This week’s writer is a social worker in a London-based older people’s team


    I’m still reeling from escorting an older woman into residential
    care. Yes, I know we don’t normally work at weekends. But she has
    no family, regards me as her nearest and dearest, and I guess the
    success of the move matters as much to me as it did to her. It is a
    pleasant-looking place and she has visited the place in preparation
    for her move. The room they give her is not over-large, but the
    member of staff introduced as the key worker promises a larger room
    might be available in a few months. I find the room stuffy. It also
    has an unpleasant smell, which opening the windows does not
    dissipate. The key worker tries hard to ignore the smell, but this
    proves impossible. Checking the room out, we find that the commode
    of the previous tenant has not been emptied or cleaned. Not a good
    start, and we progress from there.

    “Well, Mrs Er,” smiles the member of staff, who obviously hasn’t
    bothered to check her name. “What do you want done with your things
    when you die?””Not now, she hasn’t got her coat off yet,” I
    interrupt fiercely. I am ignored. “I have to ask these questions,”
    the resident is told. She is great – says she doesn’t care what
    they do with them, they can throw them out of the window, as she’ll
    be dead.

    I storm off to the senior member of staff who, very surprised,
    insists no-one has ever objected to discussing arrangements for
    their death before. On their first day? In the first hour? Also,
    the art leaves a lot to be desired. The last things she will see as
    she lies down at night are faded prints of foxes being torn to
    pieces by hounds while laughing red-coated men drink from hip
    flasks. When “Mrs Er” asks me to take them down, the same bleating
    of “No one has ever …” starts again.


    Call in to find “Mrs Er” has become friends with another
    newcomer. They walk round together and chatter away at meals. The
    established mafia of residents is not yet speaking to either woman,
    but having found each other they don’t care. The mafia feeling
    thwarted is not a pretty sight, but the staff are enjoying every
    minute of their discomfort.


    An anxious GP asks for a visit to be paid to an older patient
    living alone. The woman in question is delighted to see me. She
    tells me that, aged 12, she went into service in Lord X’s London
    house, where she rose from vegetable skivvy to housekeeper. Her
    flat is immaculate, with something delicious cooking on the stove
    and crochet and knitting to hand. However, this 93 year old
    confesses to needing help in taking her curtains down and dusting
    the picture rails, as she has promised the GP not to stand on a
    ladder anymore. I ask her to adopt me, but she laughs my quite
    serious request away.


    What a generation they are. Visit another person well over 90,
    who is normally supported by a helpful neighbour whom she has known
    since he was a boy. She lets him use her flat to store goods from
    his firm, which turn out to be boxes of export cigarettes, bonded
    whisky, and so on. On her bed are spread three fur coats that she
    uses as covers on cold nights. Alas, the helpful neighbour is away
    doing two years, so I’m organising a care package of practical
    help. Haven’t worked out what to do with the ciggies yet.




    More from Community Care

    Comments are closed.