George calls himself a ‘COLB’, which he says is short for ‘cranky old Luddite bugger’

Steps

George is in his late 70s and has attacks of gouty arthritis which, he says, slow him down a bit. He shares a house with his daughter, Elizabeth, whose job as a forensic chemist frequently takes her interstate.

Their place is on a slope, like most houses in the hilly suburb. There are a lot of steps.

Elizabeth has suggested they employ a part-time carer to watch out for him while she’s away, just so there will be somebody there if he should have a fall. But George won’t hear of it. “Those rails look pretty solid to me,” he says, gesturing at the handrails along the main passages of the house.

Elizabeth nods and smiles as we all sit down to enjoy a cup of tea and some cake George has baked.

Elizabeth said she had tried to get George to accept a Meals on Wheels service to cater for his lunch and when she is away, but he was adamant he could do a better job of cooking.

“Besides, I like cooking. It’s my one remaining creative outlet,” George quips. 

With a long interstate stint coming up soon, Elizabeth is worried about her dad being at home alone. He is much frailer and more unsteady on his feet than he likes to admit, she says in a private moment. She thinks he is also showing signs of early stage dementia.

“The other problem is that dad is not always welcoming. He can be downright rude to visitors, even to the point of refusing to let them in the house. He insists he does not need help or ‘checking up on’. I have had friends call in to say hello to him when I am away and he won’t even open the door. He just yells at them to go away.

“But, he drinks too much when he is alone and manages to get alcohol delivered by the local taxi service when I am not here. I have found him drunk and collapsed a couple of times already.

“Another unlikely problem is his insistence on going for a daily walk – rain, hail or shine. Sure, the exercise is great for his health and mobility, and there are numerous great bush-tracks in the neighbourhood.

“But he often gets disoriented and has trouble finding his way home. Luckily, we live in a great neighbourhood and many people know George and look out for him. It is not unusual for me to get a note in the letterbox telling me someone has walked dad home as he was a bit lost.

“I worry about what might happen if he falls and breaks a leg, or gets lost and doesn’t get found. Or gets bitten by a snake. Dad reckons I worry too much.”

There are GPS-type systems that track a person’s location and Elizabeth thinks they might be worth further investigation. George is not keen on being ‘spied on’ however.

George is not fond of modern technology at all. He did have a mobile phone Elizabeth bought for him. He formed a profound loathing for the thing and would forget to charge the battery. When he lost the charger Elizabeth bought him a new one.  Then he lost the phone. So, Elizabeth bought him a new one - then he lost that phone.

Meantime, Elizabeth is attempting to negotiate an adjustment to her job description with her employer to reduce the amount of travelling she must do. They have not been very sympathetic. Something might be possible, she has been told, but she’d have to take a considerable pay cut.