Punch Drunk

So much happening, so little time to write. Or do anything except get on with the next thing. 

Tuesday: we discover that Nick’s flat may continue to need drying out as the joists are still too wet to be able to lay a new floor. So he continues to live at ours, sleeping on the pull out bed, but now with the added attraction of an arm in a sling. Simon and I are already dropping with fatigue as time sucks away into a vortex of propping Nick up with cushions to get him comfy, fetching him drinks, putting on the TV or radio programme that he likes, at eye-watering volume, keeping him company, making dinner and helping him eat. We wait on him hand and foot because although very stoic, he is in pain and even more unsteady than usual and we're terrified that in this vulnerable state he might hurt himself further. 

Wednesday: The social worker arrives to find me in tears of frustration as I’m crouched over Nick trying to re-assemble the blue hospital sling. It’s got more straps, rings, buckles and Velcro than your average piece of climbing equipment and I’ve never been any use at putting together that kind of thing. He thinks he understands how to do it but his fingers won’t work. Even the social worker scratches her head. In the end we go back to the foam sling given by the X ray department.

I thought she must be able to see the impossibility of the situation at once, that none of us are equipped to deal with a long-term house guest with such complex needs, and that Nick’s safety here is compromised.
She did a very comprehensive assessment – though I wanted to kick Nick in the shins every time he said blithely, Yes, I’m coping very well here, Yes the arm is healing already, and No, I’m not worried about falling.

The upshot of it all was that there is no respite facility immediately available and they will not grant it anyway without an end date (when Nick might be able to get back into his own flat) so he must continue to stay here until further notice. The Active Recovery team will come here to install a bed and a commode so he doesn’t have to go upstairs. But our front room is a thoroughfare through to the kitchen and garden and the back room is currently a no-go area awaiting building work for a damp back wall. It's clear that Nick should not be trying to manage our stairs and that he needs to be supported and safe but it's our front room. Where are these things going to go? 

But all social services can do is address the practicalities – is the person actually homeless? Or are they in a family home with someone on hand to attend to their personal care and general nourishment, even if it means that someone having to give up their job to do so? If they are not safe on the stairs to the upstairs bathroom, why, install a hospital bed and a commode, right here in the living room. I am not squeamish about actually having to deal with commodes and all that, I already clean Nick’s loo several times a week, but the sheer relentlessness of having to do a carer’s job on top of everything else in the middle of our family home, our sanctuary – well it just feels unbearable.
Oh but we’ll get a team of carers coming in to do all the changing and cleaning and Nick’s personal care, says the social worker, they can come four times a day.
That feels even worse. Even if it’s people we already know and trust, it’s such an invasion.

Teenage son loves Nick but is terribly upset. “I don’t want strangers coming into our house! If you put a commode in here I’m leaving home. How am I going to invite my friends round?

I have to go into the garden, look up at the sky and take a few deep breaths. Nick living here for the foreseeable, me on call 24 hours a day and our house turned into a nursing home. I know only too well that this just happens to people, ordinary people like you and me, only you never think it will be you.  Of course I know this, it’s part of my daily work. No-one likes it. It’s the most horrible and soul-destroying invasion of privacy and dignity and who you think you are. But seriously, what is the alternative?