Being there….

Today I was allowed, by prior arrangement, to visit Dorothy for an hour. I have been told that provided I stay in her restricted area I may visit “every few days”, and I am happy to abide by the Care home’s new coronavirus ruling; I well understand the need to keep a tight rein on visiting and I appreciate that it is necessary for the wellbeing of Dorothy and for all the residents and staff. I have other friends at that same establishment, but not in the Alzheimer’s wing, and I am currently not permitted to visit them in their rooms and had to leave their shopping and a message at the front desk.

My times with Dorothy are often not therapeutic for either of us. Today, for quite a while, she definitely did not want to acknowledge my presence but finally took my hand and agreed to “look at me”. I tried to explain who I was, but all I could elicit was that “Bill was a lovely man” and “he always was”. So, even though I wasn’t necessarily Bill, that statement made my day! We then shared the exercise session, which means I sat with her and encouraged her to follow the instructor, not very successfully. She just isn’t able to follow instructions and, when coaxed into action, tends to continue it long after everyone else has moved to the next one, e.g., she is still half-heartedly ‘rowing’ while everyone else is ‘pedalling’! Mind you, in the group of eight or so participants, only one or two are able to properly follow the instructor’s motions; exercises like that really only work well when there are enough people actually following along to help provide an incentive to copy each other. Dorothy, however, is happy to walk at any time, holding hands, and we do that incessantly – I guess it is exercise for me, too!

Today I took in the bundle of Christmas cards we’d received and read aloud all the names and messages but, sad to say, none were understood, and she became distracted quickly; I persevered, but to no avail. There are times, though, when she does seem to enjoy it when I read to her, briefly. The same with TV; it rarely holds her attention, even at sing-along time. It is not easy to lead and encourage someone with Alzheimer’s to participate and respond. The effort required can be tiring and ultimately mentally exhausting and, dare I say it, demoralising – and depressing; and if I feel like that when I can walk away, how incredibly hard it must be for the staff and, more so for those of my readers who can’t walk away, those who are living with such a partner in a home situation!

I am so grateful for the care and patience Dorothy receives at Blue Cross. As she is aging, I am too, and admit to feeling more and more tired every day – it takes a great effort to remain ‘balanced’; everything I am involved with, even caring for myself, seems to get harder and more complex. I have almost forgotten how to repair a computer – now there’s an admission of my frailty! But I take everything as gently as I can, one day at a time, refusing to allow anything or any challenge, to dominate. Keeping as alert and fit as these old bones permit is the least I can do, so that I’m there for Dorothy even though she doesn’t recognise me as her past-life partner. It seems she mostly sees me as ‘just a visitor’, and doesn’t often talk with me coherently, but today she told me about Bill in a rambling way and ended with: “I love him”. Clear as a bell it was! That’s the best part of any visit, just to hear that. And I can only hear it if I’m there……