My Dad’s a Goldfish – have Doblo will go places

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The Goldfish loves the new car. I love his car, too, though I find the accelerator is just at the right height to give me a dreadful pain in my ankle after a few miles. I’ll get used to it just like I will get used to actually getting the Goldfish into it – and out again.

If he’s sitting in his armchair he has to transfer to his wheelchair, using the stand aid. This is quite a performance on its own but we’ve all become well-practised and the Goldfish grips the handles as though

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The stand aid is an amazing contraption andwithout it we’d have struggled to move the Goldfish when he could no longer walk.

he’s about to take off on a motorbike! With some manoeuvring and pushing and pulling the stand aid I position the stand aid so I can lower the Goldfish into his wheelchair. Unbuckle all the stand aid straps and put his seatbelt on.

I proceed cautiously, backwards, down the ramp, along the gravel path to the back of the car. Get the ramp down and push the wheelchair in. Sometimes it works and the chair slides up the ramp quite easily, sometimes it doesn’t and we stick half way with me braced against the weight of the wheelchair. It’s difficult to get a good run at it over gravel and I seriously contemplate having the drive tarmacked.

I then spend the next ten minutes fastening everything which needs to be fastened to ensure both the wheelchair and the Goldfish are completely secure. Go back to the house to collect handbag, the Goldfish’s bag and lock the door. Return to the Doblo – to find the Goldfish has managed to unbuckle his seatbelt. Fasten him in again, slide the ramp back in and shut the door.

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The Doblo meant freedom for us all. I wish the drive at his house  was as smooth as this.

 

Get in behind the wheel, keeping an eye on the Goldfish in case he starts to unbuckle everything again. Once we set off he usually watches the passing countryside, commenting occasionally on the volume of traffic. Conversation, no longer easy at any time, is even more difficult when we’re in the car and he’s talking to the back of my head.

At our destination I park outside the Day Centre, run round to open the back, take down the ramp, unbuckle all the straps and guide the wheelchair backwards down the ramp. Now, I am faced with a steep bit of pavement and another slope up to the door of the day centre. I am exhausted. The Goldfish is greeted warmly; people rush off to bring coffee for him, a plate of biscuits. He smiles serenely at everyone and falls asleep. I leave, thanking my lucky stars the DH is collecting the Goldfish – getting him out of the Day Centre is even more difficult than getting him in.

Despite the difficulties of getting the Goldfish in and out of the car it is wonderful to be able to take him out. Being cooped up in the house would be so bad for us all. What I don’t understand is why, with all the pushing of wheelchairs and stand aids my upper arms still have ‘bingo wings’ rather than being toned and trim.

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MY DAD’S A GOLDFISH: DAY CENTRE

With taking the Goldfish out at least once a week, plus taking him to appointments with the doctor, with practice nurses, to have his hearing checked, not to mention dealing with the care agency who provided the personal care, I was struggling to keep on top of my writing work – both freelance journalism and preparing a poetry collection for publication. The step-monster never took him anywhere apart from the occasional trip to the supermarket.

The CC came up with various suggestions – there’s a lunch club, for instance, which the step-monster and the Goldfish could attend together. The step-monster didn’t like this idea, nor had she any interest in meeting with other carers in a similar situation. She was enthusiastic about the CC’s suggestion that the Goldfish could perhaps go once a week to the day centre. “Oh, yes,” she chirruped, “he’d enjoy going to meet people.”

CC said she would be happy to refer him for a place. She wasn’t sure how long the waiting list was and someone from the charity would come and do an assessment to see if the Goldfish was suitable. CC said transport wasn’t available – would the step-monster be able to take him there? This is to a church hall a five minute drive from their house. The step-monster’s face changed (I recognise it as her ‘I’m not very happy with this’ look) and she was quiet for a bit before, grudgingly, muttering, “Well, I suppose I could, if I have to.”

This is the woman who want to get the Goldfish out of the house so she can have some ‘me’ time, what she refers to as ‘respite’ and she’s being offered the opportunity to have time on her own nearly all day and she’s reluctant, almost to the point of refusal, about having to give up around fifteen to twenty minutes of time to take and collect the Goldfish. Words failed me. The CC and I look at each other. She looks a bit stunned.

“You could hire a taxi, I suppose,” she suggested, to which step-monster instantly agreed. I just as swiftly vetoed the idea.

“I don’t think you can expect dad to get in a taxi with a strange person to go somewhere he doesn’t know. I’ll take him and bring him back.”

I wanted to go with him to start with anyway to see if he really is happy there, if someone really does talk to him or if he’s left sitting staring into space. They say there will be someone to talk to him about things which interest him but as they don’t know the Goldfish and he doesn’t volunteer information, I’m not convinced. Besides, how many will have any understanding of artificial insemination, cattle breeding lines and Clydesdale Horse pedigrees?

The Goldfish in his younger days. He still retains his love of horses, especially Clydesdales.

The Goldfish in his younger days. He still retains his love of horses, especially Clydesdales.

CC phones next day to say she has made the referral. Someone from the dementia charity will be in touch. When I ask if she still thinks the step-monster’s behavior is simply denial, as she once suggested, she replies that she has never met anyone so resistant to engaging with her husband’s welfare.

Day centre was a great success. The Goldfish was quiet at first, though he happily accepted coffee and biscuits and later tucked into his lunch. He refused to play dominoes. I played, occasionally showing him my hand and asking for advice. After the third game, he reached for the dominoes when they’d been shuffled – and won the next two games. Next time I’ll only stay for part of the day.