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Nursing Homes
It is hard to put a loved one in a nursing home, but sometimes it has to be

Life is about living and learning while growing older along the way. Everyone knows that age eventually takes its toll; not just on those in their latter years, but also on their relatives and friends. Early in the piece anyone in close contact with an ageing person will notice changes in their behaviour, often small ones that seem quite natural and acceptable. Over time, however, the aches, pains and slowing of movement become noticeable even to outsiders; and are a definite growing concern for family members, particularly with regard to memory loss which is a big worry. Before continuing, and for the sake of empathy, I'm going to use Grace and Harry as examples.

They had been married for over fifty years, had four children and nine grandchildren. Harry ran his own business which meant hard work and long hours, but he always made time for his family. In this, Grace was his pillar of strength, joyfully accepting the role of mother, housekeeper and loving companion. So the day she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis it was a shock for all. Grace, however, brushed off the consequences, mainly for the sake of the others, and carried on pretty much the same as before. At the start the symptoms were relatively mild, enabling her to continue with the cooking and cleaning; and as a kind of bravery reward for her courage in not letting MS beat her, or maybe as a practical distraction, she took up golf.

Having been a golfer for years Harry was quite good, so when he played with Grace he was encouraging and supportive, leaving his competitive streak at the golf club. Then another blow struck the family. Harry was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Fortunately perhaps, in both their cases the individual ailments were the progressively-slow kind and life continued pretty much as before; for a while, anyway. This suited the couple, each being the independent type; as it did their children who had their own families and the associated responsibilities. They did, however, pay frequent visits to make sure the parents were okay and to offer assistance with anything that might have become too hard for them. Needless to say, these offers were generally declined.

But if their family was kind, their respective diseases were not. Grace eventually lost the use of her right arm and leg, while Harry's tremors increased to the point where he couldn't hit a golf ball straight because of an involuntary twitch of the hand. His movements were also slowing and were sometimes erratic. What with his own disabilities and Grace's deteriorating condition, he decided to sell the business to be his wife's full-time carer. If it had dawned on him that he wouldn't be able to do this forever he never let on. Maybe to prove that he, like his wife had done earlier, wasn't going to be beaten by a mere disease, Harry set about renovating the house to make it accessible for a wheelchair to which his wife had eventually become confined. He also helped out in the kitchen and even did much of the cooking; although Grace still insisted on making the pastry one-handed; plus handling much of the traditional Sunday breakfast fry-up herself.

As well as being a great healer, time can also prove very cruel. Harry was finding it increasingly difficult to cope, while Grace had reached the stage where even personal hygiene was a major issue. Occasional emergency calls to family members for assistance were necessary, particularly when one of them had a fall and the other was unable to help. The situation demanded a change of strategy. Sons and daughters got together to discuss possibilities; and the only one that seemed practical was to engage a carer. On thinking about it, however, unless this person was live-in and a nurse, there would still be times the parents were at risk because they were on their own for extended periods. Reluctantly and regretfully, the subject of a nursing home was broached.

Grace had always maintained that she was never going to be put in a home, no matter what; so, despite it being the safest, sensible option, she was likely to oppose the suggestion. Clearly, this had to be handled very delicately; and the family would need to present the most attractive proposal they could come up with if it was to be even considered by both parents. Much research was conducted, trawling through the names of nursing homes in the area and further afield; checking the facilities offered by each; making a short list, and then visiting those which seemed the most suitable. In this, the family was very choosy; and whereas some homes didn't have the right feel about them, two or three that fitted the desired criteria had no vacancies at that time. It was obviously going to be a waiting game.

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