Well, that was a turn up for the books.
We were expecting to have something of a fight on our hands (I think we’re still in battle mode from the last hellish year to date), but far from it in fact!
OH and I were VERY impressed by care home management – in particular the very warm, empathetic, capable care home manager (CHM), who is clearly very adept at managing MIL’s various “behaviours”.
I’m guessing Caribbean background (just to set the scene), very quick with a deep laugh and big smile – who spoke genuinely warmly of MIL, who (when not having one of her daily “episodes”) is apparently “lovely”, “engaged”, “talking to the staff like friends”, etc. MIL is also eating, drinking, sleeping well, and taking part in activities – bingo is a new favourite, apparently. She’s also gained a bit of reputation among the staff as “having an answer for everything” – some of the comments and comebacks MIL has come out with that CHM relayed actually had us nearly in stitches. Clearly there is life in the old dog yet.
CHM is clearly very good at quickly getting to know what makes people tick (psychologically manipulative, in the nicest possible way!) – harnessing MIL’s restlessness by having her help out with washing up / setting the table etc, and also discovering something of an apparent ability for writing on MIL’s part. She showed us the most lovely letter, where MIL had written to CHM saying she would like her stay to be made permanent, as if she went home she’d be lonely and had made such friends there. The few times we’ve seen her write over the years, it’s been an semi-legible scrawl, but this letter had straight lines, proper letter format, and even words like “permanent” spelled correctly. Gobsmacked was not the word!
By the end of the meeting, I quite honestly wanted to hug her (CHM, I mean – though more on MIL hugs in a bit).
Yes, there are well-founded concerns about her lashing out when she does get herself worked up (usually happens every 1 to 2 days), though the CHM and staff have apparently dealt with this many times over, and it’s by no means the “deal-breaker” we feared. However, when it kicks off, apparently the whole home knows about it, so they have to manage that around other residents, some of whom don’t react well to noise or upset. That notwithstanding, the home are all for helping her to settle further, exploring appropriate medication, and building on positive progress made to date.
Next steps are that the care coordinator is going to have a psychiatric review done, with a view to getting MIL on memantine or other appropriate combination of medication. CHM is also going to start on managed outings – just down the road to the cafe at first, but with a view to building up to more extended outings that either the home organise, or we take her on in future (i.e. pub meals, cafe visits etc.).
So all in all, a verdict of “when she’s good, she’s very very good, but when she’s bad she’s horrid” (but everyone’s working on that).
After the formal meeting had concluded, the staff brought MIL in – the moment we’d been absolutely dreading and psychologically working up to after last month’s utterly disastrous and soul-destroying attempt of a visit.
She looked so well!!
Being fed, watered and medicated over the last 6 weeks has clearly made a huge difference – she was looking much less frail and fuller in face than she did when she went in, and was in fine form on top of it all too. Delighted to see us, hugs all round, no agitation or asking to go home at all, laughing and joking with CHM, and she recognised me this time round too!
She happily toddled off after about 10 minutes when prompted that dinner was being served, seemingly happy in the assurance that we’d be taking her out for a meal the next week (or at least OH will be)…
I have no doubt we caught her on a good day, and that when things are bad, they are horribly, awfully bad. We are not naive in that respect at all.
But even I had a happy tear in my eye by that point – and our care coordinator (the one who had helped so much in the past) was clearly delighted on our behalf.
Needless to say, OH and I walked out of there after as if on air – and it feels like the weight of guilt and worry that’s been on OH all this time has all in one just rolled off his shoulders…
I always hoped and suspected that the active stimulation / proper food and nutrition / human contact would benefit MIL (always a social butterfly), and by and large that does tentatively seem to be the case.
If we can nail down the medication to manage the aggressive outbursts, dare I say that we might just have hit on the right people and place for her at long, long last…??
Best not, on reflection, but still, a much more positive outcome than we’d initially feared!