Not about me?

Because we are required by this current pandemic to be cloistered in our own little confined living space it’s easy to become introspective and self-centred. And, whilst it may be useful to do some honest self-appraisal, it is not healthy to over-indulge in one’s own self-pity!

For those of us who are now living alone, not by design, the absence of a partner is bound to be felt more acutely and I have found it difficult to avoid despondency. I confess to feeling a deep loneliness, not for the company of others, just for my partner of sixty-two years who is has been in care for these last fifteen months and counting. I know she has the best care possible and that care is something that I can appreciate even more, now that I am not permitted to visit her (because of the coronavirus restraints). I am now able, indeed forced, to ‘let go’ in a way I couldn’t in earlier times, and learning to fill my life with other activities, albeit they are house bound! Well, not quite all, we can go out for a walk! With weeks of solitude yet to come, the challenge is not what to do but having the will to do it!

Such an unplanned incentive occurred a couple of days ago when a fellow resident, here where I live in a retirement village, brought his ‘sick’ computer to me for a ‘heart transplant’ (hard drive replacement) and I actually enjoyed getting into my old role of PC doctor. And, as well, I am trying to get out and walk, to relax a little more, even enjoy doing some crossword puzzles and having a mini spring clean of my villa. Writing these website notes is also quite therapeutic! Yes, I’m finding plenty to do, even starting a little ‘jobs to do’ list.

So, I am beginning to find this solitude can be put to good use and in the process, time is flying rather than it being oppressive. It’s helping me knowing that Dorothy is at peace in the main, and me being miserable is no help to her and was beginning to affect me more and more. I realise now that I have been feeling increasingly despondent with sadness seeping into my soul, steadily and relentlessly. But I know now that this enforced separation is helping me to accept that the discomfort and unhappiness I have been harbouring is pointless – even destructive of my wellbeing. The remedy has been facing me, but I wouldn’t accept it. I’m only now understanding the real and unpleasant reality: I must learn to live without my dearest love by my side. While I am able, I must live for her and to continue to be a presence in her current life, but I also need to be present for our children and grandchildren and get on with my own life. Easy to say, hard to fulfil, as my silly old mind keeps focussing only on Dorothy alone and on our past lives. Truly it is said ‘time is a great healer’, but only if you let it!

It’s something of a paradox, isn’t it, that we can draw strength from the happy past to enhance the present. Not being able to visit Dorothy because of this coronavirus threat has forced me into a new mindset; it’s helped me rise above despondency to accept that I need to get on with my life – a different life that includes Dorothy but doesn’t exclude my having a more diverse lifestyle.

Maybe, dear reader, you can identify with some of my experiences and agree with me that how we react to circumstances, indeed interact with others and live out our lives is, in reality, ‘all about me’!

A New Way Of Living!

I went for a walk today (it is a beautiful day, here in Melbourne) and surprised myself that I covered more than 3.5Km. on our local walking/cycling trail. I had to peel my jumper off near the end! Walking is important, as it always is, to keep our old bodies in reasonable shape. I shouldn’t use that word as my bulging tummy is not, obviously, in ‘good shape’! But you know what I mean. Motivation is the key, of course, but application is more difficult these days. I know it’s related to one’s state of mind and I really try to apply that ‘mind over matter’ mantra. It doesn’t work for me! I have become very lazy and it’s a battle to convince my mind that it does matter that I am not fit!

Now with this enforced ‘stay at home’ legal compulsion, I will need to make the effort to be more mobile. I had thought to go for a long ride on my (electric) bike, but I am so glad I walked instead – there were lots of other riders and walkers on the trail today and I would not have felt safe. Maybe another day; even the thought of a spill and injury is enough to keep me just walking at this time!

Keeping occupied at home is easy. In fact, there are so many tidy-up jobs to do that it makes it hard to know where to start, so I don’t. Maybe another day…..

