Thursday, 24 November 2011

Gran Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

The BBC reports on the short-fallings and neglect of people being cared for in their own home.

My Gran was taken into a home approximately 4 and a half years ago. She tripped and fell one night when trying to go to the bathroom. My Grandfather was unable to provide the care she needed and it was decided the best option was to put her in a home.

I have no idea how much money my Grandparents had at the time but I think they could have been described as good-to-well off. My Grandfather was high up and, as I learned at his funeral earlier this year, very well respected in the RAF, following his heroics during the war. Upon leaving the RAF he took up a position in a bank and continued to be savvy and careful with his money and investments.  They lived a nice life in a pristine home on the south coast. When my Gran was taken into a home, my Grandfather - Grandpa as he was and always will be - looked into what the State could offer in terms of support. Not much was the answer. In order for my Gran to receive any aid, their total net worth could not exceed - and I am guessing here but I won't be far off - £30,000. So Grandpa worked his entire life, paid all relevant taxes and lived his life within his own means. He continued to pay tax during his retirement on any earnings he received through his shrewd investments.

The Rules state that in order to qualify for State assistance, you have to wait until your net worth falls beneath the thirty grand threshold. You therefore have to liquidise everything you have including your home. Once the big pot of money reduces to the equivalent of a large family saloon with leather seats and a few optional extras, you have to hope that you have sufficient funds remaining to drive from your rented accommodation to the council offices to be assessed as to whether your wife of rapidly-declining health is eligible for state assistance.

When it came to being means-tested to assess my Gran's suitability for State aid, he refused. In all likelihood this was down to his characteristically private nature, not wanting his affairs finely toothed with a comb but I hold on to the idea that perhaps this reveals he was an international man of mystery with hidden millions. Possibly. Probably he felt it was none of the government's business.

So my Gran entered a home, funded from my Grandpa's pocket. I believe the figure is in excess of £800. Per week. I actually believe the figure is higher but am afraid to ask. So for 40+ grand a year, you'd expect quite a high quality of service.

Four-and-a-half years later Grandma is still there, completely in spite of herself. Let's make no bones about it; she doesn't want to be part of this world any more, aged 96. If she could get herself to Switzerland, she would. But she can't. Her legs don't work. She spends every day being lifted from her bed to the bathroom to her chair to the bathroom to her bed. The TV is put on loud on BBC1; partly to compete with volume of the TVs of her neighbouring inmates, partly to provide some form of distraction between the hours of 7am and 6.30pm, partly so the staff cannot hear the screams.

She has a buzzer with two buttons to call for assistance: one for every-day requests such as a cup of tea, one for emergencies such as needing to go to the toilet. Yet she is told not to use the emergency buzzer unless she is in real need of assistance. Presumably soiling yourself does not come high in the league tables of emergencies as she is told not to use it for that. It seems that the only categories where use of the emergency buzzer is acceptable are along the lines of heart attack, falling out of your chair, inability to breathe and death. All of these are coupled with the caveat that they must occur within reaching distance of the buzzer.

One of Grandma's main worries is that she drops the buzzer. She spends a great deal of time ensuring it is to hand. Luckily, her Home has procedures in place to alleviate this worry. Each inmate has a form
which must be signed, timed and dated every four hours to indicate that they have checked the buzzer is within reach of the patient. When visiting on Sunday, I noted that it was clearly instigated in the
summer and that the form had been diligently completed for the first four buzzer-hand-inspections. Three months down the line, they remain the only entries on the form.

A year or so back when visiting, Grandma realised that she was in need of assistance to get to the bathroom. She pressed the buzzer and we waited. And waited. 10 minutes pass and nothing happens. We suggest pressing the emergency buzzer but, pointing out that she is not cardiac-arresting, has not fallen, can breathe and is not dead; she stoically refuses. Walking down the Corridor of Noise - I believe it was the Eastenders Omnibus with staggered arguments dependent on analogue or digital reception - I found four carers deep in conversation next to a rapidly blinking light which indicated there was a non-urgent emergency in cell number 8. Upon request, one of them reluctantly replaced his tea cup, triumphantly laid his hand (four twos and seven-eight-nine of clubs) and ambled along to my distressed grandmother.

Forty grand.

There's more but I'll leave it there. The morals of the story are:
1. Spend all of your money before its too late.
2. Don't save for old age; it makes no difference whether you have money or not. Either way
you're going to end up sitting in your own shit while others play Gin Rummy.
3. Book yourself a one-way Easyjet flight to Geneva.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Christmas List

Christmas has officially begun.

Yesterday I went in to a pub and bought a guilt-drink: a take-out Coke
purely because I had used their facilities. Spending a penny cost one
pound fifty.

When leaving the Worst Toilet in England (not Britain; Edinburgh's
Worst Toilet in Scotland retains its British title for another year),
Noddy Holder was screaming 'It's Christmas'. Ergo cogito sum:
Christmas has officially begun.

This also signals the beginning of the Annual Fear. Within days I
anticipate receiving an email with a Word attachment entitled 'Jimmy's
Present List' which will detail all that Jimmy has imagined he or she
could possibly hope to receive, wrapped with varying degrees of skill,
on Christmas morning.

