Sunday, March 31st, 2024 [Day 1476]

So Easter Day has dawned at long last. I must say that dawn did not come too soon because Meg and I did not have a very good night, what with one thing or another. Meg was somewhat restless during the night and this prevented a sound night’s sleep so eventually I resorted to a portable mattress which I put down beside the bed which gave me some sleep during the night. But I got up right on the crack of 6.00am and set to work altering the various clocks downstairs. This task was accomplished surprisingly easily even though we do have quite a lot of timing devices of one sort or another. Last night, when the carer came early at 6.30, we had a rather unhappy experience where we had completely different ways of doing things and although I have managing on my own largely for the past six months that I was not doing things in the prescribed way and some of what I was doing was tantamount to abuse. It is not appropriate to go into further details at this stage except that I did send off a couple of emails, one to the Admiral nurses and the other to more specialised nurses to check that I was doing things in the correct way with the correct gear. What is so frustrating is that an Admiral nurse, an occupational therapist, a mental health nurse specialising in dementia and one of the ReAblement assessors had all seen Meg constantly in the last month in the last month but last night’s carer insisted that she knew better than any of them. She was insistent that we needed more equipment, an extra helper and God knows what besides including even a hospital bed which in my view might create more problems than it solves. So I was not a happy bunny for the remainder of the evening or the night. Having said all of that, no carers turned up this morning because by agreement with last night’s carer, the call to get up at 11.10 or some other outlandish hour was rejected so I did everything on my own – plus ├ža change!

As I was putting the clocks advanced by an hour this morning, my chocolate fast was at an end so I indulged in some Maltezers which my daughter-in-law had brought along to ease Meg’s stay in hospital. I also indulged in some Cadburys dark chocolate with Jamaica rum and raisons which was absolutely delicious. I was just getting downstairs when our Eucharistic minister called around as she normally does on Sundays even including today, being Easter Sunday. She was explaining to me that as the organist, she has to concentrate so hard on getting the various bits of unconventional music correct for the two hour evening service on Eater Saturday that all liturgical significance to her passes her by. But we had some more interesting news. There is a visiting priest who is the brother of one of the leading lights in our local church and he occasionally does visiting stints. The same priest had actually performed a very apposite blessing on Meg’s medal given to her when we were in Mexico by the family who cared for our son during his year long stay. The same priest said that he would devote a whole service to Meg to pray for her health in these difficult times and this was a gesture to warm the heart. Once we had breakfasted, Meg and I thought we would have just a little spin in the car to get an Easter Sunday newspaper. The first shop that we tried had sold out and the local supermarket which sells newspapers was closed. However, the garage attached to the supermarket had copies of the ‘Sunday Times‘ so we were pleased to get this and to return home. This weekend I had bought a joint of beef for our principal weekend meal. Upon exploring the freezer, I discovered several things that had evidently been bought with our Christmas meal in mind, such as a packet of roasted root vegetables with a thyme dressing, some roast potatoes in goose fat and Yorkshire puddings. So this lot got cooked up which was quite easy as the oven was already on and we had the most enormous Easter Sunday lunch. I have to say that our Christmas Day meal turned out to be a disaster for various reasons but this meal was absolutely excellent and we enjoyed it very much indeed, with plenty of leftovers to have more of the same tomorrow. After lunch I was delighted that Meg had a reasonable rest of about three quarters of an hour whilst I indulged myself in a leisurely read of the newspaper, a pleasure often denied me these days.

We had invited our University of Birmingham friend around for tea in the afternoon and he turned up promptly to be treated by chocolate biscuits and a ginger cake courtesy of Waitrose. As well as other matters, my friend and I needed to discuss lawnmowers, Late last autumn, he had brought around the lawnmower belonging to his recently acquired lady-friend and my friend and I just about got the lawnmower, which had previously seemed dead, brought back to life again. So we agreed that we would keep this lawnmower in our garage and this Spring (which is now!) he and I would work together as we did before to get the lawnmower activated again its winter sojourn. After we have done this successfully in the next day or so the mower can be returned to its rightful owner and the population of mowers in our garage will be reduced by one.

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Saturday, 30th March, 2024 [Day 1475]

