The best laid plans …..

It was all going well.  Catherine had assessed her last week and said she would give it a go.  Mum had enjoyed her afternoon at Abbeyfield.  They had made a fuss of her, given her fish and chips for lunch, played dominoes.  It was just right; such a friendly, caring environment.  I felt sure that mum would feel at home there.  And it would mean that I didn’t have to stay in Sheffield to look after her.  I would enjoy visiting her there.  

The staff at Silverdales had agreed to write a letter and pack up her belongings and medications.  There was a slight hiccup when the Primary Care Trust demurred over funding her continuing health care, but Catherine reassured them that Abbeyfield also cared for some patients with dementia and after a delay of just two days they agreed.  I could scarcely believe how smoothly it had gone. 

We even had a window on the weather.  It had snowed the night before but the roads were passable and no more snow was forecast until the day after the move.  It was a little icy on the hill to mum’s flat, but I quickly gathered together her favourite pictures and ornaments, found her shoes and a warm blanket and set off to collect her from Silverdales.

The ward had been transformed into Santa’s grotto.  The staff were all in fancy dress.  An elf in stripey red stockings told me that mum wouldn’t come until she’d finished her coffee.  ‘Twas ever thus’, I said.  So I took her stuff down to the car and when I came back she was in the toilet and there was a queue of reindeer forming outside the door.

Betty was a little tearful.  I needed to explain to her several times that ‘No, Doris was not her mother in law and I was not her husband.’  It was all a bit too much for her, but she kissed mum and wished her a happy Christmas.  And so we took our leave of Santa’s helpers, the elves, the reindeer and the gnomes. 

The rather serious lady on reception was dressed in white with wings and a gold tinsel band round her head. 

‘Are you the fairy on top of the tree?’  I asked her as we went out.

‘No, she said, without a hint of a smile, ‘I’m an angel.’

Mum was quiet in the car and I put the radio on.  Every so often she would reach out, squeeze my hand and smile. Two hours later as we approached our destination,  I turned the radio off.  Almost immediately, she became fretful.   ‘I can’t get my breath.  Where’s my hanky.  I’m so hungry.  I want to go to the toilet. 

I explained again that she was going to Abbeyfield  House for Christmas and Simon and I would be just down the road.  I wasn’t sure she’d taken that in; she was much more concerned about lunch and going to the toilet.

 While Catherine got her a glass of sherry and some fish and chips for lunch, I went upstairs to personalise her room. I was going through the inventory with Kirstie when an agitated Catherine came in.  ‘Your mum is having an eppy.’

Close on her heels, mum appeared at the door, face as black as sin, but then she recognised me and smiled.  I showed her the pictures, the photographs of me and Simon, her chocolates and her musical lamp. 

‘What’s my stuff doing here?’

‘You’re staying here over Christmas. It’s really nice. Simon and I will be just down the road’ 

‘I’m not staying here.  I don’t like these people.  So you can just take all this stuff down and take me home.’

Then Catherine tried to persuade her.

‘And who are you?   You want to get rid of me too, I suppose.’ 

I tried a more robust approach.  ‘I’ll take you back to Silverdales, mum, if that’s what you want, but Simon and I will be here for Christmas. And it’s going to snow again.’ 

At that she started thumping her fists against my chest.  ‘Oh, so I’ve got to come to you.  Well, I’m not .  You –thump – can – thump – come – thump – to me!  Big thump!

Ok mum, we’ll take you back.  Let’s just hope the snow stays off.

I rang Sheriott.  Her room at Silverdales was still available. The journey back was a repeat of the  morning’s expedition.  She was quiet and we listened to the radio. 

Santa’s little helpers took her off into the day room to join the elves still preparing for Christmas while I went to put her stuff away.  

A few minutes later, she appeared at the door.  ‘Nobody is talking to me in there.’

‘Never mind mum’

‘Do you want a chocolate, dear?’

‘Oh, yes please, mum. Then I must go before it snows. ’

‘Well, it’s been a lovely day.  Thank you so much darling!’


Isn’t it tragic when fear forces people into actions that you know will harm them and you can’t do anything about it?