I am quite happy to wear a face mask, my problem is taking it off!

Like many others, I wear two clever little hearing-aids, especially when I venture out, which is precisely the time to wear a facemask. Problem occurs when removing the face mask when the elastic so easily catches the hearing-aid and flicks it out, sometimes (believe it or not) without me realising. It could easily happen when for some reason there is a need to temporarily remove the mask, perhaps to eat something or just scratch my nose. Ping – where did it go? Worse still, to not even notice it’s gone until later!

I have devised a little clip to hold the elastics together at the nape of my neck – and it works, thus avoiding the use of the ears for the purpose (no patent pending, yet!). However, the safer alternative is to not use my hearing aids when I go out, and that’s OK for me, as my hearing is not too bad.

Not being allowed to visit our loved ones during this lockdown period is the big problem, and for all my readers who have a partner in care, it’s tough. There are some circumstances when a visit may be possible, but I am resolved, albeit reluctantly, to keep away at present, principally as a mark of respect for the management and staff at the care home. The dedicated and awesome staff are additionally stressed now with inevitable current staff shortages due to illness. That results in management and all the helpers having to cope with their normal routines as well as having to devise activities for the able-bodied and the Alzheimer’s residents, all of whom are feeling the isolation and disruption to the normal visitor patterns.

There are strict protocols in place where Dorothy is, for both staff and for visitors when applicable and permissible. Staff and visitors must have their temperature taken and recorded, must answer the questions about our health and exposure then sign-in, and visitors must leave within the prescribed time limit. Of course, the staff also go through the same screening, and we must all wear the inevitable masks.

Recently, I became quite distressed because the care home phone was always busy, and I couldn’t make contact to enquire about my dear Dorothy’s state of health. But now, after discussing the problem with the staff, and in hindsight, I totally understand why the phone runs hot! I have complete trust in the management and nursing staff, I know they will and do contact me should the need arise. I hasten to add that Dorothy’s dementia is such that she cannot have a discussion with me on the phone – it’s not even possible to have a meaningful two-way talk in person.

In addition to the two dozen or so folk in the two dementia wings, there must be well over a hundred other residents in the general accommodation areas and they also need extra attention at this time, and no doubt their families are also constantly phoning-in to check their loved one’s health status, and/or where possible wanting to talk with them on the phone. It must be a difficult and fraught time for everyone involved and we all need to remember and understand that, and be patient, courteous and thankful, and consider all the prevailing conditions.

The news is full of reports involving coronavirus, and especially the plight of many nursing home residents, the attending staff, and the relatives’ anguish, so it’s no wonder the staff at all these places are so stressed. Their jobs, especially in dementia nursing, are difficult at the best of times. At this time there are also staff shortages and skill deficiencies in some places, and this pandemic has helped to highlight the whole range of those inadequacies. We need our appropriate governments to focus on those aspects, to learn from them and make some the much-needed reforms for now and the future.

But right now, here’s ‘big hand claps’ and thanks for the staff at Blue Cross Box Hill! And all the other wonderful workers and volunteers out there in the community who are making a difference. I am so relieved to know my girl is getting the best possible attention, despite so many factors impinging on the care home, and in the community.

The mask is the least we can do and, for some us oldies, the only contribution we can make! ‘Ear, here’ to that; our ears are there for more than one thing!