Today really starts off with the events of yesterday evening. A carer called round to help me to get Meg to bed but she did seem to have much a clue but watched as I did most of the bedtimes routines myself. Nonetheless, I am grateful for help from whatever quarter. After Meg was abed, I had a FaceTime call with one of my ex-University of Winchester colleagues as we have got into the habit of weekly chats on a Friday evening. But I suspected that I heard sounds from upstairs so I terminated our FaceTime session abruptly and shot upstairs, only to find Meg had successfully negotiated and evaded the devices I place around the bed to prevent her falling out of bed or even getting out of bed and rendering herself liable to fall. I found Meg upright and clinging onto the frame of our en-suite bathroom door so after making sure that she was comfortable I got her back into bed and came to bed myself within about ten minutes to prevent further peregrinations. To prevent this happening in the future, as soon as I was conscious this morning, I got onto Amazon and ordered a baby alarm which I hope will do the trick. Even in the 1960’s, it was possible to buy baby alarms and we bought one to monitor our son but it was never tested to the full because he never work up in the early evening. This product should arrive today and, if it works as intended, then Meg should be able to call out for me if she needs me whilst she remains in bed and this means that I do not need to keep running up and down stairs to check on her. But we both a good night’s sleep and then we got up and waited for the carers to call at 8.20. After half an hour, Meg was still practically undressed in the bathroom so I completed getting her washed and dressed and we made our way via the stair lift into our Music Lounge for breakfast. As we had been a bit delayed waiting for carers who did not arrive, we made our way to Waitrose and were soon joined by four of our friends, including our University of Birmingham friend who had a shrewd idea where to find us. The five of us spent a very jolly hour or even more in each other’s company and in Meg’s case. she enjoyed a double version of a chocolate cake the portions of which had already been heavily discounted in the first place but one of the Waitrose staff working in the cafeteria let Meg have the last double portion of cake as she had just come out of hospital. In the middle of the conversations, my mobile rang and it was the NHS ReAblement team ringing at about 11.10 presumably to get Meg out of bed and wondering if we were all right as we were evidently not at home. After our sojourn, getting into the car proved not to be easy because Meg proved to be especially wobbly and the wheelchair on a slope was running away with us. The upshot of this was that Meg and I both ended up on the floor. About four people rushed to help us and Meg and I were quite quickly got to our feet. The young woman who rushed to help us put her baby into the hands of her partner, helped Meg into the car and then pressed a bunch of daffodils that she had just bought for herself into Meg’s hands. As it was a fine day, I thought it was a good idea to make some preparations for our first mowing of the season. We returned home to pick up a petrol container and then we headed for Halfords. It must be a sign of the times but Halfords was both deserted and also easy to park outside. So I popped in and got a litre of the oil used for garden 4-stroke engines and then journeyed to the nearby garage where I bought a gallon of premium grade petrol (to avoid future problems with the ethanol added to modern petrol which can absorb water and adversely affect the engine of the mower) Then having got home finally, I made a lightning lunch of ham and those microwavable vegetables which are invaluable when in a hurry.

Meg seemed pretty tired and was practically asleep half her through her meal so I quickly hurried off to our little settee where she fell into a deep doze. Knowing that Meg would probably sleep for the best part of three quarters of an hour, I thought this was an excellent opportunity to at least make a start on the lawn mowing. Ascertaining that Meg seemed to be in a fairly deep sleep, I oiled up and fuelled the mower, adjusting the cut to the highest possible setting and it then started fairly readily. So I got through about the first half of the first cut and then our neighbour appeared to edge his lawn. I enlisted his help to keep his hand on the ‘dead man’s handle’ whilst I keep the mowing running and ascertained that Meg was still asleep. As she was, I finished off the second half of the first cut and went inside, to find that Meg was just coming round. I explained to her that I still had the second cut to perform but she seemed happy enough to doze whilst I mowed on fast as I could. The upshot of all of this was that by the middle of the afternoon, I had got the important front lawns cut and the mower cleaned up and put away whilst the back lawn can wait for another fine day in the neat future. As a bonus, I discovered that the frost scraper I had kept by the front door which although useless as a frost scraper is an excellent tool for the removal of grass clippings from the inside of the mower dome, so this was a happy discovery.

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Friday, 29th March, 2024 [Day 1474]

So Good Friday morning dawned with quite a bright look to the day. In a slightly wakeful period in the middle of the night, I had got up and found a copy of the manual for our newly installed stair lift – having run off a copy I bound it between two sheets of acetate film, stapled it and then gave it a good tape binding. I was actually taught how to undertake these elements of document preparation by a wonderful South African lady of Asian extraction who was the manager of our reprographic department at the Scraptoft Campus of Leicester Polytechnic. These skills have stood me in good stead and I was deploying them constantly whenever I wrote a conference paper and wanted some ‘good’ copies to distribute. To make a document look really professional, I would deploy the judicious use of colour and some background printed off on glossy paper and used as the front cover. Of course, you had to have a colour printer to print this off but I have stopped bothering with colour printers about a decade ago as I used it rarely and the inks tended to dry up. Having got Meg up, I wondered if our old care agency was going to turn up at 8.00am as was their wont. I got Meg all washed and dressed and the moment I had finished, the doorbell rang and I was confronted by two cheerful care assistants not from my usual agency but from the NHS ReAblement team who I was not actually expecting. So there was nothing for them really to do so they accompanied Meg down into our Music Lounge where the care assistants were intrigued by the musical instruments. So, acceding to their request, I simulated the playing of Mozart’s Turkish march on the Casio keyboard but also gave them a rendition of the parts of Offenbach’s Barcarolle that I could remember from memory. Needless to say, they were intrigued by all of this not having seen anything like it in their normal round of visits. After they had departed, I made a call to the care agency that social services had allocated to us and received the news that the NHS ReAblement team would be taking over the caring role until two weeks on Monday and then our ‘normal’ care agency would take over. The trouble about this is that I am not sure what timings the NHS ReAblement team have scheduled – my usual agency had almost impeccably prompt timings. For example, although someone is scheduled to call this evening at 9.00pm, I had to indicate that Meg was worn out by 7.30 and fast asleep in bed by 8.15. So I had to request a change in time as I didn’t want Meg to be asleep downstairs only to be woken up in order to get to bed again. Not wanting to sound ungrateful or curmudgeonly, I am going to have over a fortnight of unpredictability before a more normal service will resume.

