Friday, July 07, 2006

Age Rage

Right. So do you remember the last post I did about dad? Well since then, he's come on by leaps and bounds - almost literally.

He's an amazing and remarkable man. It's impossible to describe how much I love and admire him. After the major heart attack in Feb and all the ensuing trauma, he's now back to cooking and shopping etc for himself and has even returned to volunteering at the hospital. He's 91, don't forget!

But let's get real and see the whole picture. His short term memory is completely shot and though he deals with this with wonderful humour, we need to take account of the potential problems it could cause. So we've arranged for a carer to pop in twice a day, just to check he's ok and (most importantly) has taken his medication.

Each time I spoke to anyone at the agency or at social services, I told them that without doubt dad, feeling fine, would phone at some point and attempt to cancel the carers' visits. We all (the professionals,the family and of course dad himself) agreed that in the event that he did so, no decisions would be made without contacting me. I knew that dad would have forgotten our agreement but once reminded would be fine with it.

So what happened this week? You guessed it. He phoned. They cancelled. Just like that. The nightmare scenario that I had predicted and done everything I could to prevent, had come to pass.

OK. Many frustrating calls later, Social Services are following it up and trying to put a new package in place. They're pissed off with the agency too, though that doesn't help us of course. The trouble is with all the contracting out that's done and all the under-resourcing. I know that, so it means I don't even get to vent my fury on anyone as I know they're also struggling their end.

I'm just hoping this can be sorted and put in place before we head off in August, when neither myself nor my brother will be around to plug any gaps.

Meanwhile, I had to deal with missing bank and credit card statements, dad having gone inadvertantly overdrawn, triplicated appointments (!), benefit claims etc etc etc ...

And the bloody Council Tax lot had sent 3 contradictory letters. When I phoned it turns out they had him down as having moved out! (I have no idea where they got that idea from.)

I tell you, I'm articulate and efficient, but I was having serious difficulties working through all the complex ramifications of the above. Poor dad just kept saying, 'I have no idea what's going on,' and I had to tell him I felt the same.
What must it be like for elderly people who don't have loving family or friends?


Maxine Clarke said...

It is really tough, Debi. I don't know if this will help, but when this happened to Malcolm's Dad, Christine and Malcolm became joint bank account holders with Bill, so that Christine and Malcolm could organise the finances (they split the jobs) and yet Bill could still feel in control of his money and business affairs. In effect, Malcolm and Chris took over dealing with all the utilities etc, which they could do as joint account holders.
It might also be a good idea to get your Dad to sign over to you and any other family members a power of attorney.
But I agree, social services and other public services are chaotic. It was awful when my Mum had her stroke -- they were desperately trying to kick her out of hospital although she was totally disabled. Yet for complicated reasons we got no help or support from social services, and my Dad was not capable of taking any action -- it was all awful. My mother herself doing her utmost to make it as dramatically bad as it could be also, of course, it was a tough time and made me realise how vulnerable "helpless" people are.

At the moment my Dad is Ok as he is very happy with his books, computer and music. Long may it continue! All the very best with helping yours, he is lucky to have you.I have some friends who are doctors, one of them specialises in geriactrics. He echoes your comments, in saying that elderly people need to have articulate, action-focused, caring younger relatives or they just don't survive. What a tragedy.

Sharon J said...

How weird! I'd missed this post but was in bed this morning thinking "I must ask Debi how her dad is".

My Dad's in a right old state. He doesn't know what day it is, what time it is (wakes Mum at 2am, fully dressed, asking for his dinner), has to have his food cut into tiny pieces because he forgets to chew it and... well, he's basically like a very small child. Temper tantrums included. Mum can't get any help without having to pay for it but as a pensioner with no savings, she can't afford to. She's been offered a place in a care home for him, but that will mean she'll have to pay back the costs when she sells her house, which she can't afford to do because she won't be left with enough to buy the bungalow she's dreaming of. Her legs are bad so she can't manage stairs anymore and she wants to be closer to us. At the moment we're a four hour drive away. It's just so bloody unfair. They've both worked hard all their lives but for what?

