Happy Hour Teaser

HAPPY HOUR (working title)

Pam is ninety years old and lives with Parkinson’s dementia. She’s also dying, but Pam is a lucky woman.

For eight years now, her two grown up children, both in their sixties, have done everything they can to look after their mum in her own home. But their love and care has come at a price. Shaun has experienced anxiety attacks, and his sister Karen has had to cope alone. Only a sense of humour has kept them going.

Now they face a greater challenge in letting their mother go. Pam sleeps for up to eighteen hours. She has trouble swallowing, and her skin tears like paper. There’s a ‘cocktail’ of drugs in the bedside cabinet to combat agitation and distress. ‘Just in Case Meds,’ the doctor calls them.

‘It’s time to leave the care to us,’ says Jo, the palliative nurse ‘and for you to be a family again, and there’s the hospice or a nursing home if that’s what you want.’

What they want – desperately – is a good death for their mum. That’s what we all want. Nature decides when, but Pam’s children must choose how and where. Because dying is seldom easy. And it can be hard to witness, too.

All that’s certain is that the summer ahead is precious. They’re determined to take time out – as they’ve always tried to do – from the chores, and the fears. Time to banter and be close to mum. Time to reflect on their lives to date. And time to figure out what they’ll do when Pam has gone.

Sitting either side of mum in their garden with a cup of tea, an ice cream, or a sundowner, is what they call their ‘Happy Hour.’

Maybe it can be still, whatever is yet to come.




Pam, 90 years old              Living with Parkinson’s dementia, mother to Shaun and Karen. She is reaching the end of her life and is often not aware of where she is. She cannot feed or care for herself, or move independently.

 Shaun, 65 years old           Pam’s son and carer. He helped put his mum in a care home for her own safety. When his father died in 2015, Shaun returned from France where he was then living to take his mother home. He’s written a book about the experience.

Karen, 63 years old            Pam’s daughter lived in Vancouver, Canada, until she took early retirement to help care for her mum.

The siblings lived on opposite sides of the Atlantic for more than forty years before setting up home together.

Copper, black Lab              Copper is a ‘companion dog’ from Canine Partners and a former police dog who failed the grade. He is now Karen’s dog. He eats, a lot, and likes to sleep when he’s not out on a walk.

Megan and Leah                 Shaun’s daughters, now in their early thirties and working abroad, flying visits when they can. They’re close to both their dad and their auntie.

Lottie or Charlotte              Shaun’s partner Lottie lives eighty miles away and though they get together whenever they can, the distance and the care burden makes it hard on them both. Still, they find the joy.

‘Frazzy’ or Frances             Frazzy just started caring for her own mum at home. She and Karen go all the way back to school days, though they too have lived on opposite sides of the pond.

Our ‘old’ carers                   A cast of regulars who know Pam and her children very well, and have a real soft spot for the family, for the coffees we make and the music we play whilst they work, though not the Fado.

Our ‘new’ carers                Pam’s approaching end of life means more care is required, and a new agency might be needed to fill the gap. It’s going to be a wrench for everyone.

 Jo, palliative nurse             A welcome presence, calm and experienced, Jo is supporting Karen and Shaun with advice and access to resources, helping them make decisions and cope with the pressures.

 District nurses                    In and out for dressing of wounds or pressure sores, and standing by to administer ‘just in case’ injections if Pam becomes agitated or distressed.

 The Doctor                           Doctor B. made the referral to the palliative team and now checks in every few weeks, smoothing out bumps in the system. End of life care is a lottery. We got lucky.

 Other voices                        Peter who helps with the garden, care home managers on Shaun and Karen’s visits to consider their options, dog walkers encountered on the common, visitors from Canada and America, friends on the phone, especially Shaun’s ‘bestie’, Phil in France, Karen’s friend Clare in Australia, who’s own mum is in a care home just a mile down the road from the bungalow.



The Bungalow                     Three bedrooms, in a cul-de-sac in suburban Surrey. Home to the family for eight years now.

The garden                           The place Pam lights up, and the location for the family ‘Happy Hour’ in the summer. Growbags and the rustle of Aspen trees that sound like the sea.

The Chemist                        Indi has been looking after the family needs for years. He’s warm, sympathetic, and conscientious and the shop is always busy.

The Common/Park             Dog walking usually involves casual encounters and regulars, some with experience of family care, most with arcane knowledge of dogs and their habits.

The Swimming Pool           Karen’s break from the bungalow, care, and mostly her brother, for a couple of hours when she can. Fitness and meditation combined.

The ‘Studio’                          Shaun’s sanctuary, a garden room and the model for the wooden cabin he dreams of building in Portugal. Here, he writes and podcasts about care, or riding his bike in France and endlessly listens to Fado music.

Fishpool Pond                      The destination for Karen’s dog walks and Shaun’s bike rides. A bench, an occasional fishermen, even a heron, and solitude.

Copyright: Shaun Deeney March 2024