I am without a wonderful friend

I went to a funeral the other day. The deceased was a very dear friend of mine that I had looked after through the care agency. A severely tenacious lady who had a brilliant mind and a wickedly sharp tongue who gave many of the carers piece of her mind if they showed the slightest hesitation. she had the brightest eyes and a stern face that disappeared into her smile. My heart feels bruised thinking about her.

I met her on my first day at work. The carer I was shadowing warned me about her saying that she could be rude and could make people cry and I can’t tell you if it made me more nervous or not but as soon as I walked in and saw her home and a painting on the wall that a friend of her husbands had done I knew I would be fine.

“Oh! That’s my friends husbands painting!” I said with complete delight. She looked at me and smiled so brightly that the other carer said “I knew you two would be fine”.

I loved her house. Wide large double aspect windows, a veranda, awnings, a mature rambling garden and an interior full of her husbands own beautiful paintings of the sea and landscapes, and quilts that she had designed sewn and made. I felt at home.

Her care needs when I first started working with her was minimal. she was a little unsteady on her feet and just wanted us in the bungalow whilst she had a shower and to help her dry her legs. She was very independent, had done her degree in later life and had achieved a Doctorate in her 50’s. She was up on current events, a prolific reader and had a very inquisitive and probing mind. She asked about my other job, hypnotherapist, and what I had studied at university, psychology, how I started in this role, looked after my sisters best friend in her last month of life. She was sorry to hear I had lost a friend to cancer, but glad that I had become a carer.

I helped look after her for the next 2 and a half years. Covid came and all external activities halted. She was fascinated that we were living through a plague, she wanted to listen to the news every night and if we were there then we had strict instructions to sit quietly or busy ourselves outside of the room. Her memory cycle began to decline and the same question could be asked every 30 mins – still inquisitive, still direct- and she became quieter and found it more difficult to move around on her own. she had a couple of falls in the evenings or in the middle of the day when we weren’t around and then would be discharged in the middle of the night to an empty house. I had a call from the on call number one evening to say that she had gone into hospital earlier in the day and that they were about to discharge her. It was 11pm. I went over and settled her in, making sure that she was in bed and ready to sleep before I left.

She was diagnosed with cancer last year -he same cancer that my sisters friend had- and she slowly became more and more frail forgetting to eat, forgetting to drink and finding it harder to keep her blood pressure level. By the middle of the summer her dementia was so far advanced that she would forget to drink between visits and became severely dehydrated.

She spent the rest of the summer in and out of hospital and with children who couldn’t or perhaps wouldn’t visit her I visited her regularly. she recognised me each time but would forget why or where she was. She was discharged to a nursing home and isolated for 2 weeks, on the third week I visited twice. She had lost a significant amount of weight and was now unable to get out of her chair. On what would have been my third visit she was rushed back into hospital with a suspected stroke. Four days later she was discharged and went back into isolation for 2 weeks. On the 7th week I found out that I could have been registered as my friends essential care worker and would have been allowed to visit through out the isolation periods. I was cross at the time that had been lost and the isolation and disconnection she had experienced. She had lost all motivation to do anything by this point and had begun to sleep more.

Her children decided to move her closer to them to a more accessible and better appointed nursing home. It was a beautiful place and we moved all her items with her so that her surroundings were beautiful and familiar. She died a month later.

The hardest thing about losing her was the rage and futility I felt surrounding the impact of covid to the last year of her life, the damage the restrictions did, the additional wait for cancer services, the difficulties surrounding visits, the lack of information and how myopic the NHS and care homes became. The lack of familiar faces around her, the lack of suitable stimulation from people that didn’t know her and the poor journey she had to the end of her life enrage me. My only relief is that she was with family at the end.

She was a bright, determined, and radiant lady and I am without a wonderful friend.

One response to “I am without a wonderful friend”

  1. people often leave footprints in other peoples sand.


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