Dear Diary – Week Two as a Care Giver in England

May 31st, 2011.

Ok, so I’m singing for Joan at the top of my voice and dancing around the lounge like a swirling Dervish.
Joan is entertained and there is nobody else in the room to insist on shooting me:
“You’re my lady; you’re my lady whooo,”
“I’m your lady, the lady who-oo, –
I’m your Cinderella,”
“I’m your Rockefeller,”
And the doctor arrives at the door.
She’s large and looks like she may have been bred along with the cows on Jersey, but she does not have gentle soulful eyes like a cow’s, rather a pit-bull appearance about her.
I immediately notice the size of her hands and that she has no wedding ring on.
Gathering my composure from a somewhat undignified frozen statue stance I greet her and show her into the room.
Joan has been apathetic and not herself for a few days.
A barking cough has plagued her to the extent that her bowels cannot cope and the downstairs loo carpet is looking like a wet dog after all the extra hours of scrubbing I have been giving it.
To put it mildly it is less crappy than it was, has been and I pray on bended knee shall be for the rest of my stay!
The doctor challenges Joan, “Give me a urine sample…”
“Now? In what?” Asks Joan
The doctor looks askance at me, and I have the audacity to suggest she may have a sterile container,
She glowers and I scuttle off to the kitchen to find something for Joan to pee into.
Aha! A cheap pink plastic bowl, – I can toss that in the bin afterwards, I think to myself.
I produce the bowl and Joan starts to howl, then cough and just about wet herself…the doc backs down and tells Joan it’s OK, she can hear from her cough what is needed and rapidly writes out a prescription.
“Get off to Boots Pharmacy now before it closes”, she commands,
I grab the slip of paper and as I make a hasty retreat I hear Joan telling the doctor that I am one of the most helpful “slaves” she’s employed so far.
Then I hear the doctor giving her a lecture about not saying such diabolical things about Care-givers.
Bloody Hell with brass bells on, now I’m a slave.
“Sorry about that,” the doctor says as she follows me out of the house.
I turn around and look at her,” For what?”
“Oh, you know, the slave thing,”
“No problem,” I reply, “I feel like one!”
Dammit, I have been shit-shovelling for four days, what does it matter that I’m referred to as a helpful slave?
So now, baptized by fire on my first assignment, my office has happily told me after a distressed phone call I made to their “Help Line” I can go into any job and face just about anything.
I am absolutely consoled and feel stronger for the imparted words of wisdom.
(Oh boy, watch this space!)
Yesterday I was rolling pastry for a steak and kidney pie and in walked Joan with the shoes she had been wearing.
They smelt a little horrid due to being the main receptacles of gravity fall-out when she was having her little “oopsie-daisies”.
She placed them on the counter right next to where I was working and demanded I clean them up as they where nasty and odorous.
Needless to say I was horrified, my beautiful, light, fluffy pastry was never to be baked, let alone eaten and I had to clean poop off Joan’s shoes.
Oh dear, what did I do in my past life to deserve this? I wondered to myself.
Then to top everything, I had done a pile of ironing for Joan and myself and left my favourite bra on top of the pile.
When I went back to put everything away, the bra had disappeared.
Joan had procured it and is now wearing it.
Most distressing as I really liked that bra, it was new and terribly comfy, – felt like I wasn’t wearing one at all.
Guess Joan is thinking the same thing at the moment!
On Sunday I opened the kitchen window and left a coffee cake to cool off on the counter before icing it for Joan’s afternoon tea.
I then went upstairs to make beds and vacuum the carpets.
When I came back I saw the fluffy tail belonging to a squirrel bobbing off out the window along with half the cake. It appears I am doomed to not be a creative cook in Joan’s home.
This morning I looked out the kitchen window and sitting on the lawn was a large marmalade cat, a black and white cat and a white and black cat, (he was more white than black) all staring up at me.
I have a sneaky suspicion the trio of felines were told by the squirrel where to get a free meal.


Dear Dairy – Day Eight as a Care Giver in England

May 25th, 2011.

