By Avril Charlton
…but you can leave it to your nearest and dearest apparently.
Recently I was visiting family in a village near me when we heard a noise at the front door. It was evening time and our visitor was not immediately apparent however once the shaded light from the living room fell on her it was a French neighbour of some twenty years, crying that her husband had fallen over and was not able to get to his feet.
So, taking her arm together with other French neighbours that had gathered, we slowly picked our way down the drive back to her house to find her husband.
The lady in question had been a vibrant, funny lady and it was sad to see that the advancement of years to which we are all subject, had left her with a dementia of sorts where she is unable to retain information and must therefore by necessity repeat her questions again and again. As much as it is tiring for her target, it must be so bewildering for her.
We find her husband on his knees in the courtyard. He had gone out at night to put his dog away and fallen. Once we get them indoors we assess the situation. The husband’s wrist is now the size of a tennis ball so clearly something is wrong. A call is made to their nephew, they have no children. He arrives and we are ushered out to our own homes.
The next morning I am there again. My family have gone out so when Maurice comes knocking at the door it is me he sees. She is beside herself he says. Tears are flowing and she is completely lost, will you come? Of course I would come.
It’s true. At the house she is lost. The husband had been taken to hospital the night before and has two breaks in his wrist. It’s clear he will be in hospital for some days. Unable to understand why he is not there much less remember what happened the night before, she is inconsolable. We make coffee and ensure she eats – then another call to the nephew.
The nephew has several properties and when his aunt and uncle pass away he will acquire theirs also. Their attitude is one perhaps adopted by our own grandparents whereby everything must be held onto, nothing spent and everything garnered. They make no phone calls for fear of cost, even on the coldest day she wears no tights, they are too expensive. Hearing aids also are apparently beyond their financial purse.
The reality is that they have the finances but everything is retained so that it remains within the family. When the nephew comes into the inheritance he will use the bank account, sell the assets they have accumulated and he will have the house.
So he arrives. She asks again where her husband is and when he will return. The nephew’s patience however is wearing thin and now he tells her that she is clearly unable to stay on her own whilst he is in hospital. I can’t argue with that. They will he says, be put into a retirement home when he comes out. Whether this is a permanent state or just for the period of his recovery I’m not sure, but I do know that were it not for the kindness and generosity of the neighbours, this old man and his wife who fall regularly in various parts of the house would be completely lost.
It seems therefore that a Maison de Retraite is the answer then. Somewhere they can be taken care of, people making sure that they eat regularly and that they don’t fall.
As sad as it is, age must come to us all, the advancing years cannot be stopped. We can however have some choice about how we live our lives in the interim. Do we save all we can to provide for our children, or live life?
As for me? Well, I want the last check I write to bounce…