It has been a very difficult couple of weeks for my family and I, as we all had to come to terms with the fact that our wonderful Mum, Nan and NannaG is gone. Despite her ailments that affected her memory and her pace, her true personality regularly shone through. Even down to the fact that she still loved having her nails done and painted pink! To the very last, Nan was Nan, even arguing about which pyjamas she wanted to wear. As ever, Nan got her way and fell asleep in her choice of pyjamas, forever.
As much as it's been painful to say goodbye to a very much loved lady, it has also been time to reflect on her amazing care and the difference it made to all our lives. For over the last 9 years, Nan lived at Marion Lauder care home and what a time she had!
When Nan first moved into the home, we hated leaving her there and for a while, we were really unhappy about the state of the home and that Nan didn't even seem to be wearing her own clothes!! Thanks to a change of ownership, we saw standards rapidly improve and also Nan's demeanour.
She walked the halls, fired the bosses and saw the home as though it was her own. It was her living room and everyone in it, worked for her. The best part is that from the management to the staff to the auxiliary's - every single one of them played along and allowed Nan to be "the boss". Going as far as when she stormed into the office in the early days, interrupted the call the MD was having, threw his phone down and ordered him and his co director out of the building, with some choice words, they both duly obliged. After walking around the block, walking back in the home, to be greeted by a beaming Gladys - "How lovely to see you both, I've not seen you for ages"!
The essence of this type of care is love. Simple as that. Nan had different carers over the years and we would often call in to see her, only to find her in the lounge with a host of different carers, sat with different residents. On one occasion, Nan had a carer next to her and one in front of her. The one next to her was chatting away to her and the one in front of her, well all Gladys was doing was sorting her collar out and stroking her hair, over and over. Fantastic to see time being given to keeping residents calm and happy. As the visit went on, everyone started talking to each other and the carers all started to ask about different names Gladys had mentioned as they wanted to know who they were. It was evident from this that they handn't all just spent time with Gladys, they had listened and really chatted to her, in her world of many many years ago. They were able to talk to her about her nephew's and nieces, her Mum and Dad and her daughter and grandchildren. Thanks to them, they helped Nan live on in this wonderful "time gone by" world she had lived in once and that her mind had recreated.
When we would ring to ask how Nan was doing, they reply was usually the same in as much as "she's on form today, she's fired me twice". If we were told that, we knew that all was well. Once when I rang and expected to be put through to the nurses station and said, "It's Elizabeth, (she never knew me as anything else) Gladys Hughes' grand daughter, just ringing to see how Gladys is doing?" the reply came back "I'm doing fine thank you, how are you?!" Priceless.
As a family we know that care, no matter how appropriate or fantastic, can never totally remove the guilt that is felt when you pass a loved one into the care of others. It is only looking back with a clear head and a heavy heart that I can see that the staff at Marion Lauder were Nan's adopted family and family they were. Eleven of them attended her funeral, (we were told they had to draw a ballot as the whole shift wanted to attend),and were as much a part of the funeral service as her immediate family. They hurt with us and laughed with us, at the tales "of what Gladys did/said". We were so fortunate that it was like that for us.
The fact that Nan was 94 when she died means that her passing isn't a tragedy, though we're hurting and grieving, we all have fantastic memories of this feisty lady whose essence remained until the very end.
One of the staff members said as we left the grave side, "We'll never forget her". The truth is, we'll never forget you either!
(Readers of the previous blogs will understand why Nan was sent on her way with, amongst other items, a bag of Maltesers in her pocket!!).