MAY 10, 2013

I’ve taken us somewhere new today. Beyond the gate is the hump of a field, which falls away on all sides to give views of hillside all around. A robin watched us park. There is a rookery below us to our right from where cawing can be heard. Swallows are darting to and fro on the lookout for insects that they’ve flown all the way from Africa on the promise of.


I’m in a fine mood because Mabel is perkier than she’s been for a while. Today she’s been sipping her tea without coughing and has eaten most of a Milky Way and a custard cream. Recently she’s not been swallowing her treats. On separate days, I’ve tried her with toffees, chocolate buttons, sponge cake and banana, but each time the food has remained in her mouth without being swallowed, eventually coming back out the way it went in. This is despite me talking to Mum while touching her mouth in an effort to encourage her to eat. The worry has been that if she’s not eating well with her afternoon tea, she’s not eating well at other times. Yesterday, I brought this up with the senior in the home. Tess reassured me on two counts. First, she assigns a member of her team to help Mabel with her meals, having instructed her in what stratagems to use in order to get Mabel eating. Second, Mabel is being given a food supplement, which is called Ensure. These come in 200ml plastic bottles and apparently Mabel laps them up. They’re fruit-flavoured, packed with carbohydrate and protein as well as vitamins and minerals, or so it says on the packaging. They can cause diarrhoea, but Mabel is not troubled in this way, and in fact she sometimes takes a second bottle. Her weight, which had fallen over the previous month, did go up a little in the last week. Which is great.

I bring my thoughts back to the here and now. It’s hotter than it’s been so far this chilly year. I’ve got my window fully open and warm air is wafting through the car. When I hold Mabel’s hand she responds by squeezing my fingers. I wouldn’t say she was looking around much, or at all, but her eyes are wide-open and her head is not bowed, as it has been recently.


As for Ian, well Dad’s in the back of the car, doing his usual. This time it’s a timeless Robert Burns’ song he’s singing:

“In ev'ry glen the mavis sang, All Nature list'ning seem'd the while, Except where greenwood echoes rang, Amang the braes o' Ballochmyle.”

In order to get to this fine spot we had to cross several drainage cuts set into the road. Each time the car shuddered, Mabel gave a protesting yelp, sometimes multi-syllabic, the closest she gets to talking now. She’s got a bedsore on her bottom. I’ve been assured that sliding her on the transfer board from wheelchair to passenger seat of the car should not affect the wound. But it obviously does discomfort her when the going gets bumpy.

Mabel had a bedsore in the same place a couple of months ago and that healed. This time I’ve made the mistake of reading up what a bedsore is. Pressure ulcers, to give them their medical name, can easily become chronic. In Mabel’s case, given her incontinence, it must be difficult to keep the wound clean.

Again I had an encouraging talk to Tess about this yesterday, during which she made three telling points. First, the wound is being dressed and re-dressed as often as it takes. Second, Mabel continues to be turned every two hours, day and night, so as to relieve pressure on vulnerable parts of her body. Third, Mabel’s bed has been changed. The home has replaced the old one with a Quattro Autocura - if I’ve got that right - a sophisticated air mattress. The new bed is supposed to keep Mabel dry and relieve pressure on vulnerable areas. It also maximizes the amount of air passing around the wound. Of course, I want to believe all this, and with that in mind I walked to Mabel’s room and inspected the new bed. At first glance it’s just a blow-up mattress. But a wide pipe connects the airbed to what looks like a ghetto blaster and that seems to have lots of pressure options, though I didn’t have the confidence to explore them.

I don’t know how the bed helps, exactly, and the five-minute video that the company has on its website concentrated on production and sales issues. Nor have I come across a demo on Youtube. But I’ll be asking questions in the home, perhaps when Mabel’s actually lying on the bed, and I’ll be trying to get my head round the equipment’s possibilities in days to come.

I have to say though, that on the face of it Mum’s done quite well for beds over the last few decades. Several fine double-beds shared with Dad. Then the Adjustamatic that Dad bought for either of them and which I wrote about in a recent blog, 'Pillow Talk'. And now this latest and no doubt expensive creation. Really, I’m surprised that the home has invested in state of the art equipment. But grateful.

I’m about to drive off when I stop myself. We’ve come across a tranquil spot, let’s linger here for a bit longer. Chaos and oblivion might win in the end, but for now things seem under control. We’ve got a fine view and, thanks to Dad and Burns, we’ve got this:

“Fair is the morn in flow'ry May, And sweet is night in autumn mild, When roving thro' the garden gay, Or wand'ring in the lonely wild;
But woman, Nature's darling child - There all her charms she does compile; Even there her other works are foil'd
By the bonnie lass 0' Ballochmyle.”