For Next Year I Think I’ll Just Be Happy

Without doubt this has been one of the worst years of my life having lost my much-loved Dad following a devastating year of unbearable terminal illness. It’s hard to believe that his accident was twelve long months’ ago and he went overnight from driving the old folk to the supermarket to not being able to tie his own shoelaces. There have been so many enlightening lessons and although I always thought I was a strong person I clearly didn’t know what strong was until now.  I’ve met some people on this journey that have been like bottled sunshine on a very rainy day and some not so much. Whilst I cannot wait to embrace the New Year and hopefully a new start ultimately I will begin it a little sadder, wiser but a damn sight more fierce than the person I was twelve months ago.

What I’ve learned this year:

Karma does exist so even in your intensely frustrating moments you just have to sit back and let the universe deal with it

Fight for what you believe is right even if it takes every ounce of strength you have and then some

Learn to say no

People can be insensitive, selfish and will disappoint you so just appreciate and be grateful for the kind ones that warm your heart in your darkest of moments.

Don’t hoard beautiful things waiting for that special occasion to use or wear them; that special day is every day in which you are fortunate to walk this earth

Take some time to sit awhile with the elderly and infirmed and let them share their stories; you might just learn something!

Don’t leave words in your heart unspoken waiting for the right time; seize the moment and be bold for there will never be a perfect moment

Did a random act of kindness from a stranger on one of your bleakest days make all the difference? Then pay it forward; the world needs more of that.

Never underestimate the power of touch; hold a hand it may provide comfort to some lost soul facing their own struggles

Celebrate successes, special occasions and life, all with reckless abandon & joy for these will be the golden days you will remember for the rest of your life

Laugh as much as you can and whenever possible

Don’t be too proud to accept help

It’s good to talk so find a friend (two or four-legged) who understands the difficult road you’re walking

When it gets too much let it out and have a good cry, big fat shoulder-heaving noisy tears; you’ll scare the neighbours but you’ll feel lighter in spirit

Don’t side-line the things that make your heart sing because all of us need a tuppence-worth of happiness to add a little light to our troubled hearts

Sometimes you think you may never smile again and maybe you’ve forgotten how to but rest assured somewhere down the road the clouds will fade and the sun will shine for you again

Don’t pretend you’re fine when you’re not; there is no shame in admitting you need someone to help share your burden every now and then.

No one debilitating disease is worse than any other to each victim of Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Motor Neurone, Parkinson’s, Heart Disease, Strokes, they are all equally devastating and crush millions of families the world over. So for those still fighting their own battles have courage & faith, my friends; you got this!

dog-show-11-009

The Long Road Home

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past six months people will carelessly break promises and at a time when you need them the most, callously let you down.  Maybe we’ve lived in a cosseted world where my Dad has been our family’s moral compass always leading by example and providing help where he can. So it has been an education for me that neighbours and those we have long considered family friends have fallen by the wayside apart from when they call to enquire what we’ll be doing with his lawnmower, power tools or car.

I’ve discovered that the care the elderly and infirmed receive is a direct reflection of how deep their pockets are and in many cases woefully inadequate or just plain sub-standard. There is no instruction booklet on navigating the stormy waters of the social care system and you better grasp the jargon pretty quickly because not doing so will cost you dear. Having been cut adrift to find my Dad a residential placement we had a crash course on just how difficult this road can be for novices. This journey has been a revelation with moments of sheer despair, frustration, overwhelming hopelessness and countless sleepless nights. We have met less compassionate souls that truly have no business working within sectors where they encounter traumatized families and occasionally individuals that have been like bottled sunshine on a very dark day have crossed our paths.

What advice would I give those forced into a heart breaking journey of their own? I would tell them to use every resource at their disposal and then some. To fight even on the days when you feel you have nothing left and to never give up. We were made to feel that we were “difficult & problematic” for insisting on an acceptable standard of care and on occasion bullied into enduring something which fell way below. There is no doubt that the social care system fails many and for those fortunate to have a family prepared to challenge procedures the outcome can sometimes be very different than for those that don’t. I feel very strongly that the elderly have a right to dignity with care and when you have to deal with a system where policy becomes more important than the welfare of the most vulnerable in society then it’s time you reviewed it.

Nothing is ever just one phone call or just one email and sometimes making, what for others would be a straightforward appointment, takes weeks but more often than not, months. We all know that when you call a service provider it’s a bit of a lottery in terms of who answers the phone so imagine speaking with yet another dismissive jobs worth concerning a loved one’s welfare. Trying to hold down a job and manage my father’s affairs leaves little time for much else; my hair hasn’t been cut since December and I am badly in need of a dental appointment but that has had to wait as there are more pressing things on my ever-increasing agenda. My phone bill is nearly equivalent to the cost of a small car and I can’t remember the last time I have had a night out with friends. There are days when the sheer enormity of the task in hand becomes just a little overwhelming but I have come to realise that sometimes you just have to put down your sword and leave slaying dragons for another day.