Normally, on Good Fridays, I feel happy when there is a performance of either Matthew Passion or John Passion during the afternoon. This year, a performance of John Passion was being broadcast so I was anticipating a happy coincidence of Meg having an afternoon dinner doze, me starting this blog and the both of us enjoying the Bach played on Radio 3. Knowing that there was probably going to be some good music on Radio 3 on a Good Friday, I consulted the schedules and discovered that there was going to be a lunchtime concert featuring an accordionist. This performer played some Bach, a special arrangement of Grieg’s Holberg suite and then some Mozart – fascinating to hear familiar music played on unfamiliar instrument. Incidentally, is an accordion fundamentally a keyboard or a wind instrument as it appears to me to be both? I only listen to Radio 3 on a selective basis but on important holiday dates, I think Radio 3 tries to be a little less esoteric and to broadcast music with a wide appeal.

Our Irish friends had very kindly made a present of a box of chocolates for Meg (stored up until Easter Sunday) and some cans of Guinness for myself. I remembered that I when I was down in London, I occasionally went out with a friend and we each bought a bottle of Guinness and a bottle of cheapish cider which we mixed in one pint glass. This drink lasted us all evening as befitted our impecunious state so I thought I would resurrect this drink, formerly known as Black Velvet although I think to do it properly one should use champagne rather than cider. So in Waitrose I bought a 2 litre flagon of traditional dry cider ready for an experimental drink tonight. Today when we returned from town and rather hot with the exertions of getting Meg into and out of wheelchairs and transit chairs, I made myself a mixture of three quarters cider and one quarter tonic water. This had the effect of transforming an otherwise dry cider into a medium cider and I was so pleased with the result, so that I might try this particular mixture again.

There seems to be a Wallace and Gromit film on this afternoon so after Meg has had a good sleep, we might divert ourselves with this. I must say that I am not particularly looking forward to the next few days as my delight in getting Meg safely back home is tempered somewhat by the fact that so many of our family and friends are taking several days off so that they, too, can visit family and friends over the Christmas period. My son and daughter-in-law have spent a lot of time with us whilst Meg has been in hospital giving us practical support but they now need to spend some time with my daughter-in-law’s mother and other relatives which is quite understandable. I am looking forward to Easter Sunday if only that my chocolate eating habit can be safely reinstated but I fear that the other vices I have avoided over Lent might be more difficult to reinstate.

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Thursday, 28th March, 2024 [Day 1473]

Well, every day has its triumphs and challenges and today was no exception. We knew that the assessor from the NHS ReAblement team was going to make contact and, sure enough, we had a phone call at about 9.30 and by 10.15 up she turned. I recounted to her some of the experiences that we had in had in hospital and at some of my accounts she rolled her eyes as things that should have happened and did not. She assumed that the existing care package was still in place but I informed her that the social worker had informed us that this was voided and a new care package had to be put into place. Then it was explained that it was supposed to work in one particular way but in practice worked in another way. However, the good news is that Meg is continue with the existing care package with the current agency, about which we are happy as Meg (and I) have gone to know and respect the various workers (from about eight) who have turned up to the house regularly. In addition, the care package is to be enhanced by one worker turning up in the evening to help me to get Meg to bed and this is actually what happened. The assessor supervised Meg walking to the stairlift and getting on it and had seen enough to assess Meg’s level of frailty and need. It was a very professional assessment and I felt had been done very well. We had just about come to the end of this when our hairdresser turned up by appointment – I had her appointment put on our planning board but (not for the first time) I forgot to consult it. So Meg had a ‘quickie’ hair do and I had my normal and then we set about preparing lunch, which as it was only a quiche that needed heating up in the oven and a few accompaniments was easy enough to organise. After lunch, I encouraged Meg to go and have a doze on our little two seater settee in the Music Lounge and, as good as gold, she had a good doze for the early part of the afternoon but did not sleep for too long which I felt was all to the good.

The afternoon brought its own particular set of challenges. Not having shopped for a couple of weeks I had been living off our stores and reserves but certain reserves such as bread and milk, I badly needed. So I decided to take Meg with me to get some basic shopping done – in future weeks I will have a carer in attendance so that I can do that on my own but today was a bit of an interregnum until the care package started off again. So I trundled Meg out to the car in her transit chair, got her slumped into the seat and made off to the local but smaller Aldi store which I know well. Then I had to get one of those special trolleys, somehow jam Meg’s transit chair into it (and I succeeded in doing it but the wrong way round) Then I had to push Meg in the wheelchair with the supermarket trolley with a mind somewhat of its own but managed to trundle around the store getting most of my regular purchases because I know exactly where things are. Then life became more difficult as I had to leave Meg on one side, get the shopping onto the conveyor belt and thence into my own bags and then load up the trolley with shopping and Meg in tow. The supermarket has installed a ‘scan it yourself’ system which I actively dislike but I think I inadvertently jumped a queue or perhaps other customers saw that I was struggling. As I was getting Meg into the car, the heavens opened with a cloud burst (having been fine earlier in the afternoon) but somehow I got the shopping into the car and then had to cope with Meg. If Meg does not place her feet firmly on the ground, them my pulling her forward onto her feet only propels the wheelchair forward but a kindly gentleman saw that I was struggling and kept the wheelchair steady whilst I bundled Meg in to the car – all in the pouring rain of course. Then I called in at Waitrose, got a copy of my daily newspaper and had to brave the rain again to get Meg into the house via her transit chair. I have to say that we were both a bit exhausted by all of this so I braved the rain to get the shopping indoors, made a swift cup of tea for both (and a dose of chocolate for Meg) and then watched an episode of ‘Yes, Prime Minister‘ to recover a bit from the afternoon.