There will be several emails received from all family members. All of
them will have spent a great deal of time and care working out exactly
what they want. Some will be incredibly subtle in their specificity.
For example, three years ago, one item on a list was 'a trip to see
Carmina Burana being performed on stage.' So far so good. It was
followed by 'it is being performed at the O2 Arena on the 18th of
January next year. Seats in the front of blocks 109 or 110 will be
perfect.' There is a hell of a lot of thought and research gone into
that single Christmas List entry; one of many.

Come Christmas morning, the said recipient superbly feigned surprise
at receiving tickets to see Carmina Burana, row B, block 110, O2
Arena, Jan 18th 2009.

Not being adept at these Christmas Lists, I simply asked for my
presents to be given to charity. They weren't. I received a table

Now there's nothing wrong with a table Jenga though it made me resolve
to actually ask for something I might want the following year.
Naturally I forgot over the course of the next 11 months and received
other items which were kind, yet perhaps not everything I could have

Same last year. My Dad gave me a pot of Swarfega but that's a
different story as, unknowingly copying Joey and Chandler off Friends,
he finds it amusing to buy Christmas presents in Halfords.

So this year I am going to prepare. Holder's given me the Nod, so it's
time to Prepare My List.

Now, it is very rare that I actually want anything. I don't really buy
much of anything. At all. I am not materialistic and rarely feel the
need to buy anything for me. Every now and then I buy some music but I
don't really listen to much. I don't have an iPod and while I do have
three albums - yes, three! - loaded on my phone, it is rare that I
actually listen to one of them.

Last year I got tickets to a gig. That was unexpected and very
welcome. And the gig was excellent.
For my birthday, I was presented with a voucher for a night out at the
comedy. Though still unused, I know I will like that.

So that's two items for this year's List.

I've seen an advert for Peter Kay's new DVD. I think I'd like that but
would I find it funny? My student days are long gone so maybe I've
moved on and he hasn't?

Danny Baker had Steve Coogan on his radio show last weekend to discuss
his new biography: I Partridge. I never really got the whole Alan
Partridge thing so would usually dismiss the idea but Danny was so
gushing about the book that it made me think I should give it a try.

1. Tickets to a gig
2. Tickets to comedy
3 (possibly) Peter Kay's DVD
4 (possibly) I Partridge

This is where I need your help. I need your suggestions so please
comment with your ideas. If you don't, it'll be another table Jenga.
Do you want to have that on your conscience?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

It's Not

I am sitting on a tube next to David Dickinson. It is in all
likelihood not David Dickinson. Is David Dickinson the orange one in
one of those Antiques Roadshow rip-offs where they not only value the
tat but flog it too?
I am sitting next to not David Dickinson. He is wearing a wide
pin-stripe. He is orange. Probably not as orange as David Dickinson
but not David Dickinson can be proud of his citrus fakeness.

Not David Dickinson is writing an email. To Bruce. Not David Dickinson
is being a little playful. Not David Dickinson does not let me see any
more of the screen. This is not an exam, not David Dickinson.
Therefore I can only surmise that Bruce is not David Dickinson's son,
not Bruce Dickinson, not lead singer of not AC/DC. Hang on. Is it not
not AC/DC who not Bruce Dickinson does not lead sing for? I think I am
mixing him up with someone else.

Not Bruce Dickinson's surname is not Dickinson. I can see not David
Dickinson's screen now. Not (now not) Bruce Dickinson's surname is
Bishop. Not Dickinson. They work together.

Had not David Dickinson been not Bruce Dickinson's father then this
would have been eye-brow raising. They are of much the same age. It
would have been my duty - and yours, now that I have made you aware of
this - to report the strange paternity situation to the CPA. I'm not
sure if the CPA is the correct authority but they'd be able to pass
you on to the correct acronym. But they're not. So you don't.

Not David Dickinson has just been sat upon by a rumbustuos lady.

Thus ends my tube journey.

Last Night

Last night was brass monkeys.
Last night was spent at Wembley, watching a friendly game.
Last night I remembered why I hadn't gone to a friendly game for 12 years.
Last night I vowed not to go to another friendly game for 12 years.
Last night I was going to go for a post-match curry.
Last night I couldn't find an open curry house.
Last night WeeMan was all excited when he found an establishment
called Indian Ocean ('I was so happy to have found an open curry
house, I was even prepared to eat curried sea food if that was all
they did').
Last night WeeMan kicked a public bin.
Last night WeeMan discovered that the Indian Ocean sells furniture.
Last night we laughed at WeeMan.
Last night I received an urgent text from a damsel in distress.
Last night I abandoned The Curry House hunt.
Last night I took two buses to rescue the damsel.
Last night the damsel had left before I got there.
Last night I took an additional three buses to get home.
Last night I found the damsel at home. Less distressed.
Last night I invented a new cupboard-fridge-combo snack.
Last night I felt sick.
Last night I discovered the antidote to the cupboard-fridge combo snack.
Last night I found a box of mince pies.
Last night I felt a bit like Christmas.
Last night I eschewed a hot water bottle.
Last night was brass monkeys.