It’s a short one from me tonight. I’m ensconced in the plush luxury of the new lounge at Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport in Mumbai, awaiting my flight. Personally, I preferred the beatnik 60s minimalism of the old lounge but I’m told that was a temporary arrangement.
I’ve had a little light snack as my flight doesn’t leave until 10.10pm, and watched two Indian business men take bottles of water AND glasses of wine AND fruit juice and drink them in any old order, that made me wince. They appear to have run out of my favourite Sauvignon Blanc (which they ALWAYS confuse with Cabernet Sauvignon) so I have a cheeky Riesling instead.
I’m looking back over my trip. I’m always torn when I leave my mum. She always asks whether I have my car and tells me that she’ll come with me but, as she doesn’t appear to have any geographical reference points anymore, she’s not quite sure where to.
The other night she told me that she was going to come home and live with me and I could cook for my children and she could cook for herself. She still holds on to those expectations as do plenty of people I know in London, let alone here.
I know it’s repetitive of me but I’m saying it again for my own benefit: those who know how my mum was, is, will know that her wish would have been completely impossible. In the UK we take it for granted that anyone available to care for an elderly parent will automatically do it, regardless of their relationship with that person, regardless of their condition.
It’s a bit of a sweeping statement from people who simply don’t appreciate what dementia does to people: it robs them of their inhibitions; makes them a danger to themselves; makes them forget that they haven’t eaten for ages, and then deny that this is the case.
I can’t remember when my mum respected anyone else’s personal space or thought of anyone else’s needs before her own. And, those of you not familiar with the effects of dementia: would you be able to cope with the same coversational hooks and questions in a repetitive loop all day every day every 2 minutes or so? The screaming, the incontinence? The paranoia, the constant checking? Are you aware that people with mid-stage dementia can so disregard their own safety that they go out of the house, cross roads without looking, become disorientated at all times of the night or day?
We place an immense and in my view, unfair, burden on carers of relatives with dementia. Without much effort to understand, they are taken for granted and driven into the ground with stress by people who haven’t the first clue how they’d manage.
Anyway, enough of that – for the time being.
Here are some photos of my mum. The time I spent in the Nightingale Unit with her has finally convinced me that I have done the right thing in bringing her to the Dignity Foundation.
She has clearly put on weight and is settled and well cared for. She makes the nurses and carers laugh with the sense of humour that’s still there. She participates eagerly in all the activities they put on and she enjoys her Marathi television and films. She seems settled and happy, whatever that is in her world. It’s reassuring.