3002…I ask you? Numeral dyslexia, I admit to being afflicted by it!
The date on the tin of anchovies was 31st May, 2003…
Just shows that when I edit what I have written at 11pm, it is not a good idea.
But to those of you who are reading my updates on a regular basis, apologies for throwing you into the future in yesterday’s diary entry.
I felt like a Time Traveller today during my lunch break when I was walking over a zebra-crossing on a busy road.
All of a sudden I had a cold shiver of déjà vu and heard the screaming of car breaks.
It was weird, as looking around me there was not a car to be seen, only a woman pushing her baby in his buggy.
About an hour later I was in the local bakery and I heard two ladies chatting about an accident that had just happened exactly where I’d heard the howl of breaks.
Apparently it was a terrible accident in which four people had died.
Brrr…I went absolutely cold!
I hardly slept at all last night because of the Grandfather clock’s intrusive hourly chiming outside my bedroom door.
I ask you, why put a clock that must be the baby brother of Big Ben in such a place?
Even ear-plugs are no help at all…
Then just when I thought I’d get off relatively early this evening Joan went to sleep in her chair holding a glass of red wine and dropped it all over her cream carpet, so there was I on bended knee, not saying my evening prayers, but scrubbing the carpet around Joan’s feet.
Every now and again she would raise a leather clad foot and grandly tell me to wash her shoes.
Each time she lifted her leg, she would gracefully let of wind….

Dear Diary – Day Five, Six & Seven as a Care Giver in England

22nd, 23rd and 24th May 2011

Like all good intentions, I have come to the conclusion that updating this diary on a daily basis shall be impossible as I find myself collapsing into bed between 10 and 11pm after updating my daily Carer report, (this is all written in a book that is handed over to the next person coming in to care for Joan.)
So, I shall write when I can in an erratic flurry when I find the time…
Carers are given “pin money” for groceries.
It sometimes is supplied by the person you are caring for, but more often than not by a family member.
Joan’s sister gave me £100 last week and I thought that would be more than enough for the three weeks that I am here.
But with Joan’s expensive taste in gourmet coffee, exotic cheeses, chocolates, and wine, I am trying to figure out how to approach her sister when she comes for her weekly visit on Friday, –
I feel like Oliver, “Please Sir, may I have some more”, whilst I lick the last smidgen of gruel from the bottom of my soup bowl…
Oh, and since she went next door on Saturday, I also had to buy a bottle of Pimms and have become a dab hand at rustling up the preferred evening refreshment for Joan.
Gosh, I nearly fell on my back when I had to fork out £15.65 for a bottle, – booze is expensive in England, so how come this is a nation of binge-drinkers? –
I’m getting into the swing of things here and have a routine going now that a week has passed.
At 6.30am I start the day with a strong cup of black coffee and fire up my little note-book.
The Vodaphone dongle works well in the kitchen, so I am able to have a brief chat with Graham on Skype.
What did we do without this form of communication in the past?
When I was a little girl there was a cartoon program on T.V. called “The Jestsons” who were a space age family.
They zoomed around in little flying saucers and could communicate with each other at a distance and chat whilst looking at each other on a monitor that looked something like a flat screen T.V…now here we are, able to do exactly that.
If you can imagine something, it is possible to create it!
Yesterday I got to chat to my 80 year old mother over Skype.
Loudly she asked, “So, has the old Girl you are looking after done any poo’s in her pants?”
“Shhh Mom, you must whisper, this is not a thing to talk about!”
“Well…I just wanted to know,” said my mother…
Needless to say I now use the ear-phone and microphone attachment when making my early morning chats!
A couple of days ago I found a tin of anchovies in the pantry, the expiry date on the tin was 31st March, 2003.
I took it to show Joan and she insisted she wanted to eat them on toast for lunch. Horrified I told her that I did not think it was a good idea as the tin had an ominous bloated look about it.
“No, you must do it now” Joan persisted stubbornly.
So I did as I was told…I pulled the tab and the tin exploded!
There was anchovy oil on the ceiling, on the floor and worst of all dripping off my chin and the end of my nose.
Joan was amused, and I was not as I stank like a pole-cat, I still had to get her lunch ready and I had made the vital mistake of humouring her, even although I had no intention of her eating mummified fish from eight years ago.
Who keeps a tin anchovies for that length of time anyway?
Talking about meals, Joan likes to eat her meals off a tray on her lap.
I sit in the kitchen on a chair and eat there…she is totally anti-social and does not like it if
I stop and look at the T.V. if it is switched on.
As I like to keep up with the news, I read her day old newspapers, this I have discovered is taboo!
On two occasions she has shuffled into the kitchen and removed the papers and placed them in the recycle bin while I am upstairs making her bed. Perhaps she figures I did not pay for them, so I should not read them, whatever the reason, I can still read the news on the internet…
Late evening I draw her curtains and turn down her bed. For a joke I placed her teddy, (well actually, it’s not a teddy, it’s a friendly looking mouse) on her pillow last night.
When she came down for breakfast this morning I asked her how she slept and she looked at me seriously,
“Not well at all because I got such a fright,”
“I’m sorry to hear that Joan, why?”
With a straight face she replied, “There was a man in my bed and he made a lump in my back all night!”
Amused, I advised her that she was lucky he was mute as he may have asked her to move over…
I have to say Joan has a very dry sense of humour which emerges every now an then.
I like her.

