Sunday, 6 May 2012


In my last post I described my seven hours in A&E with Chester and Barry. Chester came home to us after two days, diagnosis constipation. We kept expecting Barry 'home' for the last couple of days but when I got to work Friday Nadine called me into her office, sat me down and told me that Barry had died. She told me that Barry's brother, Maurice, had asked her to tell me on my own because he knew Barry and I were close.

I'm devastated, and disbelieving....

I can't understand how someone who can be well enough to be able to be discharged can suddenly just die. Barry was a great big bear of a man; a really good appetite (and these are two things that are very rare in care home residents); a good sense of humour; patient; very expressive, despite being unable to speak. Fair enough, this stroke he'd had previously comes with a fairly short life expectancy but he was just so...healthy and full of life. It's a tough time for all of us  - we all loved Barry. His brother and sister-in-law are ultra-supportive and this will destroy Maurice because he's lost his big brother. I'm going to offer to help them clear Barry's room, though it will be sad but I see it as doing him one last service.
Barry was 82 (which is no great age nowadays) and never married. He worked out in the open as a bricklayer for years then when the cold weather got to be too much for him he worked for the NHS here in Southampton, as a delivery man. His passions were ham radio, female singers of the 50s (Jo Stafford was a particular favourite) and old films. He was left unable to speak following his stroke and also couldn't move his right arm or leg. He could say 'yes' and this was his usual answer to any question, though his facial expression usually gave lie to that! It makes me happy to remember that Barry did actual speak, clearly and appropriately to me - once when I came back from two weeks holiday I went into his room to say hello and his face lit up. He said 'hello, how are you?'. I told Maurice about this (he would have LOVED Barry to speak to him one more time) but I was never 100% sure I hadn't imagined it. However the last time the vicar visited I took him along to Barry's room and Barry said, quite clearly, 'how are you?' so I guess he could do it after all.
Barry had a small fridge in his room where he kept his tins of cider (he liked a tipple at night) and he had a constant supply of sweets and chocolates. Because of this his teeth had almost all fallen out or gone bad and twice this year I accompanied him to the hospital to have extractions. Due to his size he needed the maximum amount of anaesthetic but he was so brave....I was the one secretly worrying - my nails left big marks in his hand where I'd been holding it so tight!When I think of Barry I think of Boxer, the brave, strong but ultimately doomed workhorse from Animal Farm.....don't know why. Sometimes I can't help but identify people I meet with characters from books or films. Is that crazy?

I'm glad that the last time I saw Barry, last Saturday at the hospital, I'd given him his dinner, held his hand, kissed him (yes, we do kiss our residents) and as he was being taken to the ward he was smiling and gave me the salute he always gave, in lieu of saying goodbye. Miss you already Barry xx

I'm not sure I can do this job.....


  1. It sounds like a very very tough job. I'm sorry you had such a sad time recently, it's difficult, do you get attached or stay distant? Of course you get attached because you're a caring person but it's dealing with the inevitable loss that's really tough. I think it lessens with experience. But I have none of my own so I don't know, I'm going on what nurses have told me (I've worked in the NHS on and off for a long time) xx

    1. It must be so difficult for you to care for patients that may ultimately end with them passing away.

      I can say from experience that it means so so so much for both patients and their families to have people looking after them who truly care about their well-being. My Grandma spent the last year of her life in a nursing home and we were all so grateful to the staff for their patient and kind attitudes there.

      Thank you, and my condolences for your loss. x

  2. I know it breaks my heart when ever we lose someone...especially those I am really close to. It sounds like you were wonderful to him and thats all anyone can ask of us.

    I kiss and hug my participants also, although right now I am in a daycare setting for alzheimers and dementia I worked for 12 years in a nursing home for dementia and saying goodbye was never easy.

    I am so sorry for your loss

  3. I was so sad to read your latest post - my condolences.

    It's surely only natural to feel like you do ("I'm not sure I can do this job"), perhaps you need a bit of time to grieve as well as the family, after a loss of someone you were fond of?

    You clearly *can* do the job, but at times it is heartbreaking.

    You care about your residents and you're a diamond for being who you are in the work you're doing. In a sea of uncaring, selfish and sadly, sometimes plain old incompetent people, you're to be treasured.

    I hope you can find whatever it is you need to help you through this sad time and will return to your work.

    Take care of yourself too.


  4. Oh gosh that's so, so sad :( For what it's worth, it sounds like you made his last days (however unexpected) full of love and care and what more could anyone ask for?

    On an entirely more frivolous note, I don't know if it's me being dim but I can't find your email address anywhere and I wanted to email you about the Good Read post of mine you commented on. Could you drop me a line on please? Thanks!

  5. Sorry that you have lost Barry, my sincere condolences to you and his family. I know you are missing him, but just think of the joy and friendship you gave him.

  6. I sincerely hope that you do continue to do your job! My mum is 84, lives in a nursing home, is physically disabled and has dementia. I have stated in writing that I want her to end her life in the home rather than in hospital. Hospitals do their best but don't cope very well with vulnerable older people who cannot speak for themselves (as in your last post, leaving food and drink out of reach). In the home, she is cared for by staff who know her, some of whom remember her when she was more able to communicate, who understand her desires and speech pretty well and who love her. They can see the photos of her when she was a pretty young girl, a young mum, a wife and know me too. Yesterday, I was telling her that we are probably moving house, but as she gets confused, she might get the idea that we are moving away, so I told the manager, who will pass it on to the staff. When/if she gets it muddled, they will be able to reassure her. As I am too ill myself to care for her, it means a lot to me.


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