Dorothy is OK. I phone in to her care-home each day and although she is not able to talk to me, the staff confirm that she’s fine. Last time I was there (three days ago!) she was beginning to ‘bond’ with a lady who had joined the group a few weeks ago. I am hoping that she will develop a sort of friendship with her because most of the residents don’t seem to interact much on a personal level. But despite that they have all learned to live reasonably harmoniously, most of the time. It is a big challenge for the staff, I know, to manage the sometimes less pleasant encounters that can happen between some individuals at times.  

There is, I find surprising, a remarkable calmness around and between the dozen or so residents and the staff in Dorothy’s (Alzheimer’s) wing. The different personalities and behaviours really require the staff to be alert, and I often notice the quiet way they intervene with some diversionary tactic when an incident is brewing! The range of ages is quite large and so are the responses to any given situation and I am so proud of, and give credit to, the staff who seem to be innovative, patient and perceptive and so aware of the activities that engage all these disparate personalities.

I think that’s a good place to end this post, with my gratitude to the staff who are so capably and carefully looking after my dear Dorothy, especially in these trying times with the coronavirus threat ever present.

Flying pigs…

It was always going to be hard to pick a topic for this week’s article – It must not/cannot be about this horrible viral pandemic – there is enough already written, and being written and we continue to learn just how disastrous this could turn out to be! Of course, my wife Dorothy’s Care Home is in lockdown (how quickly we become used to some words) and visiting is carefully restricted. So far, so good, she and the other residents are receiving the best possible care – I am so fortunate that she is where she is! We are both germ-free at present and trying hard to remain so. Another result of this current public health scenario is that, as well as being restricted in visiting Dorothy, my weekly ‘get fit’ class at a local gymnasium has been cancelled. That means I will have to (try and) be very strict with my self-propelled exercises here at home in my padlocked paradise.

We need a little lightness (says I, who is as sad as the saddest!) and I can’t help but add the little pink note below. But before I get too light-hearted, I should be drawing your attention to an annual event which will occur next week (but in a modified way now, I guess). It will be “National Advance Care Planning Week”, from 23rd to 27th March 2020.  One of those topics we should know all about….read more here: https://www.advancecareplanning.org.au/acpweek#/  Sadly, some events won’t be able to happen as planned, but there is a wealth of info on their site, so do take a peek at the topics that were planned, and see how they might apply to you and seek help as necessary.

So, now you’ve guessed, I don’t have my own ready-made piece to publish today but the following should suffice, if only to raise some chuckles, which are also in short supply at present!

 A message passed on by a friend: “Our cleaning lady just called and told us she will be working from home and will send us instructions on what to do

I will, like many others, try to be productive whilst being confined basically indoors. Certainly, I will need to keep up exercising and walking outside, weather permitting, but the ‘extra’ time at home could also afford me an opportunity to do a house clean-up! I have a tentative plan to methodically(?) sift through two lifetimes’ accumulation of papers and trinkets and of unused and useless junk that seems to have found its way into every possible storage area in the house and garage.Whatever you are doing, wherever you are, however you are in health, be kind, be prayerful and aware of the needs of others, especially those near to you (but not too near!) and be kind to each other. Our lives were often stressful before coronavirus, maybe you could join me in using this enforced separation to good purpose?

I aim to try to ‘reflect and relax’, and do a stocktake of my life, my attitude, my possessions, my beliefs, my use of time; in short – everything! ………I will try..…but pigs might fly, too!

Trigger Point Pain (TPP)

That title has nothing to do with Wild West shoot-outs! I was introduced to the bodily concepts of ‘Trigger Point Pain’ (TPP) at my local Council-run gymnasium. I enrolled there for a regular physical exercise regime to help me try to recover even a little of my former well-being. The instructor explained that TPP is a ‘tender spot in a muscle which can trigger pain, locally or sometimes unexpectedly, in a different part of our body’ and is a pain that can be inactive, latent or active. My funny old brain immediately transposed that concept, indeed that definition, to describe the ‘emotional’ triggers that cause me to experience the sadness and melancholy of losing my wife to Alzheimer’s. I observed, with only a little research, that the causes, recognition and management of TPP is incredibly like my current state of mind – I am convinced that TPP affects not just my body but explains totally how I feel.