Dear Diary – Day Four as a Care Giver in England

21st May, 2011

It’s Saturday and some people think the world may end today. Volcanic activity in Norway…everyone hit the deck!
And what am I doing so far away from my husband at the Southern most tip of Africa and my daughters who are only down the drag from me in London if the world ends?
Stripping Joan’s bed, putting fresh sheets, duvet and pillow cases on it, – heck, I may as well be doing the same thing back home at my Bed and Breakfast!
Mind you, if I was there, I would not be writing this Diary and I also would not have discovered where Joan secrets some of her dirty knickers…you guessed it, in the bottom her of her duvet cover, (you know, the opening side with the buttons.)
I knew there was another place other than the airing cupboard, but for the past few days could not figure out where…now I have found #2 hidey-hole!)
The washing machine has been working hard today, I can tell you…
I managed to get out and do a bit of shopping for Joan’s pantry, and rummage through the charity shops on Bookham’s High Street.
Imagine my delight when I copped a bargain in the charity shop, – little 1940’s silver Liberty Style silver necklace with a tear-drop Burmese aquamarine daintily dangling off it for 50 pence.
It was all black, but once I brought my treasure back to Joan’s and cleaned it up with a good scrub of toothpaste, the silver shone and the gemstone sparked.
I feel like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings, as I keep on looking at my pretty little find…next thing you will see me stroking it and calling it “my Precious.”
Something I have noticed in many of the charity shops I have browsed through since arriving in England is all the beautiful cut glass and crystal that is on the shelves.
There are decanters, fruit bowls, sherry glasses, you name it, and it’s all discarded and looking for a home.
Do younger people have no need for beautiful glassware?
Gosh past generations were left this sort of stuff by our ancestors in their wills to be cherished and passed down…
If I had a home here, I’d buy the lot and have my friends and family grandly sipping or eating from the lovely sparkly receptacles.
Well, enough shop talk!
I then went back to the local church and spent time taking photo’s in the grave yard.
There was a wedding taking place and I leant up against an ancient grave stone, (no, I do not think the fellow it belonged to minded me sharing his headrest at all.
In fact, I had the feeling he enjoyed the brief encounter of my company.
He was the silent type and did not like talking.)
The bride was dressed in a very similar gown to the one that Princess Kate wore and her little flower girls looked like two little dolls in candy floss organza the same champagne colour as her gown.
Her bridesmaids were in elegant sheaths. There were three of them, one in maroon, the other in purple and the third in emerald green.
However, the mother of the bride’s hat gave me the giggles…it had a plume of feathers sprouting out the top of it and I was sure the milliner must have killed a cockerel, cut off his tail and attached the entire thing, without any artistic though to the crown of the hat…
Every time there was a breeze, the feathers floated around and tickled her and who ever happened to be standing behind her on their noses!
I soon got tired of watching the endless posing for photo-shoots by the wedding party for the photographer who was wearing odd trousers with loud stripes and red suspenders.
So I thanked Albert for sharing his resting place and got up to mosey around the grave yard and read the dedications on the tomb stones.
I spied a red poppy that was growing next to a WW2 grave and thought it would make an appropriate photo composition.
I lay down on my tummy to take the shot…the grave keeper was walking by and stopped to watch me.
“Sorry”, I said, jumping up as agilely as my wonky knee would allow me to,
“Just taking a photo, that’s all!”
He smiled, “It’s OK Luv, can see you know a little bit about the Great War…nice poppy, makes a good one for ‘Poppy day’, – hey?”
Good, he did not think I was a grave robber…talk about day light robbery – LOL!
Well, my off-break was over and I rushed back to Joan’s place only to find her loudly snoring in her chair with the TV blaring…some cookery program waffling on.
Coffee time for Joan comprised coffee and coffee cake that I had baked that morning.
Then the cheeky little woman from next door arrived at the front door to grandly invite Joan for a “tipple of Pimms” in the garden at 5.30 pm.
Goody, I thought, a little extra time to myself…
Joan arrived back in time for dinner and finally it was time for me to get to bed…
“Good night Joan, see you tomorrow”,
Joan’s retort, “Maybe, but then maybe not”
The thought hit me that at her age it could be a maybe not!