For tea, I used up a whole pack of mushrooms to have mushrooms on toast with half a tin of mushroom soup and a good sprinkling of garlic. After this, I took Meg down in our main lounge to watch a bit of the news when the doorbell rang promptly at 7.00pm. It was the care worker from the ReAblement team so she and I put Meg to bed using our normal routines. Although I did most of the work, so to speak, I knew the routines and the extra pair of hands was incredibly useful. So we got Meg into bed before 8.00pm and after the excitement of the afternoon, I am pretty convinced that Meg should sleep like a baby (but I will go up to make periodic checks on her that all is OK)

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Wednesday, 27th March, 2024 [Day 1472]

Whilst yesterday was a pretty good day as the first full day at home after discharge from the local hospital, last night did not run quite so smoothly. Meg was awake when I came to bed shortly before 10pm and then was more than a bit fidgety. But then I undertook some remedial measures after which Meg seemed to go to sleep quite soundly whilst I stayed in the far corner of the bedroom using my iPhone and iPad for various little tasks. This morning, I got Meg up, toileted, washed and dressed without much ado although I have to adjust some of my techniques somewhat. This morning is the day of the week when our domestic help calls round but we have not seen her for three whole weeks whilst she was coping with a bereavement within the family. Naturally, we both felt that we had put through an emotional wringer in the last few weeks so we were happy to swap stories and give each other some mutual support. As it is a Wednesday and we are creatures of habit, we decided to call as we usually do each Wednesday into the Methodist Centre. Normally this is very busy each Wednesday but today it was strangely deserted so Meg and I concluded that the normal ‘Music and Movement’ type of classes had been cancelled this week. We got into conversation with an old lady who herself had memory problems but who had a companion to accompany her who has in a meeting in another part of the premises. The lady who started chatting with us had been the wife of a minister (now sadly departed) and had herself spent some about ten years as a missionary in Lagos, Nigeria. We swapped stories about these types of ventures as Meg’s cousin had at one time ministered to a community in Sierra Leone, and even survived a civil war in that part of the world. One thing that we learned today is that the centre is putting on a special afternoon on the third Friday of each month, rather similar to the club we attend on the second Wednesday of each month, so Meg and I will look forward to attending this when we attend the inaugural session towards the end of April.

After a good half hour of chat we get Meg back home and I did appreciate the assistance of our domestic help who helped with the transfer of Meg onto her transport chair and then onwards into our Music Lounge. We lunched on fishcakes and microwaved vegetables which was a quick and easy lunch to prepare. Afterwards, I set Meg down for a doze after lunch which is a habit which I am trying to encourage as I am sure her body probably needs it after a stay in hospital. When I come to think of it, I was hospitalised in the 1970’s after I was involved in a bizarre type of road traffic accident in which the driver of a Hillman Imp had fainted at the wheel of his car whilst approaching a T-junction with the result that I and a couple of my students were hit and set flying (almost literally) through the air. When I returned home from an operation on the severed muscles in one leg, I seem to remember sleeping for about a week both during the day and all the way during the night as well. Hospitals, with the best will in the world, can be noisy places and even a sleep can be disturbed by a nursing or healthcare assistant coming round to the ‘obs’ i.e. blood pressure, temperature and oxygen saturation levels. So this afternoon is proving to be a quiet one and I am looking forward immensely to tomorrow when, all being well, we will be reassessed by the NHS ReAblement team and a care package can be put in place for Meg. So far, we are coping reasonably well with a judicious combination of transports upstairs and downstairs (in effect metal commode chairs on wheels not used as a commode but as a way of whizzing patients from one room to another) and the recently installed stairlift. I think I fully appreciated how necessary this was when the exceptionally good physio nurses based in the community and is classified as the ‘Falls’ nurse, came round to see Meg and I and to assess our needs. When she witnessed how I was actually hoicking Meg up our staircase at the end of each day she told me that she put her hand over her face with horror as she could not bear to witness us making progress beyond the first one or two steps in a normal flight of stairs.

As so often in times of crisis, one’s family rallies around and have been magnificent. My son took upon the task of making me a meal to be stored in the fridge so that when I returned home from hospital every night last week, I had some instant food prepared for me. My daughter-in-law had raided her store of schoolbooks and brought into the hospital a series of books designed to divert Meg and to while away the long hours. Two of the most interesting of these turned out to be ‘Scrapbooks’ (not literally) but compilations of the foodstuffs, clothes and domestic items available first for the 1950’s and then the 1960’s. These are fascinating for anybody to look at – the Health Care Assistants in the hospital and our own domestic help loved glancing through the contents. What is amazing to behold is how many of the foodstuffs from even the 1950’s are still in the same recognisable packaging, the design of which has not fundamentally altered over seventy years. I suppose the manufacturers must feel that is a product has been chugging along with regular sales over the years, there is instant brand recognition and they might not want to change it in case sales suddenly plummet.For example the design of the packaging for Scott’s porage oats and the Heinz range of foodstuffs is practically unaltered.