For example, I read that the Trigger Point Pain (feeling) can:

  1. vary in frequency and intensity (mood swings)
  2. be delayed until after an event (delayed psychological reaction)
  3. localised or pervasive (momentary or forever)
  4. co-exist with other pain (worries and physical hurts)
  5. develop into a chronic state (just won’t go away)
  6. affect nearby muscles (other people in our lives)
  7. muscles may remain stretched long after an event (worries may persist or even recur)
  8. be exacerbated by prolonged sleeping in a fixed or contorted position (habitual)
  9. continue because of a poor posture (mind-set)
  10. may cause a chain reaction to other parts of the body (aches and pains)
  11. derive from over-use, or prolonged misuse, of a muscle (my brain!)

All those aspects are going to be prolonged or worsened, or at least affected by:

  1. weak muscles   (attitudes/mind)
  2. cold                    (lack of emotional support)
  3. drugs                  (including caffeine, nicotine or inappropriate medicines)
  4. stress & anxiety (real or imagined)
  5. relationships    (family and friends)
  6. financial stress (especially unexpected expenses)

I’m sure this analogy could be extended to dozens of other directly applicable examples, but you get my drift. For body or mind, or both, the remedies are similar! All the above symptoms and their possible responses and treatments are very individual; we are our own island, unique in every way and there’s no silver bullet or a master key to unlock relief. Remedies or an escape from our life troubles is always different for each of us!

I hate to admit it, but part of the remedy for me may well be to seek some ‘mental health’ help. That will require me to take a long hard honest look at my circumstances. Then try to be proactive in finding ways to remove or at least ameliorate my frequently felt depressed condition. I also know the power of prayer, and it is my somewhat irregular way to open-up to God, to seek spiritual help and healing which has sustained me thus far. My prayers also include my friends, whose ‘elder journey’ is also beset with personal and health problems, often more physically and emotionally far worse than mine………

Normal TPP therapy research says I should also consider: a long hot bath, a heat pad, or stretching! I interpret that, from a mental perspective, to include continuing the physical exercise routine but also to plan other diversionary tactics, like talking to friends and family, to read more, take a holiday, a new activity or a hobby, socialise more and join in more club or group activities. I find that easy to say, but my nature is to be more reclusive, and I resist. I miss the interactive loving company of Dorothy, and that is the core of my problem.

Recognising where I am on this journey, even writing about it, does help. And attending my physical exercise class is also helping me to see its relevance to my mental well-being. It is showing me a way to treat both kinds of ‘Trigger Point Pains’ but, like exercise and love, that requires dedication and perseverance!   

Birthdays & Balance

The guests were Dorothy’s dozen or so fellow-residents at her care-home. They had sung the ‘Happy Birthday’ song, the hip-hip-hoorays were enthusiastically chorused, and the candles were blown out efficiently. We had, thereby, begun to enjoy my wife’s eighty-eighth birthday!

The staff had served neat little fruit platters to each ‘guest’ and, after that healthy stuff, our daughter arrived and produced a large plate-load of yummy little home-made cupcakes on which was surmounted two candles each shaped as figure eights. Cakes and coffee topped off the happy occasion.

It was a sweet and superficially happy time. But for me it was yet another sad time, perhaps better described as bitter-sweet. No, maybe not bitter-sweet, more like sad-sweet. And that sadness persisted, as it often does, after I had left the care-home a couple of hours later. Of course, the reality of life is that such personal sadness must be suppressed or, better still overcome, by an acceptance of the way it is, not the way it was. And that’s where my mind usually finishes such rollercoaster rides, at rest but with no momentum, neatly parked.

I guess that birthday celebration highlighted the sort of ‘double-life’ I now lead, and it perfectly describes my normal state of mind: sad/sweet! It must be that way for many other partners normally separated for health reasons, it must be a common feeling shared by some of my readers. Personally, I am always thankful for the lives we’ve enjoyed together but…. without the ability to talk with Dorothy about our past shared experiences, the gratitude for them is tinged with, indeed shaped by, trying to achieve that sad/sweet emotional balance. The truth for me is get that balance right. When it is nicely balanced it’s a bit like being able to enjoy and savour the flavour of a well-blended recipe of a ‘sweet and sour’ meal. I am at that place most of the time, thank goodness!

