Saturday, March 20, 2010


Last Thursday my mother was transferred from Alloa Community Hospital to Ashley House Care Home at Milnathort. When I visited her there yesterday she said nothing about the move; she could remember nothing. Nor did she say anything about how she liked or disliked her new surroundings. She knew only that she did not want to be where she was; she wanted to be back in her own home. Dementia, I now understand, manifests in many different ways. In my mother's case it began to develop a longish while ago, perhaps two years or more, but the earliest symptoms were either ignored or taken as the kind of odd behavioural quirks to which most of us are occasionally subject. Although she continued to live alone, keeping herself and her home in good order her behaviour became increasingly odd and out of character. Last December she fell either off of or from her bed. The following morning my sister, who lives nearby and called daily on our mother, could get neither response to her calls nor entry into the house so was obliged to call the police to force entry. They found mum on her bedroom floor not seriously injured, she had fractured bones in an arm and in her shoulder, but apparently not in pain and quite unaware of her predicament; she was immediately transferred by ambulance to a local hospital.
The incident marked a rapid acceleration of her mental condition to one that the health service considered inappropriate to living alone. Since then she has been held in the dementia wing at the Alloa Community Hospital pending a place being found for her at an appropriate care home.
Alloa Community Hospital is, if a touch NHS spartan, pleasant and comfortable but it was a great shock to me to see my mother there. When I had last seen her, in December, she was behaving quite strangely and saying odd things but seemed to know what was going on around her. When I next saw her, two months later, her conversation made little sense at all and she looked so very frail and weak. I was also shocked to realise that she was but one of a dozen or more folk in her ward in similar circumstances albeit of various ages. For the first time in my life I was aware of the colossal scale of the problem of looking after people who are no longer able to look after themselves. This has caused me to consider, again for the first time in my life, what the future might be holding in store for me!
'Ashley House' is also pleasant and comfortable and far from spartan; it has the ambience of a multi-starred hotel. The residents are more of a mixed bag, most seemingly suffering from no more than physical frailty. With time perhaps mother will settle to enjoying, as far as she is able, her life at 'Ashley House; I hope so. As I was typing that I was increasingly aware of the hypocrisy of even thinking it. To live in such a place with its nauseous niceness, its entertainments and organised outings would, for me, be hell on earth. Why should it be any different for my mother?

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