Another heart wrenching moment - literally. This wrench we found under an 80 year old’s pillow – the reality of the massive anxiety some older people live with.
She was so scared someone would enter her home. We felt the more likely hazards are the rats which had gnawed the new blankets within a few days of us putting them on her bed. The situation was so distressing that we of course exceeded our quote and brief in order to help her. We were meant to be doing sensitive clearance of a decade of hoarding, so this very vulnerable woman would be able to return and continue independent living in her own home, – we just had to do a lot more…
Trying to reflect on how this should have been resolved, there are no obvious solutions because individuals and situations are complex: hard pressed councils who don’t seem to have emergency shelters, departments that have strict tender rules and contracts so there is no flexibility for crises and the difficulties of dealing with clients who have undiagnosed mental health issues.
But there were gems of kindness; neighbours who had compassion and took her in for tea to warm up (it has been so cold and of course the heating does not work in the house). Another who took her overnight while we worked to clear an entrance to the rooms. I can only see solutions if we have more of these informal acts of kindness and compassion. A big ask maybe - but if we don’t have any more money to pay our authorities to help our older folk - we are going to have to do it ourselves together.
“Shall I tell you my worst moment alone? The smiling old lady asked? When I came back from hospital after a heart attack they helped me in, I stepped over the pile of letters unmoved from the mat, they made a sandwich and said they would telephone in the morning to make sure all was well and they left. I cried.
“Well, the nearly blind client said “they said that they would arrange volunteers to help me sort out the paperwork but they haven’t been back in touch so I suppose they haven’t found anyone who could help, but it is so difficult to cope alone.
“My husband’s accident fifty years ago meant he never walked again and he is ok in the care home but phones me after I have left every day to say that I have forgotten to take him back home - forgetting that I am not able to look after him physically any more at our marital home. I’m exhausted coping with this alone but will carry on visiting.
“I wake up panicking in the night worried that I will have forgotten something I really ought to do. I just can’t cope with it alone
“My neighbours helped pick me up when I fell and shouted out through the wall to them. It has convinced me to move somewhere smaller where help is available and I am not alone. Thank God they were there this time.
“I live alone but my neighbours don’t know me and they wouldn’t come to help if I fell. It is such a worry.
“When I fell the alarm people didn’t come for two hours. I was so scared. It was awful.
A few of the difficult stories we heard this last past week – all true – all shocking and making us profoundly sad. At least we can do something to help these people by finding better places for them to live…
PS Have you checked on your elderly neighbours?
Snooping or caring as we rush towards Christmas?
As we rush again towards Christmas, seize the opportunity to think about how your elderly relatives, friends and neighbours are living.
From the outside, elderly people are apparently coping. Perhaps you see them getting to the shops, but inside their home, matters can be very different. As move managers we go into clients’ homes and find surprising things – from complete disorganization with clothes strewn all over the place to finding people are living in one downstairs room with no heating to unimaginable loneliness. There are of course solutions to these issues – but one has to know there are issues in the first place!
First of all one can ask friends and family open questions when you see them. Perhaps invite your neighbor to the pub or coffee shop for a Christmas drink? Be brave and direct!
Of course some people are fine and need no help, but many people are reluctant to admit to needing help so strategies may be necessary - For example, if you don’t normally visit their house, offer to pick them up for Christmas lunch/shopping etc then try to pop inside to see how they are really coping. This sounds a bit like snooping I can’t deny. But if you are doing it for the right reasons – well personally I think it is ok to take an interest. As social services are stretched and only able to visit the most critical cases, we all need to give a little bit more care and support. Happy festive caring!
Aged Aunt Guest blogs from down under
Met two of the original Pommy 10 pound immigrants to Australia, now 83 and 79. They have just downsized from a lovely house and garden in a suburb to the town centre. Instead of a retirement home looking at a lot of oldies they have selected a modern one bedroomed flat near the city ceentre and the river.
Why I asked? Well, he can cycle down to the riverside park and local shops are within walking distance (not usual as everything is in great big malls). They have a little railway station nearby, free transport tickets and are only 2 or 3 stops from the hospital. (They both have multiple health issues (won’t dwell on those, we all have them nowadays)). Their block of flats has stacking parking all automated (no need to worry about those nastily tight ramps), a swimming pool, gym and entertainments room. Other residents are working people and they do not feel isolated, do not miss their suburban garden (why does one weed after all?), and are able to catch a shuttle bus once a fortnight to the nearby casino for a flutter!! Only problem, someone has just stolen his bike!! Yup I fancy living the Australian dream….
It is hard to let go sometimes – such a lot of memories. Older generations who are used to putting up with deprivation in and after wars can find it really hard to throw things away that might just come in handy. I am reminded of their different experiences as I help clients and find an old ration book, the POW letters from a husband and more. So what to keep and what not?
It has to be a personal decision in the end - the preferences of each of us are what makes us individual and interesting. None the less some of it has to go. Sometimes this is best achieved in several stages – a first and second weeding. One lady managed to get 15 bookcases reduced to five bookcases of “must keep books”. After several weeks she managed to reduce the books she wanted again by another couple of bookcases.