Deep down, I know I can’t change our present day lives, and the best thing is for me stay ‘grounded’ and realistic, so that I can remain a joy to Dorothy. Although she may not really ‘know’ who I am, she often says, “I love you”. She is almost always happy and smiling when I am there with her. That is all the reason I need to be happy with, and for, her: may I always be sweet, less sour, and never bitter! So that’s my daily prayer, to be a source of joy to Dorothy and to remain thankful for God’s grace, without which I would be no good for her, myself or anyone else!

Yep. That’s it, get the balance right, then sweet and sour can be delicious!

Exercising – Mind & Body

“Use it or lose it” is trite, but true, and I try to keep it in mind. But the “flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak” seems to dominate, and my attempts to be proactive are often thwarted by my pathetic procrastination!

Dorothy, my wife, has been living apart from me in a care home for well over twelve months now. She is domiciled with a dozen or so ladies, each with their own ‘bed-sitters’ and bathroom. All the other residents in her group have similar, but actually very different, forms of Alzheimer’s.  When I visit in the late morning, I often find them all involved with their daily, mostly ‘sit down’, activities designed to help them keep some effective muscle movement and coordination. As well as that stimulation the staff often take residents on ‘one-on-one’ group walks inside and outdoors, even to nearby parks, when the weather permits.

I quickly re-discovered two important facts. The first is that Dorothy does not respond quickly or easily to the verbal or demonstrated actions at these daily exercise sessions and often she doesn’t even mimic the actions of those who do manage it. With some encouragement, she will try, but seems unable distinguish left from right and even after starting an action is inclined to continue it after the others, or the leader, have stopped. Complex instructions to her, like “place your left-hand on right shoulder” can result in some bizarre contortions or no response! I am always amazed at the range of comprehension by the different participants – some react surprisingly quickly and correctly to different activities. The leader, of course, shows by example but it’s clear that some residents, Dorothy included, can’t quite follow or copy, some movements. There is a big difference in response, though, when it’s time to catch a balloon or a small beanbag! Most, including Dorothy, can react quickly effectively and usually enthusiastically when it’s time to ‘catch and throw’. Surprisingly, Dorothy is mostly still a good walker and can still walk and sit unaided, and she’ll be 88 next month! Maybe some earlier-life-learned ball skills still come to the surface, like basketball/netball/games with the kids – perhaps those times, irresistibly, can find their way into the present…….

The second fact that emerges from these sessions is just how unfit I am! So now I’m ‘having a go’ at some properly controlled small-group exercises at the local council-run Gym each week. I will also try to do more walking, and spend less time sitting here at the computer or watching the TV. It’s a sign of the times that I would even consider my immersion in those activities. “In my days…..”, Yes, my life was more physical but now I have to admit to having succumbed to an ‘easy lifestyle’. There is little doubt that some of you, as readers of this blog with an infirm partner like me, have also become more reclusive and less motivated in lots of ways. It’s not easy to keep physically motivated on your own, especially having been spoiled by a loving partner for a very long time. Domestic chores, gradually or suddenly, become a real burden. But, you blokes out there who read these blogs, are probably in the same boat! I’m no role model, so don’t do as I do, but you’d better do what I say, and start getting more physical! It’s harder, isn’t it, to socialise when you’re preoccupied with a partner’s condition that is different, not just Alzheimer’s, but any infirmity – I am remembering some men friends who are even more preoccupied, and personally involved, with a partner’s problem than I am. All of that just reinforces my thoughts of going twice a week to the Gym which might also have an added ‘socialising’ dimension.  

Keeping fit, we all know, means much more than physical wellbeing, it must be wholistic. It must include meeting other people, like at the Gym, or my Probus club, or at Church, or visiting friends, or helping mates with PC problems, dining with a neighbour, keeping in touch with family and friends, and reading a book; they are all part of keeping fit in mind and body.

