76, Southampton

Malcolm’s mother, Margaret, lived in south Wales, while he was 100 miles away in Hampshire. It was difficult to manage her care needs from such a distance.

"My mother had four years of inadequate home care, and then four years in a wonderful care home. The contrast was considerable.

She had a heart attack when she was 93, and she began to lose a bit of mobility. Social services assessed her and said someone would visit every morning.

Independent living

But she was always fiercely independent. It was supposed to be half an hour but quite frequently it was somebody just popping in and saying, 'Is there anything I can do for you?' and she’d say no, and they left. But it must have been obvious that she wasn't coping. What it badly needed was for the carers to be proactive – not just ask her what she needed but take a look around the house, and make her a cup of tea or a meal.

It was difficult from a distance. I would phone and say, 'I’m not sure this or that is happening,' but I could only speak in general and couldn’t give examples of things that had gone wrong. There were regular social services assessments. We’d say what we thought she needed, and she’d pipe up with, 'I can manage, thank you very much.' I suppose if I’d lived nearer I could have met them more and been more demanding.

Turning point

"By  the time I eventually called a halt she was spending most of her day in bed and living on pork pies."

I was in my seventies. I drove 100 miles to see her every fortnight, and phoned every few days. I arranged for meals to be delivered but she wasn’t happy about that and in the end we stopped it. I found food that had gone off, and things like ice cream left in the fridge. By the time I eventually called a halt she was spending most of her day in bed and living on pork pies. One day I went to cut her nails and realised there was faeces under them. And I thought, well this just can’t go on.

Wonderful care

It took a lot of persuading to get her to agree to go into the care home. It was in her home town, and she already knew many of the people who worked there – or their grandparents! She was a little unhappy at first, but for her 100th birthday, the local chapel held a big party for her, and so did the care home, and she settled from then on. She was there for four years until she died at the age of 103. In a way it was a relief when she died, but I still miss her terribly."

More information

Page last reviewed: 31 December 2015
Next review due: 30 April 2017