Keeping an eye open…

I’ve noticed over the last few months that Dorothy is more frequently closing her eyes when seated. That tendency started nearly three years ago after her prolonged comatose stay in that Beijing hospital when a severe bout of influenza accelerated her Alzheimer’s. So, I wasn’t surprised to find her, when I visited her in her Care home this morning, with her head resting on another sleeping resident’s shoulder, both snuggled up together on their lounge room couch! The pair of them looked so relaxed and peaceful that the staff agreed with me that we should just let them be, for a while – so cute! But our voices must have penetrated their reverie and Dorothy stirred, looked across at me and smiled the biggest grin and the spell was broken! Dorothy is not on any medication that would induce sleeping at 9:30am, but that Beijing hospital experience has left its’ legacy of lethargy and she often lapses into the that half-sleep condition with eyes closed, and then doesn’t sometimes respond when asked to “Open your eyes”.

When I visit, I always make sure to take her walking, both inside the facility and in nearby parks. I find she likes to respond to walking, and she is a surprisingly good walker – or has been. Since I came home this afternoon, I’ve had a phone call to tell me she’s had a minor fall, with no damage done. I have noticed that lately she is ‘dragging her feet’ more than usual. Walking has always been a favourite activity for both of us and, now, it seems to give her a pleasurable focus and there aren’t many other activities we can share. Although she does love to use coloured pencils and colour in pictures. Her care home has those requirements available and we spend some happy times colouring, one picture together, every so often until I can sense she is becoming bored! The staff here are adept at finding activities that provide some tactile satisfaction, like folding table napkins or doing large piece jigsaws. Unfortunately, many of the pieces ‘go walkabout’ – picked up and transported to hidden places, so some pictures can never be completed!

Watching TV, whether shows or movies, doesn’t hold the attention of most of the residents in this special wing, although Mr Bean, Andre Rieu, and Community singing works for some, and is quite a treat. Following a story-line in a movie usually doesn’t click for most, certainly not for Dorothy. But she rather enjoys a few turns of a waltz when Andre’ is playing! Every morning, before lunch there are some seated ‘exercises’ and although Dorothy tries, she just can’t get her limbs to synch with the example of the trainer. Never mind, she can catch a ball and throw it back as good as any – I think she’s better at that than me! But even at that activity time, she will often close her eyes and drift off into a serene ‘sleep-state’, momentarily.

Some days she’s as bright as a button, but most times, those eyes can slide shut very easily. What a joy when, unexpectedly they open, and that lovely welcoming smile emerges……. Even I keep an eye open, so I don’t miss that!