Friday, 21 April 2017

They have just closed a mental health facility

for older people in this city. It  was not a good place and some truly dreadful things occurred there. People generally approve of the closure.
The problem is, where do older people in need of long term mental health care go now? Where does anyone in need of long term mental health care go now?
However hard we try it isn't always possible for people to stay at home, especially if they are on their own. Even if there is someone at home with them it may not be possible for them to cope. 
A close friend of the Senior Cat was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about eighteen months ago. I suspected it some considerable time before that and his daughter did too. The diagnosis came as no surprise to us but it shocked his wife. She thought he was "just forgetting things" occasionally. He has deteriorated since then. At present his wife is coping with him at home - coping but not really managing the situation.  He isn't at the point where he is considered to need "care" but that doesn't need the family doesn't need care. They do.
I have seen all this before. I have seen it with several older people in the district. They have families who should be looking out for them but their families live in other places and, more often than not, they don't want to know. They leave it up to the neighbours or the authorities have to step in.
One son, who hadn't spoken to his mother in over a decade, simply said, "It's not my responsibility."  He passed her care over to the Public Trustee. They sent in a local charity to clear the house and put the old woman into a care facility far away. I saw a death notice for her a few months later.
Recently someone contacted me. She is a friend of a friend. She lives in Canberra. Her mother had died a short time earlier and the house had been shut up. She was now going through it. There were knitting things there and our mutual friend had given her my name. Could I use it? She would like to give it to me personally as our mutual friend thought I might actually use it.
Neither of them have any idea how long it takes to knit something but I accepted. I knew I could always pass it on. I thought there wouldn't be much there.
It arrived. Bags of it - and it wasn't the usual mess of cheap acrylic. Some of it was really lovely. 
     "I don't know what Mum was thinking of. She just kept buying all this. Oh, there's some fabric too. Can you use it?"
I don't sew. I left it for someone who does sew and told her to take what she could use and pass the rest on. 
There were garment amounts there. Even if I had owned no yarn at all there was too much there for me. I sorted it. I arranged for someone to pick up some for a group which does charity knitting and for someone else to pick up more for the knitting guild I belong to. 
The woman who brought it all to me was almost pathetically grateful.
     "I didn't want to just dump it at the charity place. It's too good for that.  I think Mum was getting a bit odd. I don't know what I would have done...."
And that's the problem. What would she have done? She is still working. Her husband is still working. They work long hours. Even if she had taken her mother to live with them the house would have been empty all day. It would have been unfamiliar. Her friends would not have been there and, if she was "getting a bit odd" the problem would just have become worse.
I hope Middle Cat and I can go on caring for the Senior Cat for as long as he needs it. He knows this house. His (also elderly) friends live within a reasonable distance. We are fortunate that his mind is still acute - even if he does occasionally forget to do something! We have good neighbours. 
I just don't know what to do about age and "getting a bit odd". How do you help people?

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