Don’t forget to celebrate every milestone as it happens

Today my mother was able to sign her cheques. This is a very big thing, as since having come back from hospital after open heart surgery, she has been very shaky and wobbly, making her handwriting almost illegible.

There is a fine line regarding showing appreciation and praise. My mother was very proud of herself, so suitable noises were required to celebrate this huge achievement. But these needed to be appropriate for a recovering 80 year old woman, lacking in self-confidence yet still very proud, definitely wishing to maintain her matriarchal position in the household.

Recovering from a major operation is an exhausting and a time consuming business. I suppose it’s a bit easier if you’re ‘older’, as you don’t expect everything to happen immediately, unlike the rest of the world. I remember talking to two ladies (in their late 50s) at the bus stop outside the hospital after visiting mum, and they were complaining that the bus display showed 5 minutes until the next bus.

It wasn’t that long ago we didn’t have the luxury of knowing when the next bus would arrive, 5 minutes or 5 hours!

I am very impressed at the way Brighton is set up to help old people, healthy, infirm or whatever. There are free bus passes, courtesy of my cousin Lady Dennington, Baroness of Stevenage, when she was in the House of Lords. I remember her telling me her tactics to get this proposal through without any hassle was to position the discussion right after a good dinner, when it was much more likely to be waved through. Which worked perfectly, of course!

The taxi service is wonderful. Of course my mother won’t be able to drive for ages, and she hid my dad’s driving licence since he turned 70 because she was adamant he was unsuitable to drive (that was over 20 years ago!). My parents only need to dial a local taxi firm’s number, and an automated message asks for confirmation of their address by pressing 1, and a taxi turns up within 10 minutes, letting them know with one ring on their telephone when it has arrived. Brilliant!

Another milestone: my mother received the plumber by herself, answering the door and showing him to the bathroom. She didn’t want me there, even hovering in the shadows. The nurses said to me that she should move about as much as possible, and five days after coming out of hospital she is doing exactly that. Of course it will totally tire her out, but the fact that she wants to do this on her own is exemplary.

But what really knocks her for six is when she has to attend appointments outside of the house. She is constantly reminded she could have home visits, but this has yet to sink in. Mum has been so independent, she doesn’t want to lose this because of her new pig valve – the very idea! The whole episode is an upheaval, causing unnecessary stress, but hopefully these will become less and less as she improves with time.

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