Word on the street: Victory for Osborne Grove is victory for all
PUBLISHED: 12:30 05 July 2018
My dad died a couple of weeks ago aged 91, God rest his soul.
The trajectory of his last few years was probably not so different from many: One hip replacement led to another, and then after a couple of strokes he never fully physically recovered. He stayed at home for as long as we could manage.
A carers agency supplied the bare minimum, but mostly his care was left to my uncomplaining mum, until it just got too much.
Last November, after a final hip injury, he was unable to return home from hospital. Mum was by now diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and their needs became too great. So for the remainder of his life he was looked after - wonderfully - by their nearby care home.
A joint “end of life plan” had been agreed, for when the time came. Dad was frail. We asked that he stay in his own bed with the familiarity of staff he knew. The last thing he wanted was to risk spending his last days on this earth, frightened and in pain, surrounded by strangers, on a hospital trolley in a corridor, or wired up when there was nothing medically that could realistically be done.
It was particularly in the last weeks of dad’s life that we could appreciate how right this was. In many ways, the care staff operated as nurses would have done in days gone by – at the bedside, never far away, so he was reassured and comforted. When he began to fail they carefully observed him, kept him clean, explained to us what was happening, called the GP or the district nurse if medical intervention was required, and ensured that he wasn’t in pain.
In those final days in which time simply stood still for us, we, his family, felt united in this profound process.
The staff, so much more familiar with the rhythms of life and its passing, were able to help us to prepare for the end, have our time together with him, holding his hand as he struggled for breath.
One of the most tender moments were spent with my learning disabled sister – as we helped her to understand that dad would probably soon be gone. Intuitively she wanted to stay longer on the Friday. He died naturally and peacefully that evening.
Care homes with well trained staff are a cheaper and more humane way of caring for the frail than acute hospitals.
We should shed the stigma around “going into a home” and choose instead to celebrate them. They have a very important place.
Last week’s reprieve for Osborne Grove nursing home is a victory for us all.
At the very least it keeps a public residential resource for the elderly in the west of the borough. It is incalculably important that frail people are in their own familiar communities, and vital that we have places of care that are not hospitals. In dark times we need the milk of human kindness.
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