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Tuesday, 26th March, 2024 [Day 1471]

So this is the first day after Meg’s discharge from hospital and although I suspected that the day might present a few challenges (for both of us), nonetheless we were both filled with a spirit of optimism. I was very conscious that after practically nine days in hospital Meg would have lost a little bit of muscle tone, not to mention getting the brain and muscles working in tandem with each other. For my part, I knew that I had to adapt some of my pre-hospitalisation techniques somewhat, so it was a learning curve for both us. But we managed the washing and dressing process using the wheelchair more than our standard bathroom chair and then we were prepared for the ‘great descent’ which was the first time that we had used the stairlift to go from the top of the stairs to the bottom (evidently, last night, it was the first time we had gone from the bottom to the top) The stairlift has a hand control but also two remotes, one at the top of the stairs and one at the bottom. In these early stages, I am operating the stairlift solely with the remote control because I did not wish Meg to use the hand control, get it slightly wrong and then panic. The transit downstairs went very smoothly and then it was into Meg’s favourite armchair in our Music Lounge before we had a fairly swift breakfast. As today is a Tuesday, we knew that it was the regular day for the Waitrose crowd to meet up in the cafeteria and it so happened that we all turned up at practically the same moment at 10.30am. Our other two friends, as well as the staff, greeted Meg very warmly and we had our normal coffee and comestibles. I decided to treat myself to a blueberry muffin but the staff insisted on making it gratis for me as it was Meg’s first day out of hospital. A little later one, the partner who generally deals with the flowers, came along with two bunches of roses and two bunches of narcissi which were distributed between us as wonderful little gifts to the regulars. Is it any wonder that we continue to frequent Waitrose when we were treated so well? To the same ‘flower lady’ who I know quite well, I opined that I was desperately waiting for Easter Sunday because on that day, I was going to break my Lenten fast and enjoy once again the things I had eschewed throughout the last six weeks which was chocolate, gambling, fast cars and loose women. I enquired whether on Sunday I could still forego the gambling but whether some fast cars and loose women would be available for me and they told me they would do their best. After a pleasant half hour, Meg started to feel a little wobbly which was not surprising as the changed routine made me forget to give Meg some of her regular morning medication. Once we arrived home, our neighbour was out starting to edge his lawn and he came over for a chat about this and that whilst we enjoyed some pale spring sunshine. I was experimenting a little using one of our recently acquired little transport chairs (actually commodes on wheels but without the commode bit in use) to get Meg in and out of the house. I had put down a rubber mat which helped to secure transit over some of the doorway flanges and then I got Meg onto our our little two seater settee whilst she tucked into tea and biscuits whilst I prepared the lunch. We have been used to a quite remarkably good regime of food whilst in the hospital so the challenge for me is to prepare somewhat smaller but tasty meals for Meg and myself which are are the equal of the hospitals. The Sunday that Meg had her little incident (a sudden drop in blood pressure) I had cooked a ham joint of which half was frozen and the other half available for our lunches, I made some onion gravy into which the ham slices were immersed, rescued some baby spinach from the fridge which was in danger of ‘going off’ and then cooked it, topping it with a poached egg and also our usual baked potato. So all of this worked pretty well.

The afternoon was spent in a very quiet mode but still one that has to be carefully micro-managed. We started off with a nice little period sitting side by side and both more or less dozing on our two seater settee after lunch. Then I negotiated a wobbly spell for Meg after which we watched a couple of ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ on the BBC iPlayer before deciding on a change of venue. I wheeled Meg down into our main lounge (which she has not seen for over 10 days now) and decided to watch the YouTube offerings that were available to us. Whilst I blogged, Meg was listening to a series called, I think, the world’s finest operatic arias and this was a source of mutual enjoyment for the two of us. I reflected that Meg and I have not to get cross with each other but to work as a team to work out solutions to little problems and, of course, pragmatism reigns supreme. But so far, we have had a pretty successful day and we will shortly have a tea which I suspect will entail something with custard, a bit of news, a bit of Politics on the Sky News Politics Hub programme and thence to get Meg to bed after that. Meg and I have scoped what we are going to do tomorrow morning and the first day without carers has actually worked out pretty well for both of us.

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Monday, 25th March, 2024 [Day 1470]

What an extraordinary and unpredictable day this has been. March 25th sticks in my mind for two reasons, the most important of which it is my son’e birthday because they were a bit short of staff the night he was born and I helped the midwife to deliver him. I sent him a congratulatory message when he was 56 years and 3 hours old. This date is normally in my diary when I would contemplate giving the grass the first cut of the season but this means re-commissioning the mower with freshly drawn highest quality petrol (a message I have learnt over the years, well charged with fuel stabiliser and of course oiled up for the season (or the first half of it), collected my newspaper and got off to see Meg and she was in a fairly tranquil mood but started to get more agitated as the day wore on. I hoped that lunch followed by a good long sleep would be a blessed release. So Meg enjoyed her pretty tasty lunch of spicy beef and roasted potatoes followed by a chocolate sponge. But the longed-for deep slumber after lunch which I have come to expect did not really happen and after a sort of twenty minute doze Meg started to get more and more fractious. A physiotherapist attending to other patients happened to be in the bay and Meg called out to her, whereupon she came over and I explained about Meg’s agitated periods during the day. She immediately went off and got Meg a tea and myself a coffee but was inclined to chat so I detailed our whole saga, explaining how Meg had been admitted and then declared medically fit a week ago and now, although we had the physio and the OT assessments we were stuck in a kind of limbo waiting for the ReAblement team to discover what resources were needed and how they were going to meet them. I explained that I had been looking after Meg for months and it was not at all problematic for me to do so again now that we had transport arrangements via commodes used as wheelchairs upstairs and downstairs and the real coup de grace which was a stairlift being fitted this morning. Although the fitting of the stairlift was scheduled for this afternoon they phoned up at 9.0 as I was leaving for the hospital and asking if they could come immediately which of course I had to decline. So a quick phone call to my son and daughter-in-law ensued and they graciously stepped into the breach to supervise the installation so that i could carry on in my journey to the hospital.