So what keeps you going despite the constant rejections and refusals? Without a doubt it’s that smile from your Dad; the one you thought you’d never see again. The smile that says he’s safe at long last surrounded by compassionate people and that the hard fought battle was truly worth it. And so on a sunny day here in Devon you shed a tear and say a silent prayer of thanks knowing that he will now have the best possible care for the remainder of his days which my friends, is truly priceless.

The old fella with two of his favourite carers

The old fella with two of his favourite fabulous carers

The Bell Still Rings For All Those Who Truly Believe

Hello friends!

I know it’s been a while but for those that don’t already know my darling Dad had a fall last week whilst the old dear was away on a Turkey & Tinsel weekend with the Women’s Institute. No doubt getting up to go to the little boys’ room without putting the light on he fell and shattered his hip waiting there from 5.30 am until much later when he was discovered. Regrettably, because he had had been sat there for so long his blood pressure dropped and he had another stroke in the ambulance on the way to hospital.

I can’t deny it’s been a tense week with Dad critically ill where he hasn’t known any of us. However, I am delighted to say that we have turned a corner and he’s back on the road to recovery. Whilst it’s a road we’ve taken before it’s one he won’t be walking alone and with Ayesha’s Passing Out Parade in June, I rather think his stubborn determination and heart will have him waltzing along rehabilitation street.

So on Christmas Day we will be heading off to Burrator Ward in Derriford Hospital in Plymouth to bring some festive cheer to the old fella along with a trunk full of Tupperware boxes stuffed with Mum’s homemade seasonal buffet; that’s if he’s no longer a “Nil By Mouth” patient! Beverley Big Pants and I will be traditionally dressed in our Christmas Jumpers and rather splendid earrings bearing a strong resemblance to the the Ugly Sisters, the grande dames of pantomime; oh yes we will!

So I want to take this opportunity to wish all doctors and nurses a safe & happy Christmas and thank them for giving up their family holidays so that we can all still have time with ours.

I think as you grow older your Christmas list gets shorter because the things you want can’t be bought.

Decisions, decisions ...

Decisions, decisions …

She Wears It Well

I’ve been incapacitated for the past few weeks owing to an acute deep tissue knee injury and sadly, I’m not the only blogger in recent months to have fallen foul of the curse of the crutch; Marianne over at East of Malaga, Rhonda at Fifty Shades of Gray Hair & Paula have all suffered various incapacitating injuries.

I’d like to be able to tell you that I was injured during some dangerous daring stunt such as abseiling or white water rafting but the truth of the matter is much more mundane that that; I slipped on the wet floor in the little girls’ room at work and managed to wrench my knee whilst performing the splits for the first and (hopefully last) time in my life. Who’d have thought I’d have been that bendy!

So I am currently modelling this slinky little number which is a bit like wearing a cricket batting pad and will probably make me more irresistible to the opposite sex (well those that like cricket anyway). It takes me about twenty minutes of hot sweaty wrestling to fasten all the hooks (a bit like a whalebone corset) and I feel like I need a lie down in a darkened room afterwards. I am still travelling into work every day on crutches via the local bus service, with my bag hanging loosely around my neck. I will admit to a couple of near misses with the automatic doors but I’m now a little wiser and can out-manoeuvre them. The medication has been knocking me out and one morning whilst still semi-conscious I thought I’d overslept so I dashed out to catch the earlier bus and arrived in work for 5.50am where I sat like Billy No Mates until my colleagues arrived at 8.30am

I’m not denying that walking at the moment isn’t somewhat painful and incredibly tiring but a girl’s gotta earn a living. However, as my bestie is about to grant us a royal visit, I’m applying muscle balms & ice packs, knocking back anti-inflammatory medications , and elevating the knee time permitting. And if all else fails there’s always Margaritas.

Have a good week my friends & let’s be careful out there.

Does my bum look big in this?

Does my bum look big in this?