Sometimes turning the problem around is helpful - Looking at the space that a client can move into identifies exactly how much can be taken. This is an interesting exercise in a kitchen where one can directly compare the number of units in the new kitchen with those in the old. Usually some of the items at backs of cupboards and on top shelves of larders won’t have been used for some time and in truth may not be again so we encourage realism future about cooking extravaganzas.
When we help those who have a dementia it can be hard to guess what they might really value if they or relatives cannot tell us. Usually we gather the items which are on display on their old home – particularly old photos and mantelpiece ornaments. The logic being that if they are treasured they may well be visible and remembered.
The feeling of liberation is quite common after deculttering – people are so relieved. Too much stuff can be the elephant in the room - so be brave and call us to get started.
Raise your Tits by 10! Aged aunt guest blog
My ageing aunt – just 80 - has quite a life – in her first guest blog she writes
“Raise your tits by ten” (degrees) instructed my wonderful physiotherapist to help me walk upright (I was beginning to get hunchy). Demonstrating this and other exercises to my local (strangely all female) Art group has provided a source of fun, made hilarious by the interruption of the male committee group. Good advice, simply put - and it is working which has meant my stiff and rather vulture like stance is beginning to improve. Who knows I could be a new style flamingo shape soon if I can just stop indulging in biscuits at frequent tea rests!
God bless the NHS staff who are still dispensing this wisdom and help. The medical matters continue to aggravate one of course and oh the time taken making appointments and waiting around at clinics. Not so much fun for my partner who has a dementia – who of course doesn’t remember to chase for the appointments that weren’t made and when he eventually pitches up, has to have a daughter with him to extract the necessary information and remember what the consultant has said. Truly a difficult disease. We can all only try to show our constant love for him in the face of no real prospect of treatment.
Any way back to the exercise regime - today its swimming in the sea which is blissful now but not going to be the winter solution unless the dreaded rate of climate change increases dramatically. Definitely the bikini is out (several decades ago actually) and a new costume is in order to prevent the saggy bottom syndrome (a saggy bottomed vulture is a pretty unappealing thought). (Let me explain to those young ones buying the latest fashion every year - after a decade the elastic disintegrates and so there is no useful shape to the cossie just a kind of limp hanging bit of material ) While not looking to attract the bay watch style life guards, one does need to maintain some standards…..Eighty and onwards…..
Tue, 06/05/2014 - 15:05 - Charmian Boyd
A long standing client has decided it's time to move to a care home, where she could be looked after. But the stories of alleged abuse from the Deanery and the like are worrying her. Obviously these homes are not representative of most care homes or staff, but the headlines mean vulnerable people and their families are scared to move and do feel very worried. Our common sense advice is that before you or someone you care for moves, you should:
Mon, 28/04/2014 - 16:45 - Charmian Boyd
“Lost before the confusion of innumerable prospects" Samuel Beckett wrote in The Expelled. This is how some clients feel – just where to start with finding a new home or carrying out all the tasks to get there. Yes we step in (Seamlessly of course!) with sensitivity and practical help. Talking today to a knowledgeable Empty Homes Manager I recognize that the key is always to understand people’s motivations & needs and then help them to put the task into some kind of order: easily defined steps and not everything at once. It brings to mind the old joke “H
Wed, 12/03/2014 - 12:47 - Charmian Boyd
Paperwork needs to be done eventually - moving home or not. Like most jobs - you just have to start and it is not so bad once you have begun. Here are my top tips:
Mon, 03/03/2014 - 15:10 - Charmian Boyd
“We have lived here 60 years and moved into the house when we were first married”. No wonder it is hard for our older clients to come to terms with moving home. How do we suggest that clients can get over the emotional hurdle of a making a decision to move? There is a push me pull me factor – (I am sure there is some fancy name for this). I think of it as carrot and stick. The stick means you have to move because, for example, you are frail and prone to falls, or you have a great house but can’t afford and don’t feel able to maintain it, or physically getting up and downstairs.
Mon, 17/02/2014 - 15:53 - Charmian Boyd
Where to move to? I often discuss this question with clients. Such a decision is always personal and depends on many different factors. These include friendship circles, type of accommodation, affordability, transport links, activities, environmental and health factors.
Mon, 25/11/2013 - 21:14 - Charmian Boyd
Are you going to invite your older relatives over during the holidays? This is a great opportunity to make sure they are coping at home. It is easy to maintain appearances while one is lapping up the Christmas dinner - but what really happens when they get home and are by themselves? There are many older people who find it increasingly difficult to live in their own home.
Tue, 01/10/2013 - 15:54 - Charmian Boyd
New manners needed - a suggestion at UK Older People’s Day celebration today 1st October. While celebrating with coffee and cakes local Ealing residents told wonderful stories of times past. Conversation encompassing scams and technology, led to a discussion on manners: there were some strong voices emphasizing the importance of manners in a civilized society! So one new manner we need to adopt – don’t walk down the street texting unaware of who you are bumping into – older people aren’t always able to do a quick side step, despite being trained dancers and more!
Wed, 14/08/2013 - 00:00 - Charmian Boyd
Autumn will soon be upon us and now is the moment to liberate your summer clothes before you move home (or even if you are not). We all have those clothes that we will fit into when we gain or lose weight, or when they come back into fashion again.