This has been an exhausting week. I’m used to caring for my mother part time in her own home where she has all the adaptations she needs. Suddenly the need for me to be on my own home turf coincided with mum saying she was ready to come and visit us in what has been (up until more recent times) her home from home. In a flurry of activity I cleared the clutter, refreshed her linen, and steamed the floors.
It’s been a luxury to spend 7 straight days in one place to be honest, but we’ve struggled at night due to a lower bed frame and lack of accustomed grab rail to help mum get out of bed. There had been no time to get one and no way to improvise a safe alternative. She has nocturia which means myriad trips to the loo at night, which combined with the loss of her mobility aid made for a whole heap of broken sleep for me. You can imagine what helping someone up 6-7 times does to a body, and I could see exactly why she snoozes so much during the day. I now have wrinkles on the bags under my eyes!
I admit I’ve felt mangled, and quite unable to piece together more than a Tweet or two. Oh, it’s been glorious too. Just seeing mum’s face as she took in a loved environment she thought she might not see again was marvellous. I swelled with pride as my little home proved more adaptable than I could ever have hoped. Mum could manage everything but the bed.
I’ve done the obvious and ordered a grab rail which will hopefully arrive before her next stay. These things can never come quickly enough though – where are all the local grab rail outlets when you need them? That said, it is amazing what the body and brain can sometimes do in straightened circumstances. We spent a morning troubleshooting the problem after a particularly ropey night. She worked out – quite spontaneously – that she could grab the bed frame itself and lean on her elbow (practice helped) to swivel round on her side and get her legs over the edge to terra firma. It was a case of now I can and now I can’t for a night or two. This became easier and more fluid an action as the nights wore on. We kind of managed, but her risk of falling is great and one must keep an eye open (from the futon mattress at the end of the bed).
Today I was to drive her home (to her house) after lunch, and feeling slightly less mangled than before I was inspired to make croutons to go with our homemade courgette and black bean soup. It would use up a block of stale bread which had got trapped in the bread bin under a pile of newer slices. The act of not wasting felt good in itself. A cheery drizzle of olive oil was soon guzzled up by the pale hunks, and so I drizzled some more, and then some some more! Croutons know how to take care of themselves allowing me to wander back and forth between various points of interest in the room.
Mum – newspaper on lap – slept peacefully in a chair while my now young people bantered. Granny (mum) helped bring them up when they were tiny, and was a faithful weekly visitor despite the 70 mile commute. One picked out a tune on the piano, the other worked on a drawing. Both hovered over the pan. Smells like sausages!
I chucked some thyme at the croutons, no longer pale and wan they looked crispy and golden. This simple transformation lifted a hearty yet simple soup to new and quite heavenly heights. Delicious! called out three generations. Mum doesn’t eat a lot these days, but she had polished off every single crumb. This felt like old times again when she was at the heart of our little family as the commuting grandma. It was wonderful to have her there again as we really didn’t know if she could manage the environment.
Extreme old age isn’t easy, not one bit. Mum carries it with great dignity but these few days without a bed rail have taught me so much humility. We will all at some point need adaptations (if we’re lucky) and should probably plan ahead. I’m chastened by the unravelling that can take place for want of one simple adaptation.
I can’t really explain it but somehow that lovely bowl of soup set us on our way and mum’s visit feels like a triumph. For want of a bed rail the battle for sleep was lost, you might say, but a bowlful of love and crispy croutons won the day. Next time I’m awake in the wee hours I will try to remember this well.