Dorothy does enjoy my visits, I am sure, when I am there. But I can be away for a day, maybe more, and she doesn’t seem to miss me. She seems to live fully and happily, but ‘just in the moment’.
When I am with her we walk together a lot, both within the building and in the surrounding streets. Sometimes, when the weather is suitable and I have our car, we go for a short drive to nearby parks, or to a plant nursery and sometimes to a little restaurant for a cuppa. On a practical level, I fear she is no longer entirely continent, so I try to remember and ensure she has visited the toilet before we go out, but these modern paper undies seem to be the bee’s knees, so to speak.
Dorothy no longer reads newspapers, books, letters or even cards. Her span of attention is so small that reading just doesn’t work. I try reading aloud to her, but I can tell it’s not sinking in. Sometimes we watch whatever is playing on the large screen TV in the lounge. Singalongs are popular with most residents and, to varying degrees, we all join in; André Rieu’s concerts are favourites. The staff also play DVDs of other entertainers the residents like, including Mr Bean! Community singing to old favourites with a pleasant TV pianist are also popular, and we all like gentle music with waterfall and pleasing visuals, of course. But some old rollicking ballads do get us all singing along, too!
There are large jigsaw and other puzzles available, which worked well with Dorothy for quite a while but which are now just funny-shaped pictures that don’t seem to fit together any more.
Having a discussion with Dorothy is also becoming very difficult. It’s pretty much a one-way street, with me mostly relating stories of recent happenings of our children and grandchildren. I can tell it’s not really having any recognisable effect. However sometimes, quite unexpectedly, I do get a positive reaction and Dorothy will ask about one of our family by name! I’m so thrilled that there must be some part of her mind that reacts and remembers. She often mentions her Mum and Dad, or at least says those names, and I respond with a general nod or let the conversation flow on. Sometimes I remind her that they died many years ago, and she agrees that’s sad, then casually moves on to talk about other things. She sometimes initiates a meaningful discussion and will ask “how is your wife?” or “your children” or “how is your work at present?”.
When I’m not there, I’m told she often tries to initiate a conversation with another resident who may, or may not, be responsive. Then, if she meets with a rebuff, even a shove, it sometimes causes Dorothy to push back or slap or, even on one occasion, to kick (gently!) the other person’s shin! The staff are incredibly good at keeping an eye and ear open and where they perceive a likely incident are usually quick to distract one of the parties!