t been run through the ‘Elf and Safety regulations yet with us – what if, God forbid, there were a fire…?? (Likewise, no one mentioned that having to be done either first week.)

Oh, and she notes that mum-in-law has dementia. An “issue”, apparently. “Cause we’re not a residential care home, you know!”. Yes thanks – we do!!

Mum-in-law hadn’t done anything to draw negative attention to herself over the week (and I’d understand her concern if that were the case) – in fact she’s been on her very best behavior since she moved in!

Still, Home Manager wanted husband in for a “chat”, and from the phone conversation between them prior, we got the very strong sense it would not be so much a “chat” as a politely pre-arranged battleground (cue sleepless nights for both of us beforehand…).

Wish I had been a fly on that wall this morning!!!

It did turn into a bit of a battle, apparently – in OH’s words, “he showed her the velvet glove and the iron fist (verbally of course), and she will have learned a lesson not to mess with the Merlots again”.

It sounds like he did a pretty good job actually – I (being naturally conflict averse) would have been rubbish! He didn’t lose his temper at all, but was not afraid to play harder ball than she did when it came down to it, and basically out matched her well and truly. He can be a force to be reckoned with when riled!

Politely but firmly stated our case – i.e. that mum-in-law is fit to live there, is fully independent within her four walls, and for anything that she does need additional help with (shopping, laundry etc), we pay carers to come in and assist with – no onus on the complex staff to provide any care for her at all whatsoever.

A ceasefire has now been called. OH has said he knows this is not a permanent solution (well, we all know that), and that we’ll move her if she deteriorates to a point its no longer viable for her to stay there. And she in turn will (sensibly) STFU for the moment.

So mum-in-law is staying put. And so is the bloody cat.

Legally speaking, I’m pretty sure (though not 100%) that there’s not an awful lot she can do to get mum-in-law out, even if she wanted to. The flat is let privately by the son of the previous owner / occupant, and while the landlord, letting agents and us are fine with her being there, then am not sure on what grounds she could overrule it – especially as mum-in-law hasn’t put a foot wrong (yet). It’s hardly poor mum-in-law’s fault if the landlord, letting agency and retirement complex haven’t streamlined their processes in terms of residence criteria and otherwise…

I only hope a bit of strong debate between her and OH has not made an implacable enemy out of her, which could negatively rebound on mum-in-law…

A good Home Manager is definitely one to have on side – if at all possible – though think that ship might well have sailed by now!

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