Anonymous said...

Following today's events, I am now heading into this territory, Debi. It's difficult and hard, without doubt. For that I sympathise with you. But, again without doubt, some things have to happen and the bull needs to be taken by the horns. I often find the horns of our so called public services are in fact jelly. But once you get hold of the right person, someone who knows and matters, strides can be made.

As for accepting a "don't bother to call" direction from your dad, the agency is at fault, especially when the instruction was in place that if they received that sort of reply they were to ignore it. Outsourcing from the public services matters not; the same standards of care apply. And outsourcing also means that social services passed the performance of the action required to their outsourcer; they did not pass the responsibility for ensuring it was done, and effectively done. (This being a paradox in the NHS for a good few years that has led to being an accepted philosophy, it seems. One day they will be forced into getting real and accepting that the quality, or lack of, in respect of cleaning the wards, is indeed their responsibility, for which they are accountable, and not the cleaning firm, to which they awarded the contract).

The world is complicated so much these days. The need for care of a loved one is never complicated: it is real and immediate and heartfelt.

Getting the plonkers to see the error of their ways once may prove fruitful. But in today's world, I'm sorry Debi, but I believe you have the power to correct this scenario now, but you'll still have to revisit it again at least twice.

No one can understand and care for your dad as you can, Debi. Those you seek to provide care will need constant monitoring, just as for your dad. Unfortunately, that is the way of this contemporary world.

Debi said...

UPDATE: Weird how things work out ... a new agency has taken over dad's care. He now has one really lovely woman each evening and a guy in the morning. ie only 2 people, who are both really nice and he can form a relationship with. Previously, he had about 6 different people and that was a large part of his irritation.

So ironically, by being proactive and cancelling the previous lot, he's ended up with something far preferable.

This doesn't of course excuse their serious error!

Maxine - I'm already a joint signatory on dad's a/cs and also have power of attorney. As you say, it's just so upsetting to think of the many people who don't have loving and trustworthy support ...

Sharon - how awful. (Don't mean the bit about you thinking of me in bed!)The property-selling issue has been well-publicised recently and must be davastating for people who, as you say, worked hard all their lives only to find themselves left with nothing to call their own. Makes me really angry.

Don't anyone tell me there simple isn't enough money to provide for care with dignity for older people. If you do, my response will be one single word: Iraq.

Where would you prefer your tax £££ to go?

Cfr - thanks for this intelligent response.

Anonymous said...

The most annoying thing with it, Debi, is that they're not living in some luxurious detached house in Surrey, they're in a 2 up-2 down in East London that, until 15 years ago, had no inside toilet, no bathroom, no hot water, and no central heating. They must have been the last people to be using a tin bath in front of the coal fire! Dad was a postman and mum was a school cleaner. Just ordinary working class people but proud people who have never asked for help before. Even now it hurts my mum to have had to ask for help but it hurt even more to be turned down.

If they had a huge house worth bollock loads of money, I'd understand the state wanting some of it, but all she wants to do is swap her impractical house for a small bungalow but it seems that unless she's willing to struggle along with dad alone until the end, that opportunity will be taken away from her.

Iraq. Too bloody right!

Anonymous said...

Really glad that something good has worked out for your dad - he sounds a wonderful, lovely man.

Feel that there are two points here. Firstly, the Social Services seem to recruit young people with degrees, without 'life skills' (or dare I say common sense). Who really seem to talk down to mature people.

Also crimefic has made very valid points regarding the NHS, as a low grade clerical worker (we actually work for our money, with unpaid overtime hoping to make a difference). The money that is squandered on carpets, unessary courses and mis management is depressing in the extreme. Not saying this would solve all of the problems but would help to mitigate some circumstances.

Sharon how RIGHT about iraq.

Maxine Clarke said...

So glad about your Dad, Debi, but reading everyone's comments and my own limited experiences of this kind of thing makes me despair.
What has happened to our society?

Debi said...

Life never stands still with dad.

He's cancelled them again! And this time he means it. There's no way we want to undermine him or go against his wishes - now that it's clear these really ARE his wishes ...

On we go ...