‘Use it or lose it’ applies not just to body, but also to mind and soul – certainly in my case, anyway!

Forty winks

When I don’t use my laptop computer for a few minutes, it goes to sleep. When I tumble into bed at night my brain usually doesn’t work that way and I toss and turn, sometimes for hours, until finally I slip into sleep. To facilitate the process, my doctor has prescribed a little pill, and that does work, more or less! The result of a restless night is a tired day and, as some of my readers will know, it’s a debilitating feeling being tired all day. Falling into a semi-conscious state whilst watching the seven o’clock news is blissful, but then having to concentrate on staying awake for it and the following drama series requires a lot of mental effort which results in me being wide awake. Result? Enjoyed the show, but now mentally alert when it’s time for shut-eye!

Reading in bed has proven to be an unreliable method of falling asleep; variable of course, depending upon the story, or the storyteller. The physical weight of a book can be helpful to induce ‘arm fatigue’ but the story is not often soporific and being enthralled means I might read too long! So, I now use a Kindle book reader which is much lighter and more comfortable but, again, I find it almost too good and if the story is good I will, still, read too long into the night. I imagine you are thinking “That must be good”. Well, no. ‘Cos then I wake up in the morning, usually at about the same time, but so tired I want to roll over and get some more sleep. Takes a bit of ‘won’t power’ to get up some days! Should be an easy solution: don’t read in bed. Then I toss and turn! The better alternative, I have found, is to listen (with an earplug) to music on the ABC Classic radio – but then sometimes the music is anything but conducive to sleep. I also try the ABC News radio and, depending upon the topic, that sometimes works, but even that can be variable. Those tactics, or alternatively nothing but endless thoughts, just keeps me awake when I want, and need, to sleep!

After discussion with my doctor about this sleep deprivation and the resultant, almost overwhelming, daytime tiredness, she sent me off to a specialist for a ‘Sleep study’. That required me to have little sensors stuck all over my head and body, wired to a chest-strapped recording device whilst I attempted to sleep, at home, overnight. Of course, I had a very restless night with all that paraphernalia attached, but the specialist’s analysis of the available read-outs indicated that in the time I was asleep there was enough data to indicate a degree of ‘Sleep Apnoea’. The next phase was to fit me up with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), a special face/nose mask and a small bedside air pump, designed to provide a constant air supply past the otherwise night-time collapsed muscles responsible for the restricted airflow. Less air, less oxygen, leads to some risks while our breathing momentarily shuts down, and that can be nasty for one’s body and the ‘broken’ sleep results in daytime tiredness. If you are interested you can read a much more scholarly description here: http://www.austin.org.au/Respiratory_and_Sleep_Medicine/

Well, the CPAP trial continues. A different mask tonight (the third) might prove to be more comfortable and may even result in my feeling on top of the world tomorrow. I am not sure which of the Sleeping Beauty dwarves I most resemble today: is it Sleepy, Grumpy or Dopey? Probably not ‘Happy’! It is an inconvenient truth that I might need to keep this CPAP treatment going for the rest of my life. For now, though, I will need to continue with these trials over the next month to discover whether I can find a system that enables me to ‘sleep easy’ and wake up refreshed.

I always thought this sleep business was simple: just turn off the light, turn over and go to sleep. Sounds easy but, in fact, it’s a complex subject- it seems the ‘quality’ of the sleep is the important factor. You see, I never dreamed (!) that I was stopping sleeping – and, momentarily, breathing – so many times during the night. Tonight, I will sleep on it (or with it), for tomorrow is another day!

How many winks? I wonder who decided, and why, forty was established as the optimum?

