The Long Goodbye – Part 5

“…but surely it’s time to go home now?”

The day came when mum went into the local home, first for a 2 week respite stay so my sister could go on holiday, then a couple of months later as a permanent resident. Living abroad I got off lightly, whereas my sister had to deal with all the practical issues, including the ‘deception’ of getting her there.  The local home (there is only one) is run by the council and funded in a typical Scandinavian fashion. Whatever your income or level of pension, 80% goes to the council. In return you get a single (although at times a double) room with an en-suite shower room. On one level the home’s standard is basic, functional and practical. The rooms certainly are plain, but residents can bring some items of furniture if they are going to be long term residents and many also donate pieces for the common rooms, corridors and entrance areas. Situated in farming country, the links to the farming community are obvious with folk art and furniture from paintings, dressers and spinning wheels.  Meticulously clean in all areas and NOTHING like senior living in some homes I have seen in the UK. In all the years of visiting, I never once smelt the more common combination of Dettol and urine and worse. All that greeted you was beaming, fabulous carers and nurses and the smell of coffee and freshly baked cakes.  Mum settled in on the small dementia ward as one of a “gang of six”. One of them would never speak a word and just stare at you, or through you, another would use every opportunity to try and escape and wink at you as he tried to open a door leading out onto a small garden. (Only once was he successful as far as I know and his freedom was short lived). Mum couldn’t escape as she needed her wheeled zimmer (and later a wheelchair) and she would have had to get through a locked door and operate a lift up to the floor above. In the early days she was still able/allowed to smoke. This made for a small adventure whenever I visited. The trip to the smoking room gave her something to do and a chance to see more people than just the “gang” on her locked ward.  For an agoraphobic-like person she seemed to have forgotten that she had hang-ups about being around people, smiling and greeting residents and staff as we made our way to the “nicotine suite”.  Whereas she hadn’t yet forgotten that she smoked, most of the time she believed she was staying in a hotel, but would often ask why she couldn’t go home, and nearly every time I went to visit, she would ask if I’d seen her parents/my grand-parents that day. At this point they had passed away roughly 20 and 30 years ago respectively. Gently reminding her that they had died years ago, she would smile wryly and say “oh yes, of course they did, I know, I know” but the smile would falter and she would look a little sad but then light up as she lit another cigarette and then we would talk “nonsense” about something completely different until it was time to take her back downstairs to her new ward-mates. The lies when I was leaving had to continue as she was not pleased to learn that she could not come with you. “It’s very nice here and the service is excellent, but surely it’s time to go home now?”

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