Then two events occurred in quick conjunction. An old lady even more frail than Meg was being discharged into the care of an ambulance crew who were having to get her via the Sarah Stedy (specialised transport equipment) onto a trolley to go into the ambulance. When the ambulance men asked if there was anybody at home, the old lady replied no but there was a keycode so that people could gain access to the house. The physio was an exceptionally ‘can do’ type of person and she said that the frustrations shared by the patients were as frustrating, if not more so, for the staff themselves and although she did not use these words, she expressed the view that she shared my pain. When I heard about the old lady being discharged, I turned to the physio and pointed out how ridiculous this situation was that someone evidently more frail than Meg was being discharged to an empty house whilst I could take Meg to a house fully equipped with mobility aids, stairlift and what have you. Then I asked her what would be the most adverse sequelae that would ensue if were were to take our own discharge. She informed me that she could probably go off and have a word with the Onward Care team (I think it is called) and explain that I did not really need any onward care in the short term because I had been providing care for months, had a well equipped house and could do anything that needed to be done myself. The physio shot off saying to of saying they would make a telephone call and also send a special message. Some minutes later, she emerged saying that she had a ‘new’ document and, in effect, the Onward care had agreed to a discharge without immediate care if I was happy to bridge the gap. Naturally, I said I would and I started to gather all of our various bags together, particularly the weighted blanket that we had used so much in the hospital. A doctor shot in, grabbled Meg’s notes and shot out again without so much as a glance in our direction.I now gained the impression that the ward sister was a bit put out by all of this as she might have thought that we were short circuiting the system. It will take some time to discharge her, she said because we have to get the medications. But I already have the medications with me that she has been on for months and which the hospital hasn’t changed, I protested. Then it was a case of ‘But you have to wait for transport’ at which point I pointed out that I had my own wheelchair with me in the back of the car and as I took Meg out for coffee every morning, I was quite capable of getting Meg back home. So we carted all of the possessions into the back of the car and I returned with the wheelchair, entered the ward and whisked Meg off to the waiting car. The whole of this venture started at about 3.0pm and I was leaving the hospital at about 4.45, getting home for 5.00pm. So I got Meg home and my son and daughter-in-law called round to show me how to use the newly installed star lift and I cannot believe how fortunate I may well have been with just a timely amount of insight and pressure at just the right time.

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Sunday, 24th March, 2024 [Day 1469]

So quite an action packed day for me today. I knew that there were three things that I needed to do before I got to the hospital this morning so I left home about three quarters of an hour earlier to accommodate them. The first was to get some cash out of an ATM and this I did in a local supermarket where I can immediately outside the ATM machines. Having done this, I needed to fill up of petrol which I did in the supermarket filling station. As I went in to pay, I noticed that they had a rack full of ‘Sunday Times‘ so I managed to get this whilst paying for my petrol. Having allowed plenty of time for things to go wrong e.g. chasing around for the complete Sunday Times, I was now in plenty of time. I decided to go to the hospital anyway which I did arriving at about 9.10 but knowing that the Ward would not normally me in until 10.00am. The normal volunteer staffed coffee bar was closed but a hospital shop was open which was equipped with a huge Costa Coffee machine that brewed a fresh cup of cafe for you but where they issued a bill which was paid for at the counter of the shop. This seemed to be quite a civilised arrangement and as I was so ridiculously early, I succumbed to the temptation of an Eccles cake which comes in the category of ‘naughty but nice’ for me. Having consumed my coffee and Eccles cake, there was a slight logistical challenge in getting to the men’s loo before the day kicked off. There was a sole middle aged male typing away at his laptop and I asked him if he could mind my hat and pile of newspapers because I didn’t want to go into the toilet with them. The toilet was in the process of being cleaned but no cleaner was evidence so I kicked the sign away and used the facilities as normal. Upon my return to the coffee lounge to retrieve my hat and newspapers, the chap busy typing away followed my example and I looked after his things whilst he went to the loo. When he returned we had an interesting snatch of conversation because it transpired that he was a crime writer and warned me that any story I might tell could end up in one his books. I reciprocated by telling him I write a blog every day and he again could feature in it. Nonetheless, I did manage to get one or two amusing anecdotes into the conversation and who knows whether they might appear in print one day. So we parted and went our various ways and I made for Ward 14. Here it appeared that Meg had had quite a reasonable night and I was relieved to see that the day staff seemed pleasant and sympathetic. One HCA (Health Care Assistant) lives only about three quarters of a mile away from using Bromsgrove so we were evidently used to the same haunts. After about half an hour, our Eucharistic Minister turned up from our local church – normally she would have visited us in our own home but when she heard of Meg’s plight, she said she would come over the hospital. As well as having our normal little services, our friend also brought us a couple of crosses made out of palms (traditional in Catholic households and distributed each Palm Sunday i.e. the Sunday before Easter) which it is today. The other offering that we had today was a gift of what is known as a ‘Miraculous’ medal. These used to be almost universally worn by Catholics in the 1950’s (i.e. during my youth) but I think this practice is rapidly dying out. The design of the medal dates from the 1830’s, apparently, and is a sign of devotion to the Virgin Mary. Lunch was a little delayed today but no sooner had it been served, than our long-standing University of Birmingham friend put in an appearance. We had previously texted each other and I knew that Meg would be delighted to see him, as indeed was I. So we had a delightful hour or perhaps even longer and we able to add a bit of flesh ono the barebones of our hospital trajectory so far. After our friend left us, Meg started to have one of her anxiety attacks but we have a variety of ways of dealing with this, one of which involved a loo visit using specialised piece of equipment know as a as a Sara Stedy. In the middle of being attended, our son and daughter-in-law turned up and we able to make preparations for the installation of the chair lift tomorrow. Our son and daughter-in-law had really set to with a vengeance and attacked some of our shrubbery that was threatening to get raoudly out of hand. and for this, I was eternally grateful. In the middle of this visit, one of my nieces phoned so, fortunately, I could leave Meg temporarily and locate myself in a corridor where I could get a reasonable reception and we were not in danger of annoying other patients and their visitors. We had a fairly long chat about how the modern NHS seems to fall over itself with the kinds of discharge protocols of which we the recipient at the moment and it was wonderful to hear from her. We both wish that we loved closer so that visits would be more feasible.

