Ever since my return from India last week, I’ve been meaning to write a quick post about my mum, just to keep you updated. All sorts of excuses for not doing so include catching up on the ironing and spending time knitting the gloves that MsDD requested. This evening I was SO close to finishing the first one and then I realised that I’d misunderstood the rather confusing pattern. Urgent and persistent dognosing also put paid to a fabric that already had several mistakes in it so I decided to cut my losses, frog it and start again.
This time I’ve actually written out the pattern in full and I think I’ve now learned how NOT to get my stitch marker caught up in the garment. I hope.
Anyway, how is my mum?
Well, she still seems contented although physically she does seem frailer that she’s been. She still gets up and toddles off up the corridor when she wants to but she’s also quite a bit sleepier than she was.
Although she still recognises me immediately most of the time, I don’t think she can remember my name and she often thinks that I’m on my way home from school. On previous visits I’ve taken a notebook in and written down sentences for her to read. As she no longer wears her hearing aid, she can’t hear me even when I shout so this is a much more suitable means of conversation.
Goodness, when I look back at how angry we were with each other when I first took her out to India and all the frustrated, embittered things I wrote about her never listening to me it makes me want to shrivel up in a corner with shame.
I soon realised, though, what a poor little thing she’s become, and so quickly. Dementia seems to deteriorate in steps, staying on a plateau for weeks or months before suddenly taking a big step down, and I think my mum has taken another step in the past couple of months. Her conversation and her concentration are now so limited that it’s no longer meaningful to take a notebook. A lot of my mum’s conversation is unintelligible burbling now, punctuated with the odd lucid phrase or question but where she used to have better, more lucid days, now she will have lucid moments.
Instead I just go in and sit by her and hold her hand or show her the unit’s flashcards, which she can still read. It must be bewildering for such a previously unemotional, untactile person to have someone suddenly holding her hand or rubbing her back, so she often pulls away, but perhaps she will become used to this from me over time. I hope so because I think it might soon be the only way I can make any meaningful connection with her.
Having seen the videos on the internet about what happens when you give dementia patients a doll, I took a Baby Annabel to India with me this time, as something the whole unit might like. Most of the ladies there are at the stage where they sit around with a vacant gaze, though the staff do their best to engage them, they’re really no longer capable of much interaction, such has been the degeneration of their brain.
My mum seemed to like the baby, but she lost interest within a matter of a minute. Perhaps she will like it when she gets used to it. Who knows?
People ask me how my mum is and seem surprised when I shrug and say she seems well enough physically but mentally she seems to be slipping away. Perhaps there is a difficulty for people who have never encountered dementia before in accepting that it is a progressive, terminal condition. It’s almost as if some people expect her to have made an improvement and continue getting better and they’re shocked when I remind them that she isn’t going to be getting any better. My mum must have had dementia for at least the last 10 years so she’s probably doing quite well in comparison with some, I suppose. I don’t really know.
When I left her last Thursday afternoon, she was asleep and I didn’t want to disturb her, but that made the guilt at leaving her more acute this time: who knows how she’ll be when I next see her in April? At least I know that she’s comfortable and well looked-after and safe.