You think business is tough? Try a week in someone else’s shoes!
Many people know I am a registered nurse and still do some nursing as my “hobby”. I was asked by a networking colleague if I could provide some respite care for an elderly man with vascular dementia, sound easy? We sometimes think we have it tough in business, I put it back to you, it’s nothing in comparison to what people go through when caring for a loved one at home.
I started on Saturday morning just before 8am, I had my whole week planned, the trips we would make to keep Fred (name changed) occupied and bring back some of his old memories. The first thing I realised was trips had to be planned around toilet stops and clean trousers, whilst Fred was not incontinent, actually going to the toilet without missing was a major problem. Saturday was quite uneventful, however Fred had got into the habit of sleeping in the lounge fully dressed, a habit I needed to break. Having got him ready for bed I convinced him it would be a good idea to lie down, I had it cracked day one – or so I thought! That night I was up and down about five times reminding him it wasn’t time to get up – my sleep was fitful to say the least.
Sunday we went on a wonderful trip down memory lane, the stories he told me were fascinating, the places, the people, the events all as clear as anything in his mind. Lunch was good and he ate well, we even had a walk after lunch, everything was great until we got home. Unfortunately I hadn’t appreciated that the whole family were planning on visiting, this led to Fred being over tired and mentally over stimulated – that combined with a war time drama was way too much and Fred became very confused. He tried to attack me with his sticks and became verbally aggressive, after an hour of trying to manage, I had no choice but to call the neighbours who support the family constantly. I must admit I felt a failure that I couldn’t manage, but at 12.30am we all agreed it would be best if I went home and came back in the morning, leaving the neighbours to settle Fred.
One thing I did learn was that by changing the colour of my top, this actually changed who Fred thought I was, useful when things aren’t going well. On the Monday Fred was totally different, he loved me, I was no longer the enemy to be killed! However this brought more challenges as Fred became very sexually inappropriate, time to change the colour of the top again!
Tuesday I kept Fred fairly quiet not wanting to mentally overstimulate him, it’s a fine line between keeping someone like him awake and occupied or causing stress as things become blurred and confused. We did go for lunch after which Fred needed to use the disabled toilet. I positioned myself outside to stop anyone else going in, another gentleman was waiting. As Fred finished I went into the toilet to check he was ok, only to find that he had missed the toilet completely and had weed all down his trousers, over the seat and the floor – I had to clean it up for the poor man that was to follow. That night we averted a major problem when there was a fire on one of the soaps, that was real to Fred and he started to become distressed. I thought we would be OK and he would sleep that night, whilst he forgot about the fire he was awake most of the night worrying about the planes – he had been listening to the news about Monarch cancelling the flights. I eventually let Fred settle in the lounge about 4am, he wanted to get up and watch TV, I wasn’t expecting the sight when I got up two hours later!
Fred had made about 15 cups of tea, these were all dotted around the lounge and conservatory, he had attempted to make a jam sandwich and smeared butter and jam over every kitchen surface, he had also been to the bathroom and it was covered in wee and poop. There were wet trousers and pants on the floor where he had changed into clean ones and he was snuggled asleep in front of the TV.
Wednesday was a lovely day out, but still a very disturbed night, I was disorientated with exhaustion, confused as to what day it was half of the time as the days and nights just rolled into one. I finished my care on Thursday evening when his wife returned after her break. I had washed around five pairs of trousers, pants and socks every day, along with the normal washing, I had been verbally and physically assaulted, subjected to sexual inappropriate comments, laughed, cried and gone through every emotion I could think of – now I was going home! But what about his wife? She is twenty-five years older than me, dealing with this day in and day out – with very little respite. We have managed to put the wheels in motion to get her the support she desperately needs, and I will stay in touch and visit. The thing is half an hour of someone’s time to give her a break is like winning the jackpot, so many people out there are in the same position.
We come into business and we think things are tough, I have never had a tougher week of my life than looking after Fred. If you know of someone who is caring for a loved one, try and give them half an hour of your time to give them a break. This has also made me re-evaluate a lot of things, I need to make time for my loved ones whilst they still have the ability to enjoy the time together, that’s time for me too, and making wonderful memories to carry me through should the future be a bit bleak. I know making time can be hard, I will probably need to outsource to create the time, I will already outsource the accountancy stuff and IT, maybe the cleaning and gardening, some website bits, who knows, I’m still working on it – but I will make time
Thank you to “Fred” and his family and neighbours, it was a privilege to support you and an experience for which I will be forever grateful. x