Sometimes The Most Important Lessons Are Those We Learn The Hard Way

As we celebrated the old fella’s birthday this weekend I can vividly recall the morning, one year ago when my Dad woke up complaining that he’d pulled a muscle in his arm but it was obvious to us all that something was seriously wrong. After a visit to the local doctor’s surgery he was despatched to the bus stop to make the thirty mile roundtrip to the hospital on a very stormy day lashed by gale force winds and torrential rain. When I returned from work I found my Dad soaked right through explaining that he’d had to ask the bus driver to retrieve his bus pass from his pocket as he was unable to and that was the first time of many that I was to cry tears of frustration that year. It’s hard not to when your old Dad who has always been so strong and self-sufficient struggles to even feed himself. Other times you laugh at your own incompetence such as when I accidentally locked him in the house with a lunch of bananas and sausage rolls completely forgetting that he would be unable to open them. I am forever trying to find ways to shave minutes off my day often falling into bed exhausted and I discovered pretty quickly that I’m not superwoman or a juggler so some things have had to change. Inevitably, it’s the things you enjoy doing the most that get sacrificed when you are under pressure.

It’s been a real journey of discovery and I have learned the hard way who my real friends are. Whilst many of my contemporaries are wrapped up in weddings, new houses and new families my life starts at five am when I’m awake for work and the rest revolves around hospital appointments, shopping, cleaning and repeating the whole process again the next day. You no longer have shared interests because you have very different priorities. They struggle to identify with your commitments as a carer and you constantly explain why you can’t just jet off with them on a much-needed holiday. Concerned friends soon stop asking when they realise you can’t fix a stroke with a couple of aspirins. Your hopes and dreams are parked and the life you imagined yourself having fades into the distance; this situation quickly becomes the new normal. Do I ever get resentful? Well of course, I’m only human after all and sometimes it’s hard surrendering your independence for dreary routine. There are no quick fixes here, no magic wands to restore mobility and recovery has been painstakingly slow but this is a marathon not a sprint.

There is help out there for those that are prepared to fight the system or are fortunate enough to have someone who is able to do that for them; for those that don’t no doubt they fall under the radar of our social services and struggle on alone unaided. In addition, gadgets enabling an easier life for those afflicted are ridiculously overpriced again taking advantage of the most vulnerable.

For those finding themselves in a similar situation if I could I’d gently take your hand and assure you that you’re not alone and that there is life after a debilitating family illness. Is it going to be harder than you imagined? Most probably! Will you have some really bleak days? Without a doubt you’ll feel incredibly overwhelmed, bone-tired and isolated but your sense of always finding the funny will get you all through. Will it get better? Definitely. It’ll be a big learning curve for everyone with both uplifting positive and desolate negative moments. You’ll lose friends but you’ll meet better ones worth keeping. For every hard-hearted dismissive jobsworth you encounter you will stumble across people who are like bottled sunshine. The old fella has made tremendous progress but we’ve learned to celebrate the little simple triumphs like seeing him pick up a knife. So why then don’t I just quit my job, buy a ticket and run away to Turkey? Because quite simply, he’s my Dad.

H.O.P.E. = Hold On Pain Ends

H.O.P.E. = Hold On Pain Ends

Not the best picture but this little one-footed fella dodges all the bigger birds every day to sneak a crumb when I’m feeding the rest and he reminds me that you can overcome anything.

For those facing the same struggles as our family if you haven’t already please try contacting the Stroke Association who are just amazing and helped us when no one else would.

Never Let A Stumble Be The End Of Your Journey

Today was a good day in fact, a very good day!

As some of you already know sometime in October my Dad had the first of three strokes and overnight our lives changed radically. Overwhelmed was clearly an understatement to what we felt when my Dad was diagnosed and the full extent of his condition realised. We’ve adapted and adjusted accordingly in some of the most unexpected ways. Lots of things we learned the hard way but always with humour even when I accidentally locked him in the house alone with a packet of sausage rolls, bunch of bananas and bar of chocolate for lunch. Returning from work several hours later to a ravenous father, who owing to his paralysis was unable to open any of the items I had left for him.

I am a pragmatist, which I suppose is my coping mechanism and always feel better when facing a situation head on so I didn’t waste any time in contacting the wonderful society that is the Stroke Association who swiftly put in touch with the appropriate organisations. We met some amazing people along our journey and some not so much but for the generous souls who willingly gave their time and help, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The outstanding ones will always shine in a drab arena of bureaucracy and jobsworths; and for those that wouldn’t or couldn’t find it in themselves for one kind word or gesture which could have made a world of difference during this dark time, you’ve made us appreciate the ones that have all the more. We are not the first family to be shattered by this news and will no doubt, not be the last but I hope in some small way this gives encouragement to those facing the same arduous battle.

So this morning when he was able to balance a knife in his hand for the first time in months I had to choke back a tear or two. I appreciate that this is only a baby step but in our world its HUGE and I did say that this year I intended to celebrate the small successes. I remain humbled and inspired that my Dad has maintained his good nature throughout the ordeal and never faltered once, however, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve had a few wobbles but frankly, I reckon that if he can stand it then that’s the very least that I can do for him.

The Old Fella

The Old Fella