I was so happy to be able to start visiting Jill again as restrictions relaxed. Although there were still limitations in place, I had managed to book a visit for her birthday, which was fantastic! I was allowed to bring in a small chocolate cake with a candle and a card. I met her in her room and her face lit up when I started to sing happy birthday. She blew out the candles and cheekily grabbed a bit of chocolate cake for a ‘taste test’. She had lots of cards from family, which we read out together. It was so lovely to see her so full of life and to see her so happy. I think she was deeply touched and reassured that she had so many people that were thinking of her and who cared – it really meant a lot to her. It was such a joy to see her this way and I felt that, now things were slowly getting back to normal, we could go back to the way things were.
As I arrived the following week, the carers told me Jill was still in bed and ‘agitated’. This was most unlike Jill, as she always enjoyed being up and sociable with others in the lounge. I waited while the carers got her ready, getting increasingly concerned. The staff were really kind and, even though my visiting time was technically up, they still allowed me to check in with Jill. By the time I managed to go into Jill’s room, she was all chirpy and talkative. I was so relieved. But later, reflecting, I was worried that she had been in bed at that time in the afternoon, as it was so out of character. I called the care home the next day, but she was up and reported to be ok, so it was put down to a ‘one off’. However, these ‘one offs’ became more frequent. I think there was a big part of me that did not want to see this decline, as I was so looking forward to spending time with Jill now that I was able to again.
The last time I visited Jill, she was in bed and had just had enough. I attempted to bring up memories of family and friends, which had always worked in the past, but it just wasn’t enough. Her sense of purpose had left her. I left full of concern and called the care home manager later that day to book in another visit.
Sadly, Jill passed away before I had a chance to see her again. I felt heartbroken. I had hoped so much that now we were able to see each other again, we could go back to our times where we would chat about her family and her life, looking over pictures of the places she used to live and work.
I liaised with Jill’s family, who lived far away. They were so kind and asked me if I wanted to go to the funeral. I did, and took along the pictures that had given Jill so much happiness and connection and we chatted about my visits with her, and the times we had spent together. It was so lovely to be able to put faces to the names at last, and to see the family resemblances.
Losing someone you have built a trusting relationship with, and who has become so dear to you, is one of the hardest things to deal with when working in care. I had been visiting Jill for over two years and it’s so hard to imagine never visiting her again and seeing her face light up with the promise of a visit. I have been to the home since she passed and my heart still hoped to find her there, sitting in her usual spot, even though my mind knew the truth. The home seemed so empty without her.
I will miss Jill so much, but have such fond memories that I will treasure – her little quirks that made her so unique. I loved the way you knew exactly where you stood with her, how she would stand for no nonsense (if she were reading this, she would probably tell me I was being soft and give me one of her ‘looks’). She had so many stories to tell and she would always test me on things (as she used to be a teacher). I hope that I gave Jill good companionship in those last years, and that she enjoyed her visits as much as I did.