Morning till night

This morning, before I left home to visit Dorothy, the phone rang. I am always apprehensive when it rings and, sure enough, it was the care home to inform me that Dorothy had sustained a fall with no apparent damage. When I arrived there later, before lunch, I discovered she had some slight bruising on one hand and a small dressing on one finger. Later, over dinner tonight, she complained of some pain around her right-side abdomen. She wasn’t distressed and soon stopped telling me about it, so I guess she might have just strained a muscle when she fell this morning. I’ll look for any bruises there tomorrow, but the care home doctor will have examined her by then.  

There is no doubt that Dorothy’s mental condition is worsening; I know that Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, and I have come to terms with that, almost. Sometimes she is excited to see me and profuse in her welcome. Other times she hardly seems conscious of my presence and ignores my greeting when I arrive. Then I need to be assertive and positive, suggesting she rise from the chair and accompany me for a walk. Most times she is very happy to walk, hand-in-hand with me inside the building, or outside if the weather permits. Inside, we can walk the same almost circuitous route interminably, but everywhere is new to her even after a dozen circuits! Today I talked about our children, which didn’t really ring any bells, and when I asked if she knew my name, she confidently told me it was Sam! I confirmed my love but assured her I was Bill.

Many times she is very restive, and won’t be seated with me for very long before she wants to move. At other times she seems happy to sit and listen as I relate stories of people I’ve recently seen, or things or places I’ve been.  It isn’t possible for her to initiate a meaningful talk, so it is mentally exhausting for me to maintain a two-way talk! Sometimes she is happy to sit quietly, snuggled up to me and sometimes closes her eyes, and then I am also happy, knowing she is relaxed. Those moments are rare and precious.

Dorothy is eating well, seems to be gaining some weight, and the low levels of medication are keeping her comparatively stable and settled. She is still powerfully independent and reacts almost violently when I suggest, for example, that she might like to put on her nightdress and dressing gown before, or after, the evening meal. She will happily allow me to help her, but only when she is ready! The staff are so good at managing her, and maybe my presence in the evening is more unsettling than helpful!

Most of the time Dorothy is totally relaxed in my presence and, even if she doesn’t always know who I am, it really doesn’t matter – my concern is only that she is happy in that ‘moment’. Sometimes that moment brings unexpected tears, sobs, and after some consoling that moment is gone, for which I am eternally grateful. They linger with me, though, and leave me with deep feelings of hopelessness and despair. My rational mind accepts all that, but my feelings persist, and they affect my emotions for hours. And they surge back as I leave her and come ‘home’, feeling that despair and unhappiness and guilt, all over again. I am glad I am living alone, not a burden to anyone, and I can retreat to the welcome solitude of this little world and write these lines as some sort of release. Poor me!

I enjoy the welcome challenge of The Age crossword, but I do realise that I’m not giving myself enough exercise (other than those endless walks at the care home!). Because I am still not sleeping well, I have resorted to taking one and a half of my little sleeping pills (doctor approved), but more strenuous walking is what I need – better than pills, but I will need more resolve…….

Well, dear reader, you are probably feeling tired and sleepy after this long-winded message! Let’s hope we both resolve to exercise more and sleep better! Tomorrow I celebrate my 86th birthday, so I had better finish off and get to bed!