Monday, 25 November 2019

Social workers are not

a breed of which I am particularly fond. No, it isn't because I regard them as "prying" - although some can seem like that. It is because they seem to me to do less good than the old fashioned sort of woman who managed to raise a husband, six children and a dog or two  - and still find time to help when it was needed.
Middle Cat and I had a phone call from a social worker yesterday. Yes, he was working on a Sunday. There was, he said, nothing wrong. He just wanted to check a few things.
It is all part of the hospital paper work, work that needs to be done before they will allow the Senior Cat to come home. Middle Cat and I understand how the system works. 
I am not sure the social worker really understood us.
   "The Senior Cat is coming home," we told him, "He would hate, loathe and detest aged care and unless we absolutely can't cope he is staying home."
It was very clear to us that this attitude is not usual. The hospital would like more people to go home but not all families can or want to put the effort in. Some elderly people live alone or with elderly partners who can't cope even if support services are put in place. Once in the "rehab" (rehabilitation) system they will almost certainly end up in aged care - often somewhere far away from family and friends. One of my former "old dears" eventually had a fall. She was in hospital for a while and then, because it was impossible for her to go home, she ended up in a nursing home about sixty kilometres away. You needed a car to get there. Nobody went to visit. I explained to the woman in charge of the nursing home that I couldn't visit because I don't drive. We arranged a regular time for me to phone but the arrangement didn't last long. She died within four weeks of arriving there. 
On visiting a nursing home I have been more than once by staff,
    "You're the only visitor s/he gets."
All that does is make me feel more guilty about (a) not going more often and (b) not staying longer when I do go. Often I need to sort out paper work. It was only two and a half weeks ago that I no longer had the actual legal responsibility for anyone other than the Senior Cat. Some of those people had family, family who didn't live that far away. They kept saying they were "too busy" to help. 
(The last son told me, "I hope you aren't expecting anything from Mum's estate." My response to that was, "I made sure I was a witness to her will so she wouldn't be able to leave me anything."
I don't think he liked that answer either.)
The Senior Cat is nearly 97. He is old and he is not very mobile but he is still able to walk. While he can do that we can cope. At home he has his garden, his books and little projects he has developed and can still do. The surroundings are what he has made for himself. They are familiar. He has a routine. I cook what he likes to eat and in the when and how he wants to eat. We don't socialise a lot. We never have. But we do have visitors. They come in and out by arrangement or because they happen to be passing. The two small boys across the road love to come and talk to him and get him to help them make them origami boats and boxes.  He's been going to church on Sundays because someone picks him up. It's a social outing and "we want him there" I was told yesterday, "there's always someone who wants to talk to him over coffee after church". 
All that is important - and not just for him. It is important for other people too. The little kittens need to learn about the very old cats. His great-grandchildren have known more than one of the very old. They actually like to visit the nursing home in which my brother's MIL lives. She is much the same age as the Senior Cat and very frail. They talk to her and then they talk to other residents. They take drawings and tell them about school. My SIL says, "Faces light up when they go rushing in." 
They will almost certainly grow out of it as they get a little older but, for now, they are willing. Later they will remember the experience - and go back to caring about the elderly.
Social workers need to understand all this, that caring for the elderly is not just about having somewhere to live but someone to talk to and something to do - people you want to talk to and things you want to do.

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