It’s time I reviewed Dorothy’s wellbeing. I am happy to report she is in good health and enjoys my visits and now welcomes me as ‘her Bill’ almost every time. Even though we are not able to enjoy any meaningful conversation we do have a happy time together. I have been riding my (electric) bike there and staying for three or four hours, sometimes joining in the 11am exercises. Lunch or Dinner follows that, and although it’s good to share a meal with her, it seems that is not encouraged by the staff, so I go to the little in-house coffee shop and have a ricotta roll or a biscuit and coffee and return to take her for an after-meal stroll.
Dorothy sometimes suddenly starts to cry for no apparent reason but will stop just as quickly; some days worse than others. That’s been a part of her psyche for the past few years and her medication is designed to ameliorate that. Today she only cried once, briefly, and was soon consoled then we ‘talked’ about what our children were doing, or about what a lovely day it is, or anything else which might shift her focus as it never stays on any topic for more than a few seconds. Today at exercises she was unable to follow simple instruction like ‘raise your hands above your head’ or, at best, did so belatedly while the rest of the group had moved on to the next instruction; this delayed response was despite the fact that she is watching others in the circle as they follow the leader. Dorothy has good reflexes when asked to catch and throw a lightweight soccer-sized ball and, once she understands an instruction, can do all the required motions, even bouncing the ball and counting each throw.
Recently when I have dined with her, she sometimes seems to have often forgotten ‘table etiquette’ and will use her fingers and hands directly into the food but, with coaxing, will revert most times to using her fork or spoon. Maybe that’s why some of the staff seem to dislike me being there at mealtimes. Nevertheless, she has a good appetite and will eat whatever is put in front of her and doesn’t interfere with the other people on her table – at least when I am there! All our married life she has always enjoyed, and only chosen, black tea to drink; now she happily accepts white tea or coffee without expressing any disfavour! Whenever I have eaten with her, she usually eats all the meal, all three courses! There is no doubt she has not lost weight!
I try reading aloud to her from a magazine and from newspapers, but she doesn’t comprehend the topic and soon tires of my reading. I love it when she volunteers to read; she can recognise and say each word but somehow the words don’t make a sentence, they are just words that have a single life of their own, each hardly connecting to the next and, after a short while she loses interest and becomes distracted. Watching TV doesn’t hold her attention either but singing-along and listening to old favourites whilst watching the spectacle of Andre Rieu will often stimulate responses from Dorothy and the other residents – however for visitors like me, that can be overly repetitive and boring! So, today, we walked the halls and outside paths and sat with the sun on our backs, holding hands and enjoying the moments. Sometimes, talking is superfluous and we need to stop and just feel the peace of early spring sunshine!