After all of our visitors had left, Meg was in a state best described as fidgety and I tried for a long time to get her in a calmer mood before I had to leave at 8.45. But the night staff which came on shift at 7.30 seem delightful and I trust that if Meg does have a disturbed night, they will deal with it sympathetically. I prefer to leave Meg either asleep or nearly asleep and it is. not a pleasant feeling leaving her when she may be rather an unsettled state. Obviously I try to reassure her that I will return at 10 in the morning but that might seem a long way off when you are suffering, as Meg does,from separation anxiety.

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Saturday, 23rd March, 2024 [Day 1468]

And so the weekend in the hospital wards started. The minute I arrived in the car park it was evident that a different regime was in place at the weekend. For a start, it was quite easy instead of almost being impossible to secure a car parking space – evidently, this is because no outpatient departments are scheduled for Saturday mornings, Even the ‘Friends’ coffee bar was closed in which I normally while away 5 minutes until the Ward is open to visitors.When I arrived on the ward, there was a calm almost tranquil atmosphere with each one of the six patients in the bay either in a deep doze (as was Meg) or fast asleep. I was soon to discover the reason why. Apparently, during the night, several of the patients with dementia had got vocal and agitated with some attempting to climb out of bed. I think this had affected Meg as well because although she cannot remember much of it, the nursing staff had told me that she needed some calming measures during the night. So the morning started to pass quite peacefully and there were no physiotherapists or occupational therapists to do their rounds. To make up for this, the nursing assistants had it on the rota to take the weekly weight of the patients which involves getting them out of bed and sitting on a weighing chair. This activity is often combined with taking patients to the toilet as well, the idea being that it encourages a degree of mobility in the patients. The morning had actually started off very well indeed because my son and daughter-in-law had called round with a whole series of books (most, if not all, belonging to my daughter-in-law rather than the school) which I could use to divert Meg. We started off the morning when Meg had woken up properly with a flip through the pages of ‘The Times’ and then I turned my attention to one of the reading books. These are generally well illustrated and are intended to be read to children by their parents and apparently the one I used yesterday called ‘Dogger’ is quite well known (but written before these days when the term ‘Dogger’ might be misconstrued.) And so lunch time came and, again, the quality of the food never ceases to amaze me. The fare today (which we had chosen yesterday) was a spicy chicken with herby potatoes followed by a bread-and-butter pudding. In the absence of any better offers, I pilfered. some of Meg’s food and whilst she had eaten her fill, so I live on the rest that would be normally be thrown away. I am trying and so far succeeding in getting Meg to sit on a chair most of the morning and after lunch and a toileting to get her to have a really good nap in the early afternoon. This worked quite well today, so much so that Meg had at least three quarters of an hour whist I actually fell into a deep sleep for about 20 minutes which I evidently needed. The mid afternoon was not so easy because Meg’s agitation levels were increasing and her concentration levels decreasing but I do what I can to keep Meg calm within the constraints of the situation. But the highlight of the afternoon definitely came with the arrival of my son and daughter-in-law for an hour’s visit between 4pm and 5PM and this definitely helps the time to fly. Something that helped to divert all four of us, actually, were a couple of books that my daughter-in-law brought along of Scrapbooks of the 1950’s and the 1960’s. Each one of these is filled with the products, clothes, food, artefacts and events of the decade in question. Naturally the Coronation in 1953 was allocated a lot of space. After our visitors had left, there was not too long to wait for tea which was a little earlier today and after tea Meg is generally quite calm and we try and listen to some music together. But then the ward sister came along to inform me that they were going to transfer Meg to an adjacent ward – of course I have spent a week cultivating good relations with the various staff and this will have to start all over again tomorrow morning. The transfer from one ward to another seemed unnecessarily long, complex and tedious. It involved getting Meg out of bed when she was a bit sleepy and sitting her in a chair whilst all of her bed was clinically cleaned. Then the new patient and family were brought to the bedside and then, for some reason whisked away again. Then Meg and all of her possessions had to be transferred but we had to ensure that the conveyance that had brought the new patient was itself clinically cleaned. Sp the entire process was long, tedious and irksome and started at 8.15 but was not completed until 9.30pm. I should say that I could have left Meg alone in this sort of No Mans Land but I wanted to see her settled into her new bed, without even unpacking her things, before I felt able to leave. The new ward has two 4-bedded bays instead of the 6-bedded bays from the previous ward and I have gleaned that that this is a medical ward in which the patients, although frail like Meg, are regarded as medically fit and are awaiting their discharge. We shall have to wait and see what Sunday is going to bring bit it does feel a little like starting all over again.

