On Monday this week, Ross, Robyn and I drove Barry from Port Macquarie Hospital down to the Catalina Aged-care Facility at Rathmines, on Lake Macquarie. He looms large in our history doesn't he, Lachlan Macquarie?
If you recall, after Barry's stroke at the end of October, he spent a week in Port Base hospital, three weeks undergoing rehab in Wauchope District Hospital, then, after minimal progress at rehab, he was admitted as a High Care resident into the Bundaleer Nursing Home in Wauchope. He absconded from there in the middle of January, and upon his return was admitted to Port Base hospital again. I agree. Old people in need of ongoing care, should not be occupying a bed in a hospital which may be needed for more emergency care.
So, the excellent social worker at Port Base, helped me find a longer term solution.
Ross and I had agreed to keeping Baz within the Wauchope area, because that was what HE wanted. He has many friends up in the area, had lived there since the late 70s, and liked the rhythm of the place.
However, he now agreed to come a bit further south, which helped us, but also there were very few places in the area that could accommodate him in a secure dementia faciltiy. Thursday last week I interviewed this facility which is on the site of the WW2 RAAF flying boat base. Hence, Catalina. It is older. It is more of a rabbit warren. It is within the City Rail zone, and although I have to train and then double bus, it is achievable from Sydney within one day. And it was available. Immediately. He does not have his own room, but is in with two other chaps. Both named Kevin. Bloody name haunts us now!
We settled him in during the early arvo last Monday, whilst he toured his new home and chatted to the Activities therapist. I promised him I would return today. Which I did. And for the first time since October, I am feeling a bit more upbeat. Not hopeul, but not depressed either.
I have spent the last three days making two 'books' for him. The first is a photograph album with examples from over the years, blown up and labelled, with his photograph on the front to attract his attention. I left it on his bedside table, and will go through it with him when I go up again next Thursday.
I am trying to chat individually with each of the Activities Therapists you see. There are two of them, and another comes on stream in a wee while. They used to be Occupational Therapists, then they were Diversionary Therapists. I no longer know. Let's call them the ATs. One is Kate and the other is ... can't remember (Nicole).
The second book I have made this week involved tearing pages out of my Picasso book. Oops ... good cause. I tore out about 20 large prints which I liked and thought Barry might also like. Big bold lines, and big bold colours. I put each on a coloured sheet of A4 paper and slipped it into its own plastic sheet in a folder. I labelled and dated each picture.
Ross and Robyn, and Jan and John (friends and neighbours from Rollands Plains) had stocked him up well with painting gear and with drawing gear. I had the task of trying to motivate him, and cajole him into drawing/painting again after all these years.
I took Kate aside and told her my plans for 'resident centred care' and she was wrapt (?sp?). I said he would need his own area with a table and a chair, and he would need to be able to store the gear for each of the activities I have dreamt up. In addition to the painting, we will have a box for leatherwork and another box for woodwork. We started off in a courtyard in the sun, but even with his big hat (thanks Jan - it works a treat and looks the part!) we had to move him under cover. Which means it can be an all-weather activity. When he moves into his leather work we might need a bench that can take a pounding. But shall cross that bridge later ...
I think today might have been a big day. When I arrived a bit after 11am, he had just finished an Anglican church service, and was sitting in a group watching a Laurel and Hardy film. We did all the painting after his lunch, so I guess that was about 1pm and I left to catch the train at about 2:45 pm. So he concentrated big-time for about an hour and a half. He did resist a bit to begin with. His head was warm on the inside. He had pain. He would think about getting back into painting. Da da da da da da ... I started to explain that his head being warm might be because I was asking him to concentrate and perhaps the blood was starting to flow back into the parts that the stroke had damaged. Or at the very least find new ways to move around his brain. And surely that could only be a good thing. I think there was an element of fear of failure in there, too.
Now comes the hard part. Keeping it going from week-to-week. And keeping it going when I am not there.
In case you were wondering, the Picasso picture is a self-portrait completed in 1972 when Pablo was 90. He died in April 1973.