One of the side effects of Alzheimer’s is remembering what is euphemistically termed a ‘toilet check’. In this case, it’s me remembering to ensure Dorothy doesn’t need to go to the toilet before I take her out for a drive! It is important, and in the early days I often forgot this simple but important task and then, once out in the big wide suburbs, it’s not always easy to find a ‘convenient convenience’, especially one which is clean and accessible. I always find it’s best if I go in with her to provide assurance and confidence, and to avoid her feeling alone or distressed if things aren’t right (like no paper). I was caught out one day a few months ago and she was distressed, and I couldn’t find anywhere close to take her, and when I did find a public convenience it was dirty and smelly and I vowed not to be caught out like that again!
When we are about to go driving, I noticed that she instinctively remembers to apply her seat-belt when she gets into the car, and once we take off she watches the other cars around us and sometimes remarks if she thinks I am too close to another car! She often reminds me, “I haven’t driven for ages”, and I say, “aren’t you glad?”, and she always wholeheartedly agrees! Further proof that she lives in the present, but some situations still resonate, and I try to find those little things that keep us close.
Another side effect is me remembering to take ‘things’ in to share. Sometimes I used to take a bunch of flowers but I have stopped doing that as, strangely, they don’t seem to be of any interest to her, and they don’t last long – they look awful after a day or two in that slightly warmer air conditioning. Management have some nice very real-looking arrangements here and there, anyway. It’s more important that I remember to take things she might need, especially small items of clothing, like nighties and socks which, although named, still disappear! I like to take letters, and postcards mostly from our grandchildren (who seem to be frequently travelling Australia or the world!) and I wrack my brains for anything else that might be of interest.
I talk a lot about our family, where they are and what they are doing, but Dorothy doesn’t ‘connect’ with much of that. And yet, out of the blue, she sometimes mentions the name of a long-lost friend, talking recently about an old primary school friend! In previous months, the staff and I had experimented with bonding her to a soft doll which, for months has not quite been of much value. There are now several dressed dolls (of baby size) around the rooms and they seem now to be picked up and carried around more frequently, by nearly all the residents. The care home management have called for some donations of genuine, actual, full size pieces of baby furniture, like cots and high-chairs. It will be interesting to see how that concept will develop as a sort of diversionary therapy. I am sure it will work for some residents, and we’ll soon see how Dorothy reacts.
Side effects…..personal effects….they do become common property to a degree, and some residents do wander in and out of each other’s rooms, picking up, and placing things somewhere else; and that’s fine, I think. It’s just like a large home with many bedrooms, and not many items disappear forever or get broken! One side effect is that Dorothy often is not wearing socks and now, seldom a bra, just because they’ve ‘sort of gone missing’. A few side-effects are good, and some things in life are really not important; comfort and complexity are not good bedfellows!