Dear Diary – Day Three as a Care Giver in England

May 19th, 2011
This time round I approached the stair lift chair with a mission early this morning. Operation how to take the break off”…Aha! I found it and now I can swivel the chair around with just enough room to squeeze by and ascend the stairs. Phew, what a relief as I did not want to face that form of early morning stretching at the beginning of my day for three weeks.
But I have to admit I was somewhat perturbed that I could not figure how to put the break back on once I’d returned the chair back to its original position.
I had visions of Joan spinning around and howling like the girl in scenes from “The Exorcist” and then falling head first down the stairs.
Fortunately that did not happen and she presented herself promptly at 8 am, looked to see that her newspaper was where it should be, (neatly folded without any creases of course) and waited for me to appear with her breakfast tray, which I duly did with military precision.
“Morning Joan, beautiful day today”
“If you say so”, responded my Lady and with a professional flick of her wrist, she flicked her serviette out onto her lap and tucked into her brekkie…
I guess I had been duly dismissed to go upstairs and make her bed military style, – proper hospital corners and everything at right angles. Window open to get rid of the night must.
Tickety-boo, wot?
Gosh, I hadn’t realised that I’d make such a great Batman!
Then I encountered a smell, a dreadful smell…
Like a bloodhound, I followed my nose and I found the culprit in the airing cupboard. Surgical gloves out, I nabbed and bagged the stinky offender and removed it, and dealt with it professionally.
Human waste removed from knickers, popped 90º full wash on full auto on the washing machine and the offending ponk had all but gone.
Care Givers of the world, Nurses, Companions…I bow to you and offer humble salaams…WE are the champions of the World!
The shower was not working and it appears that it has not for a long time.
So the local plumber was called in and cleaned so much lime scale build up that the shower head had more than a cup full removed from it.
Perhaps this will encourage my employer to give herself a bit of a daily scrub!
Mind you, if I had to slide myself onto the chair contraption that is perched over the bath, I may be reluctant to bath…it has a plastic chair that can be levered up and down and swung side to side.
In fact I think it would do pretty well in an amusement park.
Isn’t it ironic, we are born into the world and have to be pushed around in things with wheels, shoved into bouncy chairs that swing around and immersed into special baths.
Then when we are in the golden years of our lives, we go out of this world doing the same thing.
I think the “Big Dude” has a strange sense of humour…

Dear Diary – Day Two as a Care Giver in England…

Dear Diary – 18th May, 2011

Duck down duvet, soft pillows…what was I thinking? I nearly overslept, and for a self confessed insomniac, the sleep last night was bliss. (Well almost, apart from the very grand, Grandfather clock that chimes every hour, on the hour and rattles the rafters! In retrospect, perhaps that’s why I did not wake before the alarm on my mobile this morning…the darn thing kept on waking me up!)
Joan has one of those stair-lift chairs that zooms her upstairs and downstairs…unfortunately the stairs are very narrow, so when the chair is up at the top of the stairs there is a really narrow gap between the banisters. I had to squeeze one buttock and then the second buttock cheek between it, her walking stick which is carefully hung in a certain position for her convenience and the banister without falling down the stairs like Humpty Dumpty.
How the last Carer managed this feat I have no idea as she is somewhat “well cushioned” but then she did tell me she was not an early riser. Mind you, she had much longer legs than me, so perhaps on the odd occasion she had to get down stairs in a hurry; she did not have the same problem.
Anyway, I chuckled when I had to do this, as in my mind I visualised myself as a cartoon character and added a popping sound effect to the squeezing of my butt!
A great bonus caring for Joan is that she loves well percolated coffee and so do I.
This meant that after the trauma of my having to get downstairs the effort was well worth it, just for my first coffee fix of the day…
As Joan has had a life time serving in the military, I discovered she was very prompt, – when the noisy Grandfather clock banged out eight rowdy chimes she boarded her stair lift and appeared in the lounge.
The newspaper is delivered at 7.30 in the mornings, and I was instructed to fold it in a certain way, (absolutely NO creases) and place it at a certain angle on the table beside her chair in the lounge.
At exactly fifteen minutes past eight her breakfast tray was placed on her lap and I waited half an hour whilst she swallowed, coughed and sometimes let’s off wind…
Then I took in her tablets and a glass of water.
I was warned by the last Carer that this is when she makes a fuss, and she did, – until I hit on the idea of rewarding her with chocolates, which she has a weakness for.
She was as good as gold and happily downed the lot, then gobbled the chocolates happily!
Gold star to me for my inventiveness…
After a refreshing snooze in her chair, Joan retired upstairs and I got stuck into the task of cleaning the downstairs loo.
I have to admit to never having to clean the odd contraption that has been invented to help disabled people get on and off a toilet.
It’s like a large white plastic potty perched upon raised legs with handles fixed to it.
In fact it looks like an insect waiting to pounce on some unsuspecting person and devour the victim through the hole in its centre. Most unattractive, but it serves it purpose very satisfactorily…
Joan came downstairs on her faithful chair lift, – “hi-ho Silver!”
She had her lunch and promptly popped off to la-la land once again, so I let myself out of the house and took the ten minute walk to the village to buy some strawberries, (as that is what Joan wanted to eat for dinner) and browse in the shops.
Bookham village is delightfully quaint…like so many English villages. The buildings are all old and crooked and the shop keepers all jolly and friendly.
There is a very old church with a fascinating graveyard that I plan to go and look around the next time I have time off.
The tomb stones look very old and many are covered in moss and lichen…each one of them tell of some person, which I always like to muse over.
I also noticed that there is a local library which may reveal more of the history of Bookham…so watch this spot; you may even get a history lesson!

