Some mornings I think you can sense that it will not be an easy day. Unfortunately, grandad has contracted another UTI and although he has started antibiotics, he is noticeably more confused than usual. He tried to get up himself this morning, much earlier than morning, completely forgetting that he is attached to a night time catheter. When grandad is up and settled with his breakfast, I phone Hillingdon hospital because I’ve had a message from an occupational therapist. We have quite a long rather emotional (on my part) conversation about the viability of Jean coming home. Her needs are presently so great that she would need to have frequent visits from possibly two carers at a time. I have thought about this and I’ve decided that I am not comfortable with such a large amount of people coming and going when my dad is so vulnerable to infection, and he and Patrick are both supposed to be shielded. The OT is very sympathetic and told me not to worry, there would be lots of meetings and discussions with doctors before any decision is made, but she felt that maybe Jean being cared for at home would be too much to cope with. After the conversation, I rather sadly decided the OT is probably right.
I then go outside and start sorting out begonias. I have a collection of about 26 decorative begonias that need to be planted out. Whilst extricating the plants from their resting place in the polytunnel, in-between the two rows of tomatoes, I hear on the news that Hillingdon hospital is closing its A&E department because of a Covid outbreak amongst its staff. 70 staff are going into self-isolation! Naturally I am now even more worried about Jean, who has been in Hillingdon hospital for five weeks. I try to distract myself with my begonias, some of which are flowering beautifully. I pot some up and add them to the Auricula theatre to bring some colour to it because at the moment, the Auriculas are resting. I plant some in the troughs outside the polytunnel and the remaining 15 into the small bed outside the front door. During this time (despite the rain) Meave and later Aideen come out to finish weeding the fruit cage. I bring out my Bonsai tree to the Japanese garden. My poor Bonsai tree unfortunately died, but I decided to give it a new lease of life rather than put it on the compost heap. I have painted it’s still very beautiful form in a dull bronze paint and it is now a miniature sculpture, which I think looks rather nice.
Whilst I am outside the front of the house planting begonias, Patrick shouts for me to come quickly, Grandad has fallen over! Luckily grandad wears a careline button which will activate if he falls and cannot reach the normal house buzzer. The careline people then phone our contact numbers. Grandad had continued to be confused prior to the fall. I had only been with him 30 minutes before, when he thought he needed his shoes on. When he fell, he was trying to use his outside walker inside – something he would not usually do without assistance. Fortunately, apart from a fairly small cut on his head he appeared ok and Patrick, Aideen and myself lifted him back in his chair. He has been affected this way by UTI’s before, it is shocking how this type of infection can affect an elderly person. I then call the district nurses to see if they think he should be checked and they advise calling 111. After a long session with 111 which establishes that he has no worrying symptoms except a cut to the head, they advise a visit to A&E! I say that is something we’ve been told to avoid at all costs and they say ‘fine, a clinician will call you’. I then have a lengthy call with a clinician who agrees a visit to hospital (particularly Hillingdon) would be unwise and decides I should put a dressing on his head and keep an eye on him.
All of this takes over an hour, I put a dressing on dad’s head and give him some paracetamol and his next antibiotic. I tell him firmly to stay in his chair and I carry on with bits and pieces of gardening in the back garden where I can keep one eye on him through the window. It has been a difficult day, after this episode with dad it makes it even clearer to me that I don’t think I could cope with Jean as well. Very sadly, both of them are getting harder to look after and there is a limit to how much I can handle. It is all very depressing.