The Journey continues / 2013 

Retained for 2014....Mum is doing well in her Nursing Home and is happy, 95 now, she has a strong spirit :)

The Invisible Years

In my book I recount the journey I went on following the passing of my dear Father, a journey where I found peace and acceptance of why I am walking, running and sometimes stumbling through my life on this beautiful planet. Now I find my dear Mother is taking me on a different type of journey and experience, a journey into old age where I watch her health and body deteriorate as she moves into what may be the final years of her life.

My beautiful mother will be 94years old this year  (shhhhh, don't tell her I told you or I'll be in trouble..chuckles) and she had been doing so well right up to her late 80s, where she was still driving her little red Ford ‘Ka’ around, busy visiting friends and fellow churchgoers who were ill or disabled, always thinking of others, then as the years went by her health robbed her of her independence, eventually ending up in her present day condition.

It all started in March of this year when I spent two weeks ringing the doctor’s surgery nearly every day telling them my mother hadn’t slept for 5 days, they sent out the surgery’s nurse who duly issued sleeping tablets, this didn’t work, over the next 7 days I continued calling the surgery, trying to get the doctors’ attention and ended up faxing them a letter wherein I stated that my mother was no ‘ordinary’ 93year old, with the exception of osteoarthritis of the knees she was in good health and mentally sound, I did not want them to ‘write her off’ as their computer screens displayed her age, I told them the sleepng tablets were not working and now she had stopped eating for 5 days, again, they sent out the surgery nurse who prescribed Fortisip energy drinks but nothing seemed to work. I had a great respect for the nurse concerned, she was caring and doing her best in a difficult situation and was obviously over-worked (& no doubt underpaid).

At my continued insistence she liaised over a number of days with about 3 different doctors who dealt with my Mother ‘at arm’s length’, nothing I could say would lever them off their seats to actually visit my Mother to see if there was an underlying reason why she wasn’t sleeping or eating. I even made an appointment in my mother’s name and turned up in her place I was so desperate to get their attention, besides a look from the doctor that told me I had no right to turn up in my mother's place, all I got was assurance that the district nurse would visit and check her, again.

I decided to book my mother into a private nursing home in an attempt to help her back to eating again. On the morning I turned up to take her I took one look at her and realised that I was about to lose her, her face was a dark shade of grey, she hardly had the energy to raise a hand, I rang the surgery and asked to speak to the doctor as a matter of urgency, I was crying and hardly able to string a sentence together, the receptionist told me a doctor would ring me right back. Of course, the doctor didn’t ring me back, the nurse did and when she realised how bad the situation had become she acted on my insistence that my mother be taken into hospital. The ambulance duly turned up and I travelled with her to A & E where doctors did a number of tests, also asking my mother questions, no doubt checking her mental health as well. One question was ‘How old are you’, my mother looked wearily at him, then me and replied ‘I’m too old to remember’, this made the doctor and I laugh, at least mum had retained her sense of humour.

As the day went on my Mother was transferred to the Assessment unit where she seemed to lose consciousness and I had to fight my emotions as a deep sense of grief invaded my senses and I struggled not to break down and just sob, I couldn’t chance her seeing how worried I was. My daughter was beside me through much of the hospital experience, she is close to her ‘Nan’ and I know she was worried about me, she could see the emotions I was struggling with, trying to stay strong in order to give my mother hope that she would come through this. She was hooked up to an IV drip for 3 days as she was found to be badly dehydrated with the added complication of a chest infection, had I not got her into hospital I would certainly of lost her.

Each day I visited her first thing in the morning and stayed with her feeding her soup and encouraging her to drink until I had to go home to eat & sleep, each day answering questions from different doctors as shifts changed, repeating my mantra that she was perfectly fine up until a few weeks previously, again, I didn’t want them to give up on her because of her age.

