Nick King's Blog

I've done some pretty cool things, but nothing's as cool as creating our family

Getting old sucks #Justsaying

Getting old sucks.

I feel that daily as I watch what little hair I have turn grey.  As my energy levels decrease. My eyesight weakens. My stamina fails.  If I'm honest too; as my temper frays, not helped by any of these symptoms that have gone before.

 

Watching my father in hospital over the last week has brought home to me even more how much age removes.

Increased heart rate and low blood pressure causing a fall.  Events conspiring to see him moved from his own home, to our spare room, to hospital via a 'too bumpy, making me feel sick' ambulance ride. 

As you can see, Grumpy Deaf Grandad remained true to form during his hospital stay. His list of targets for dissatisfaction was long, full and comprehensive.  

His behaviour though was also confused, sometimes aggressive, often rude and invariably inflexible, as the combination of newly introduced and recently removed chemical influences played tricks with his mind.  

His dignity stripped away by his behaviour for a few short days.  Cared for by kind, calm, immensely patient staff who retained their sense of humour and waved away our profuse apologies with the 'not an issue' attitude of the true professional.  Thank goodness we're British.  Thank goodness the UK has the NHS.

 

My Mum taught me to find humour in every situation.  "It'll help you get through the tough days," she once told me.  And there was plenty of humour in the last week of upset, trauma and worry.

"This hotel isn't up to much!  Come and collect me now, I want to go home!" Grandad barked down the phone at us at 4am one morning.  

Attending hospital later that morning, J found him packed and ready to go home.  Sitting outside A&E.  Angrily telling his attendant nurse to stay away from him while trying to hail ambulances as if they were taxis.

"Be a good chap and get me a glass of whiskey from the bar," Grandad instructed as I sat down next to him that afternoon.  "The staff in this hotel are rubbish you know, they're rude and don't want to help you!"  The nurse I had just relieved from the duty of looking after him laughed and raised her eyes at me in a show of solidarity and bonhomie.

 

As he became slight more lucid Grandad became aware of those around him on the ward in which he had been placed.  "They're all gaga!" He said loudly when I went to see him the following afternoon.  "What am I doing here?  I can't talk to any of them!" His raised voice attracting disapproving looks from the other relatives sitting around the beds of their profoundly dementing loved ones.

"Anyway, this hotel's food is awful!  I've asked to see the chef, but they say they haven't got one!  Where's that black chap gone?  He said he'd get me some nice food," Grandad continued, referring to one of the nurses partaking in the vigil at his bedside. 

 

There were many other humorous exchanges during the week along the same lines.

Grandad's illness requiring conversations with others I never expected to have.  Humour hiding the embarrassment that accompanied them.  

Hearing from the warden of his sheltered housing development, who described the concern of the other residents at seeing J arrive to see Grandad wearing a stethoscope around his neck.  Thus enhancing his reputation as the development's own Dr Kildare.  Adding to the coterie of adoring elderly ladies who already accost poor J when we are in Waitrose. 

Discussing with the kind and sympathetic receptionist at our dentists exactly how old Grandad's cracked denture might be.  Realising that it was older than me.  Hearing that the dentist considered it to almost be a museum piece, and relieved that they were able to fix it after all.  Restoring to Grandad one more small piece of dignity in a week in which so much was stripped away.

 

The postscript to this is that Grandad returns to us diminished.

His memory has been moved a couple of small notches along the road towards greater loss.  He can't quite remember the town in which he was born.  It's on the tip of his tongue.  He can describe it and recognise it when you say it, he just can't remember it spontaneously himself.

His mobility is that little bit worse.  His gait increasingly more of a shuffle.   

His dignity dented as he surveys the new landscape where fear that eventual loss of independence is just a little bit closer.  

 

Getting old sucks.  I think Grumpy Deaf Grandad would agree.