Edith Brooking suffered the stress of moving residential homes twice. Here, her daughter Rosemary Hurtley speaks to Robert Mair.

In this article:

  1. The first move
  2. On the move again
  3. Using the experience
  4. Leaving friends

The first move

When Rosemary Hurtley finally found the perfect residential care home for her mum, Edith Brooking, she thought she’d found her a home for life.

A former art dealer, picture restorer and model, Edith had lived the high life in London’s West End – and needed a home that could match her personality. It was a big ask – but the sprawling country mansion Rosemary found ticked all the boxes. It was pet friendly, meaning Edith could take her dog, and run by an eccentric actor who provided the necessary stimulus to make life in the home interesting.

For 18 months, Edith was happy. But then the home ran into problems; it was required to install new radiator covers, and the costs involved got too much for the increasingly frustrated owners, as new legislation and guidelines infringed on the Bohemian life of the home.

With no alternative, the home was closed, and Rosemary had 3 weeks to find the perfect home for her mother - again:

“At the time I wasn’t very well,” says Rosemary. “My father had just died and I was disabled by it – to the point that I couldn’t really engage in the process. I needed help."

“I had to get someone from a care home placement agency in to step in and support us. It had reached the point where I was traumatised – and if my mum was made homeless, I wouldn’t have been able to cope.”

Rosemary was fortunate that they were able to find a home that took a dog – but it was a nursing home as opposed to a normal residential home. However, with such a short timeframe, it was the best option available and they had to go for it.

On the move again

Unfortunately, the home was not suitable for Edith’s needs – and a couple of the residents didn’t like the dog. It left Rosemary facing a difficult decision:

“My mother was much more able than some of the other residents, who were clearly very disabled. She was able to walk and I felt that this was not the right place for her."

“Over a period of time, she didn’t settle – and I realised that this really was the wrong environment for her. We started to look for another care home.”

Other issues had also made life in the home difficult. Rosemary was never asked about her mother as a person, with staff at the home instead concentrating on the drugs and medication. Rosemary felt like she’d abandoned her mother:

“No one asked about my mother as a person – what frightens her or makes her settle. It was very scary. No one asked me these questions and I felt like I was a mother just abandoning her child on the first day of school.”

However, now much more able, Rosemary set about finding a new home. She did the research herself and found what she thought was a near-perfect residential home. The only problem was that although the home could take pets, it was on a busy road and used a locked door system – meaning the dog would be unable to go out very often.

Rosemary made the heartbreaking decision to move her mum – and have the dog put to sleep.

“I had to have the dog put down. It was very sad, but by that time my mother’s dementia had deteriorated to the point where she wasn’t aware of the dog, which was something of a blessing. But it was a horrible decision to have to make.”

Using the experience

Having gone through the process once before, Rosemary was now able to make the transition between care homes for her mum as smooth as possible:

“I made sure that I had time to go through things with the management team. I explained the things that mattered most to my mother, her habits, routines and rituals, and things such as meal times and bed times.

“And then we put those things into the care plan, and we agreed on what my role would be and what I would do when I came into the home. We also agreed on the things I could do to help her settle."

“It was much more of a partnership, and I think the partnership approach is the way forward. It was certainly better than the ‘We’ve taken on mother now, we’re in control, and we’ll ask you if we want any information.’ That’s not the right approach.”

Rosemary also produced a small biography on her mother to give to staff so that they were aware of her life story and the things that had significance for her.

Leaving friends

One of the biggest challenges Rosemary had to face was explaining to Edith the loss of her friends and providing comfort to her – especially after the first move. At the age of 88, Edith had found love with Peter, another of the residents.

Yet, just before the home closed, his condition deteriorated and he moved into a specialist nursing home that could meet his needs. Edith was devastated:

“My mother had a memory disorder,” says Rosemary. “But she really missed him and kept asking ‘Where’s Peter? Where’s Peter?’ It caused quite a lot of difficulty and I didn’t really know how to handle it."

“I could’ve taken her to see him – but that would’ve upset and disorientated her – so I talked about the pain of losing somebody – but also about the fun they had and the positive things.”