My experience throughout all this made me realise that although it may not be true of many good doctors there is a kind of ‘silence’ to calls for help if you are over a certain age, a silent acceptance that the age of the person determines their reaction to those calls for help, a mind-set which says ‘she’s not worth our full attention, she’s probably going to die soon anyway!”, I pondered on where their Hippocratic oath stood on this subject, did it not say something about preserving life? I don’t know, but it should do. In my world, doctors should not discriminate and my mother suffered a form of discrimination from her own doctors who, as mentioned, did not feel the need to check on the condition which left untreated would have killed her. She was treatable and she is still with us to tell the tale.

In weak moments I sometimes question whether I did my mother any favours in fighting to save her, she can no longer stand or walk and needs 24/7 care, hoists being used to move her where she needs to go, she has become a shadow of the person she was, slumped to one side much of the time and it is so sad to see her like this as I remember the person she was/is. Although her short-term memory is affected, she is still mentally sound, I can have conversations with her which is a blessing.

Our Inner Light

My mother often asks me “How did I get like this”, I usually tell her “you got to 93 Mum, you’ve done so well and although I know you can’t stand or walk you still have a quality of life, able to chat as family and friends visit”. I believe it is important to keep positive in the face of a negative situation, even it it all seems hopeless, it is important not to let your loved one sink into the darkness which awaits the depressed mind, even if they challenge your positive stance in a miserable situation, it is best to keep everything ‘light’, always coming from love and compassion, both attributes which do not recognise darkness.

I often guide my mother into positive thoughts saying......“Inside you Mum is the same shining light that was there as you first stepped off the boat that arrived in Liverpool from Ireland, when you were just sixteen years old, the same shining light that was inside you as you stood on the kerb looking in wonder as cars drove past you outside Kings Cross Station in London, dressed in your best frock, white socks and black shiny shoes, the same shining light that was inside you as you moved through the war years, the Blitz of London dressed in your Red Cross uniform, helping others from the rubble. That light followed you through your marriage to Dad, the birth of my brothers and myself, your thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties, arriving with you here in your nineties, still shining, still bright,. I know your body has aged and you have lost nearly all your independence but try to hold on to that inner light, it is who you really are, imagine yourself aged thirty again, if these were your favourite years, because you are still that person, still that shining light”.  Mum sometimes gives me a strange look, trying to acquaint with what I am saying, slightly cheered by the thought of being young.

Over the years my mother often asked me the same question “Do you really think there is a Heaven?”, I used to smile as I said “ can you ask that, it is everything that your faith teaches you”, but I know that whilst many people have a strong faith in their God, there are times when doubt creeps in because we ‘believe’ in something that appears to be intangible, it takes strong conviction to wipe away doubt.  (ok ok, those in the back row reading this thinking 'oh no, she's off again!!!", just be patient please, no picking up the pop-corn ready to leave hastily through the nearest fire exit.....smiles...., I'm bringing this subject in now as I'm worried about my Mum and I guess I know her time is near, whether soon in weeks/months/life years or light years)......In those moments where my Mother seeks to understand more I reassure her that she is more than the body and she sees my conviction as I tell her my understanding of ‘heaven’, where we go when we pass from this existence, also reassuring her that my Father and my brother Michael and all those she has loved still exist, albeit on another frequency / level of reality, one which is difficult to comprehend in our limited understanding, an understanding and limited capability where we only see an eighth of what exists, it is as though we are looking at life through a funnel, it is only when we pass over that our consciousness expands and we ‘realise’ how much has been hidden from us, hidden because we have to be allowed to walk our lives in our own ways, to move through that ‘schoolroom of life’ I mention in my book, to learn the lessons and then ‘Go Home’, hopefully with flying colours. I often put my urge for knowledge down to the fact that I want to know everything whilst I’m walking this life, I don’t want to get to the other side, look back and wish I knew what I would then know, does that make sense?

I am fortunate in that my mother trusts me, trusts my ‘opinions’, which are ‘solely’ mine and whilst understood by many similar souls, may not be understood or believed by others, however, this is of “no concern to me, I hold my faith near” and it is enough that in sharing my thoughts about life with my Mother I manage to lighten her mood, giving her hope, hope that I am right and she has nothing to fear when her turn comes to "Go Home".

Sending love and light to you, Dear Reader....... Patricia