Dear Diary – Day One as a Care Giver in England…

Dear Diary – 17th May, 2011

Today started off at 5.30 am at Kerry and her husband Johnno’s Crystal Palace apartment. I was up before my little grandson made his hello call to be taken out of his cot and given his morning bottle. I opened the curtains and looked down upon the leafy green canopy of trees outside my bedroom window…at last the time had come to get moving and finally start my new job as a care giver to the elderly.
Once everyone in the household were ready to leave for work, (including little Lochlan who is dropped off at nursery school by Kerry on her way to her office in London) we set off to the nearest bus stop to catch the bus.
When Lochlan was safely deposited in the care of the jolly nursery assistants, Kerry guided me to Waterloo Station where I boarded the train at 9.45 for Leatherhead. Clambering on the train with my little suitcase in tow following me like a faithful puppy on wheels, I mused at how funny it is when the role of parent and child is reversed and suddenly you find your children guiding and looking after you, as they think you are unable to do things on your own…not that I am complaining, coming from a little backwater in the South African Cape, – London and it’s transport system are still totally daunting as far as I am concerned!
After and hour of travel through the countryside into Surrey, I arrived in Leatherhead and caught a taxi to Great Bookham where my 90 year old client lives.
Pleased that I got to the place before the stipulated 12 noon to meet Veronica, (the Carer in place) for the handover, I duly introduced myself to both her and the Lady I shall be working for the next three weeks.
Veronica was good enough to take me into the little village and show me the various shops, and then it was time for her to leave and for me to take hold of the reigns.
As it was lunch time, I rustled up a meal for Joan and the she promptly nodded off for a snooze in her chair, so I had time to get acquainted with my surrounds and read up on the pages of notes about her that have been recorded by numerous previous Care Givers.
5.30 arrived and it was time for Joan’s glass of wine which she likes decanted into a crystal glass along with a savoury snack. I was offered a glass as well, but had the impression I should drink it in the kitchen whilst preparing her evening meal.
She has a grandfather clock that chimes every hour, on the hour, so when the doorbell rang soon after I had poured her wine, I thought it was the clock…eventually I realised it was someone wanting to visit Joan and I went to answer it.
Gosh, when I opened the door I was given a real tongue lashing by this little woman with a French accent! Taken aback, I saw her into the lounge and was amused to see that Joan was put out at being interrupted by her neighbour.
The little woman waffled on at Joan about her gutters and some faulty plumbing for half an hour, then made her farewells and I saw her to the door. As she walked out, she turned around and spoke to me like a servant, telling me to see to it that next time she visited I was to be at the door immediately.
I could not help responding in fluent French that I would happily let her in if Joan wanted to see her and as a parting shot mentioned that it was so wonderful to be working for Joan and not her.
The little woman was rather taken aback at the fact that I was speaking to her in French and not allowing her the liberty of speaking to me in such a manner.
When I returned to the lounge, Joan looked at me with a twinkle in her eye, I had amused her! (Unbeknown to her, many of the Carers had written warning notes about the little woman who lived next door, so I was well prepared.)
After cooking dinner, I saw that Joan took her evening medicine, and launched her on her stair lift upstairs to her bedroom, then happily closed myself away in the refuge of my bedroom to write about my day…
It’s 10.30 pm now, and I have an early 6.45 am start tomorrow, so I’ll end here and fill you in on tomorrow’s events at the end of the day…