Regular readers of this blog or my Twitter feed will know what for the past year or so I've been increasingly worried for, and harassed by, my ageing grandmother. It all started in March 2011 when she was moved into sheltered accommodation that I knew wasn't right for her and was really just better for my aunt and uncle. For a while she seemed to like her new place but that changed rapidly, as I'd feared it would, and coincided with a decrease in her mobility. For the past year the phone calls from her have increased to an average of 20 a day, reaching 40 on some memorable occasions. They're confused calls, they're distressed calls and, finally, it has been decreed that she can't stay where she is any more. But the way this has happened has infuriated me.
You see, my aunt was away for most of September in America. Nonetheless, we continued to speak to my grandmother everyday and I continued to calm her down (even when I was away in Birmingham myself). My aunt returned about a week ago and yesterday everything kicked off - there had been disturbances during the night in the accommodation, my grandmother had been lectured by my aunt (which explained the lack of phone calls) and, even more surprisingly, there was a backlog of 'incidents' that the warden had neglected to tell us about.
Yes, despite being listed as the secondary next of kin (and going to see her/calling her/answering the damn phone), the warden didn't think to let us know what was going on, preferring to wait until my aunt got back to talk to her about it. I was astounded. Social services have been brought into the equation before we were. The upshot of this is that she's being moved to a residential home as soon as possible, probably a temporary one before we get her into one we actually approve of.
Now, she wants to go into a home. So she says. She's been angling for it for months, as things have deteriorated between herself and the other residents at the sheltered accommodation. However, her complaints about the accommodation are worrying in this context: she says she feels like she's in a prison and doesn't like being told what to do and having to wait for the carer etc. She doesn't seem to realise that being in a residential home really is like a prison. Just like the reality of sheltered accommodation finally hit, this realisation will hit and there'll be nothing at all I can do about it.
You see, the truth here is that I've failed. It's easier to blame my aunt for pretty much dumping her there and leaving her or criticise my dad's short temper but, really, I've failed. I knew sheltered accommodation wasn't right for her and I allowed myself to be talked round when she was. I've experienced how bad it's been getting and how miserable she is but I've told myself there were no other options. Perhaps there were none now but there were some then, and I let them slip through my fingers.
I know how my grandmother feels. We've got the same anxieties about things being right and worries about what will happen when. Out of all of us, I'm the one who cares the most and understands. So why didn't I understand two years ago? She's an educated woman who hates being surrounded by, I'm sorry to say it, stupid people. That's why she's had difficulty in the sheltered accommodation and I fear it'll be worse in the home.
You never know, I could be wrong. I don't want to be right, I don't want her to suffer any more than she already has done. I hate seeing her cry and look at me like I'm the only friend she's got in the world. I suppose time will tell but, in the meantime, it's fair to say that I failed the one person I'd set out to look after - again. You can always count on me to muck things up, it's a speciality.