A daily difference

What a difference a day made
Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain

Those lyrics were written, I have discovered, when I was barely twelve months old, for a song which has kept re-appearing ever since, rendered by countless singers, especially after WW2, and it’s still one of my favourites. It came to my mind again recently after a visit to my wife, Dorothy, in her care home. I’ll tell you why……

This story started one day last week – it was one of those lovely days we often have in Melbourne after a horrific rainstorm like the one we’d experienced just the day before. On arrival at her care home, I suggested to Dorothy that a visit to the toilet would be a good idea before we went for walk outside; one of the care staff heard me and offered to take Dorothy to her bathroom while I waited in her bedroom. Unexpectedly, within seconds, the helper called out urgently for help. I rushed in and was confronted by her balancing Dorothy, still fully clothed, half-standing but awkwardly angled across the toilet! Dorothy had her eyes closed, was dribbling saliva and was trembling, partially supported by the helper. In a stunned state I quickly sought help and a nurse, and another helper were there, miraculously it seemed, almost instantly. And it wasn’t long before one of the visiting doctors also appeared and all the appropriate protocols were carried out; things happened fast. I must admit I felt powerless, and I was shaken and teary, so some of the staff then gently attended to me! Dorothy rested on her bed for only about five minutes or so (recovered quicker than I did!) and was keen to be up and on the go again!

Taking things quietly, we sat and enjoyed a coffee, then it was agreed that a gentle, careful walk would be OK. So off we went on our only-too-familiar inside walk which I think actually strengthened Dorothy, but I was still ‘rattled’! After an hour or so, I realised that it would be best for me to go home so we could both resume some normality. But sleep didn’t come easily for me that night, and next morning I didn’t rise early and waited until after lunch to visit her.

I steeled myself to expect that, maybe, Dorothy would be ‘out of sorts’ as well but, guess what! She greeted me with a smile a mile-wide, eager to have a go at anything and full of vigour. Wow, that woke me up! So then we spent a happy time walking, colouring pictures, looking through the daily paper, and enjoying a coffee together, all the usual pursuits. If anything, she was more assertive (“bossier?”) than usual, but clearly totally recovered from the episode of the day before.

Yes, what a difference a day makes!

Look who’s talking!

Today, Dorothy’s care home organised an afternoon entertainment by a clever ventriloquist-puppeteer. I arrived after the show had started to see Dorothy in the front row, totally absorbed with a smile a mile wide! I quietly sat at the back until after the show, then disclosed my presence with the suggestion we go for a walk together. She happily greeted me, I reminded her I was Bill, her husband and she responded with a lovely welcoming kiss! Remarkably, there’s still a remnant of our love tucked away there, but no immediate remembrance of the show she’d just experienced; clearly, I’m still a popular boy, though!

I remarked to her how everyone seemed to enjoy the show; but she didn’t recall any of it, at all. How amazing is this Alzheimer’s! Recognition and recall of any event in Dorothy’s past is patchy and has been so for several years now. No wonder, then, it is such a joy to me whenever there is even a glimmer of who I am or was; whether she ‘knows’ me or not is less important than seeing, and feeling, that she is deriving some pleasure from my presence, now, and that’s what keeps me coming back for more!

As some of my readers already well know, having a partner living apart in a care home always results in an emotional load on the one still at home; separation is tough and is a constant burden. I think I am finally coming to terms with its permanency and have learned to ‘accept what I can’t change and enjoy what is still there’ even if what we have today is a million smiles away from where we used to be, just a few short years ago. That recognition made me pause and think about all those families who have suffered trauma in all those awful fires and floods recently. They know, all too well, the real agonies of physical separation, not only in some tragic cases of a family death, but also the loss of their homes and possessions. I can only pray that they will feel the outpouring of support for them and that they find solace and strength to cope with the heartache of such devastating conditions. My life’s disturbance is but small in comparison.

The way forward for me, and I suggest to other partners of those with Alzheimer’s, is accepting what I can’t change, to live today as fully as I can and move onwards having learned from the past, but not be entirely defined by it. For Dorothy, learning from the past is not an option, and living today is enough. That’s why my visits count, maybe as a meaningful link, but always good for that ‘moment’; which means that I need to be emotionally stable and retain a healthy, happy disposition. Like the fires’ victims, in a small way, that’s not easy!

Perhaps, as we’ve recently been reminded by an old Goon song, we should “Always look on the bright side!”. That’s what I try to do but, as my kids’ might say, “Look who’s talking!”.

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!