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Sunday, 17 May 2015

Not everyone is happy about being in a nursing home

A few days ago I wrote about how there are different ways to enter a nursing home and one of the elderly women I mentioned in that post, N, was at our table again today. N always takes a large glass of white wine with her lunch. I have not ever had the evening meal at the nursing home so I don't know if she takes a large glass of white wine with dinner also. Nevertheless, by the end of the conversation N is usually rather voluble, if not downright frank.

Today she again talked about her daughters and how they had put her in a nursing home. "I'm not happy about it," she said at one point near the end of our conversation. I should also mention that H was also at the table with us. Usually H is rather talkative but today with N there she was actually very quiet.

N bemoaned the fact that she had lived in her own home in Putney for a long time before her daughters had made the decision to place her in the nursing home, and so she was used to living alone at home. "I don't know why I can't live in my own home," she said. I argued that sometimes it is very difficult for a family member who has power of attorney to make the decision to place an elderly parent in a nursing home. I remonstrated with N, telling her how I had myself struggled with the decision from the time of the first conversation with the geriatrician about residential care in March 2014 until mum was finally admitted to the nursing home in December. But N said that she didn't know why she had to be there, in the nursing home. She said that she was able to fend for herself alone in her house. She didn't have any major health problems, she said, only minor ones.

"But that's probably why they made the decision," I said to N. "They probably thought about the move for a long time before making the decision. It might have taken them years." "And they won't sell my house," N said, slyly changing the subject. "Well," I said, "Sydney property prices are only going in one direction at the moment." "The house is probably worth less," ventured N, not wanting to concede the point. "I mean they are only going up," I added in order to make it quite clear what I meant. "Although if they leave the house empty it will attract capital gains tax eventually," I added, wanting to be fair. "That's what I mean," said N gleefully, a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her lips. I told her that the issue of placing her in a nursing home and the issue of selling the family property were separate and should not be combined into one argument.

N was not convinced. Having unsuccessfully pleaded her case to me - as if, like a magistrate, I could thereupon order her daughters to act in a different way - N opportunistically and, I thought, rather cynically turned to my mother, who was seated to my left. "They won't sell the house and I don't know why," she said to mum. Mum was busy chewing and looked at N as if she were a package that had suddenly dropped out of the ceiling. "Well I don't know," mum said. I looked at H hopefully but she was just smiling distractedly at the noisy conversation. "She's doing well," said H, referring to the fact that mum had eaten all of her main course and was about to completely finish her dessert. "Yes, she is," I agreed.

I tried to take the conversation in a different direction by noting aloud that in some countries nursing homes such as the ones that are found all over Australia - where the residential accommodation fee is usually paid for partly by the federal government - were completely absent. "I would love to live in a nursing home like this one when I reach an advanced age," I said. "It's warm and dry, they give you meals, they provide medicine, there are staff available at all hours, there is company here." "I don't want to live here," said N, pugilistically brushing aside the entire list of my findings in favour of nursing homes. She would not be convinced. I helped her out of her chair and brought her wheelie walker over for her to use. She left the dining room. No doubt we will talk about this again soon enough.

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