As we age, we measure the passing of time differently. At least, it seems that way to me.
A day is gone, and I don’t know where it went! It’s lunch time already. Hey, it’s 7 o’clock, News time! Wow, it’s 11pm, way past my bedtime! Another day…just gone, disappeared; and I didn’t do this, or I didn’t go there, or I forgot to..…. Surely, I was never that inefficient?
Dorothy, with Alzheimer’s, doesn’t seem to relate to time like that. It seems to me that she just lives in the moment, that brief span of maybe 30 seconds, which becomes her entire and sole focus. She has lived through uncountable moments, but the only one that counts, is ‘now’. Yesterday, as she sat beside me, she leaned across unexpectedly, spontaneously, and planted a kiss on my cheek! I hasten to regretfully add that I have seen her do the same to another resident and to the staff!
But, for all that, such moments are treasured; each one a gentle reminder of love breaking through somehow, like a tiny chink of light through a locked door in a darkened room. What preceded it, or what comes next, doesn’t seem to matter. For example, one night last week I stayed with her for dinner at her care home and afterwards tried to prepare her for bed. My first attempt to take off her top garments, ready for her ‘nightie’, was forcibly rejected. So, I desisted and went to the lounge and watched TV with her for ten minutes, then I tried again. A different moment, a different result and success!
On another day recently, I took Dorothy out to the car for a drive. She instinctively and automatically reached for the seatbelt, and I just helped her with the final click. As we drove off, I remembered I needed to buy a couple of items from a supermarket on the way, so that was an opportunity to take her shopping. After parking, I went around to the passenger side to help her out and then discovered she had socks on her feet, but no shoes! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed! So, we abandoned the outing and returned to her home and didn’t venture out again because her shoes couldn’t be found. A thorough search by the staff was unsuccessful, so I left her there and drove out to buy her a (third) new pair just as the shop was closing! Luckily, I had previously recorded most of her clothing and shoe size details (that’s a good hint for partners!). I now only buy her shoes which have no tongue or laces; instead, the shoe has a top which ‘folds’ open and is closed again across the top with a Velcro pull-over strap. Such a clever idea – with the folded front open it is really easy to fit on to the foot and, once the Velcro strap is in place, it is a firm fit and very safe for walking.
Missing items of clothing is commonplace. I imagine it would be so at any care home. Shoes, slippers, singlets, socks, tops, pyjamas, all grow legs and go hiding; in laundry baskets or in any one of the dozen or so other residents’ drawers and wardrobes, even out in the garden – and goodness knows where else! Having name labels doesn’t seem to help very much! The staff are vigilant and helpful but are no match for the other contenders in the “Great Mobile Clothing” competition! I have learned to be pragmatic and now accept that clothing need not be a priority in quality care. Finding that Dorothy is settled and happy ‘at home’, is at the top of my list. I visit frequently and always find her clean, nicely dressed, well fed, and ‘happy in the moment’, and that’s what is important, and makes me happier, too!
This month marks the end of her first year in care. My world will never be the same without her by my side, but I take solace in having weathered it, so far, still learning to live alone Day by Day – or should that be Day to Day?