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Friday, 22nd March, 2024 [Day 1467]

As soon as I got into the hospital this morning, I put in a request to speak with the hospital social worker. This was less than satisfactory as she indicated that Meg’s case was now in the hands of the ReAblement team and they would have to assess ‘capacity’ (ours or theirs I do not know) and it was out of her hands. During the course of the morning, I managed to text my own newly allocated social worker who advised me to contact the ReAblement team. She tried to be helpful by giving me a number which was a generic number rather than a hospital specific one and as there was a huge queue and this would not have been productive anyway I abandoned this. I bumped in to the physiotherapist who seemed vague about the exact procedures from this point but indicated surprise! surprise!) that a lot of box ticking was involved. I realise that I am in a system that I cannot penetrate or question so I just have to sit and wait and not ‘bucking the system’ All last night, I have been contemplating what dire consequences would follow from taking Meg’s discharge but I suspect that this is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. I now realise that nothing will happen today, Friday and of course Saturday and Sunday intervene. So a Monday discharge is the earliest and then we have the (for me) dreaded Easter holidays intervening. The frustrating thing is that Meg was admitted on Sunday, announced medically fit in Sunday and has been ‘bed blocking’ for five whole days and goodness knows how many more.

So now I turn attention to Meg herself. She seemed reasonably OK and seemed to have slept through the mayhem that was happening two beds away. The first of my strategies is working relatively well and that is to take the photographs on my iPad and then work my way through them, one by one. I also had bought a copy of the newspaper and I flipped through the pages ignoring some items and commenting upon some of the others which I could summarise as I went along. The other successful little venture of the morning was to go through a child’s reading book designed, I think, for early readers of the ages 6-7 I would imagine. This was an illustrated story of a boy and his little toy dog (inappropriately called ‘Dogger’) which was lost but eventually retrieved. We paused at some of the points in the story to expand a little on some of the themes – for example, the little boy had a sister who liked to go to bed with lots of cuddly toys. Actually, our son did so as well so Meg had a little giggle reminding ourselves what they were. One of my earliest memories of a soft toy was a panda which a very good friend and trainee opera singer of ours bought for our son. This panda (called ‘Panda’) went to bed every night but occasionally had to be retrieved from his cot to give a much needed wash from childish dribbles. But when the panda emerged from the spin dinner, the animal achieved a curvilinear state, not to mention the holes in the spin dryer drum that left their mark. So Meg remembers well retrieving the panda, bending its curvilinear shape into a more normal one and then replacing it back into the cot hoping that our son would not notice it had ever gone missing. The final thing that reprieved the morning for us was a book called ‘Cutting Remarks’ which was full of humourous quotations. We headed straight for the Politics section and some of remarks that politicians made about each other were hilarious and caused us quite a good few giggles. I seem to remember reading the reports that an American sergeant made about his men in a similar vein and one sticks in my memory that a particular GI ‘sets himself the lowest of standards which he conspicuously fails to meet’ The other remark that I remember pertains to one of my colleagues, now departed, who hoiked his not very bright son round minor public school after minor public school until one headmaster remarked to him wearily ‘Mr xxxx, we as a school are not particularly renowned for our academic standards but even we have standards below which we dare not fall’ (Incidentally, I adopted this as a working motto when we were considered whether students should pass or fail in our annual Boards of Examiners). The morning was punctuated by three other sets of visitors which is always a good thing. One was the physiotherapist who assess Meg the other one and for whom Meg fared a little better today when using a frame. The second was the Dementia support worker who started off her working life in a print works so she had made an interesting career transition. Incidentally, I always love to hear how people started off and how they got to do what they are doing this morning. The third person was a junior doctor (as doctors do not wear flapping white coats these days and their name badges are so inconspicuously worn I could not really tell the grade of doctor to whom we were speaking). We knew that Meg was basically medically fit but that he had been detailed to call by. I explained the non-pharmacological techniques that I deployed at home to manage Meg’s conditions and he admitted to being suitably impressed. Lunch today was a spicy beef followed by stewed plums and custard and they are absolutely delicious (Meg ate the whole lot, leaving me without a lunch today)

The good staff that have been on yesterday and will be on again tomorrow were replaced by a personnel (who seem to be one sister across two bays of beds and a nursing assistant allocated to each bay) I think the staff today seemed a trifle less conscientious and somewhat brusque with the patients under their control. Having said that, they were under a certain amount of abuse from two patients one of whom had been playing up all night and most of the day. Eventually she was removed and I wondered if she had moved to a more secure and sound proofed unit for everybody’s peace of mind. The woman immediately next to Meg admitted to being scared as did the night sister. The afternoon was punctuated by our son coming for an hour’s visit which was a wonderfully welcome release and after he left, the afternoon drifted to a close with a nice tea (and then Meg and I played each other some Mozart on my iPhone)

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