Week Twenty-Three

“This is your life” – At Porchester Road

Today as I set off to see Mum at the hospital, I felt a great peace. All shall be well.

I had a chat with the lady in charge, then booked Mum’s belongings in and labelled the CDs and ‘This Is Your life’ book, that I’d taken.

Mum has had food, drinks and medication during these 24 hours and allowed herself to be washed and changed. She is much less angry today. There seem to be a lot of staff around who showed an interest in hearing about Mum and were very accommodating, particularly considering that I was there out of visiting hours. The general environment is much more volatile than Mum is used to, with lots of sudden, dramatic incidents, screams and mini emergencies.

I went nervously into the dining area where Mum was and said, “Hello Mammy”, and went to hug her. I got the old response of tears and hugs, so I took her away to a quieter room, where I could help her with her food and pray with her. We did both successfully. She appears to be hearing many voices and conversing with them all simultaneously. She keeps mentioning having a baby and being too old and she seems to be seeing and hearing Daddy all the time. Sometimes ‘Daddy’ was distressing her and she started giving me shifty looks again, but she would switch from fretting, to giggling, to smiling, to laughing outright and back to panicking again, all in the space of a what outwardly appeared to be a complex monologue.

I found some of the residents a little alarming, but a quiet male resident came to join us after dinner and we put on an Elvis CD. Mum and I danced through the whole album.

Mum intuitively knew when I was about to go and asked would I come again. Of course I will. I feel very positive about all this now, although I’ve no idea what is next.

***

On Sunday evening I went back to Broad Glade, with Conor, to get more of Mum’s things and then went to the hospital. Unfortunately, it was the sad and angry Mum we encountered this time, hissing at us to ‘Go away’ and turning both Conor’s and my legs to jelly again. I didn’t know who to talk to or what to do, so we exchanged clean for dirty clothes and came away. Conor was very disappointed and I felt sorry that I had taken him. I had taken him to reassure him that Nana was happier again, but…

Julia is planning to go and see Mum tomorrow, so I’d better warn her, as I’d told her that Mum was better again. I won’t go tomorrow and I won’t be taking Conor until Mum’s behaviour is more predictable.

***

Julia went anyway and was ‘devastated’ to see how much she’d deteriorated. She described Mum wearing some ‘granny apron’ that was open down the middle. Apparently the conversation went something like:

“Hello Avril. It’s your sister.”

“No, you’re not!”

“I am, I’m your sister, Julia.”

“NO. You’re not!” said with such a look of anger and contempt – it just wasn’t Avril, she said.

Apparently Julia was on her way out again, when Mum called out to her, “Who are you?”

“I’m your sister.”

What’s your name?”

“Julia.”

Mum then sneered at her and Julia turned and left, without looking back. She wished she hadn’t been to see her there. Julia thinks it’s worse for us than it is for Mum; but I don’t think that we can know how it is for Mum. As far as I can see, Mammy is in a very bad way at the moment and she is finding life quite unbearable.

***

I spent about five hours working today – planning for my teaching job in September. I had horrible dreams last night about being in my new class, with uncontrollable children and unsympathetic Teaching Assistants. There is so much happening in my life that I have no control over, so I guess the dreams are not surprising.

The house and garden are a terrible mess. The hot-water immersion doesn’t work and the shower switch has decided to break as well, so Conor and I had to wash in the hand basin this morning. The cooker and the microwave are on the blink too, but we won’t let them get to us.

I really want to speak to a proper doctor at the hospital and get a prognosis for Mammy. I spoke to a nurse who said that it is difficult to discuss these things over the phone and that I should just ask to speak to a qualified nurse when I’m there next. He also suggested that I speak to Mum’s new dementia consultant. I’m not sure why they have swapped consultants. All he could say is that Mum ‘sometimes needs restraining, when she invades the personal space of others’. Also, he explained that it is difficult to get near her to wash her or give her food and medication and that they are having to give her space to observe her.

When Simon returned with the car, I went with Mum’s clean clothes, not knowing how I might find her.

I was met by a friendly nurse, who invited me to a carers’ meeting tomorrow at 2.30pm. I passed the lounge and saw Mum sitting smiling and relaxed on the couch. Great. I sorted out the laundry and came back to sit with her. I could see that she was doped up, but she was quite lucid, ‘chilled out’ and lovely. Several times she asked me if I wanted something to drink or eat. She referred to Dawn a couple of times and then laughed at herself when she realised that Dawn was there. She also said, with a smile, that ‘he’s still up there!’ and I guess she was referring to Daddy ‘upstairs still’, as he often was, at home on Porchester Road. We shared some memories of the cats, the goats and some of the clever things that Dad made over the years.

I then said that I needed to go fetch the boys and she asked if she could come with me, but I replied that they could use her help there and she glanced around and agreed.

I don’t know what it was, but I could have enjoyed a dose of that ‘chilling juice’, too.

***

Last night I felt so incredibly tired, that I could hardly stay awake for the boys’ bedtime and prayers. I couldn’t get up easily this morning either. I was ‘babysitting’ and had errands to do before the ‘carers’ group’ meeting, at 2.30pm. On arrival, I hadn’t a clue where to go, but I saw Mum and went to say hello. She smiled as I came to her and hugged her, but when I called her ‘Mammy’, she stiffened up and said,

“You’re not my Mammy!”

“No, I know,” I laughed, “You’re my Mammy and I’m Dawn!”

Her eyes narrowed and she pulled away again, doing the “No, you’re not…”

“Look at me, Mammy,” I said shrinking myself down, to be face-to-face with her, “Don’t I look like Dawn to you?”

“You look like her, but you’re not!” she insisted.

I made a sarcastic retort and excused myself to find the group before it was all over. The group consisted of 3 professionals, four ‘relatives’ and me. The nurse that I’d met yesterday gave me coffee and looked after me, as I was a bit tearful. The group were mainly coming to terms with Power of Attorney issues, hospital visiting conditions and stuff. The staff spoke about ‘Memory boxes’ and said they were impressed with Mum’s ‘This is your Life’ book. One qualified nurse commented on how useful it had been already for her to connect with Mum.

I really just wanted to know about the ‘What’s next?’ issues and what I need to be doing to support whatever is supposed to be happening. The nurse explained to me that under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act, Mum being sectioned means that she cannot leave the ward for 28 days. It also gives the hospital the right to calm Mum with drugs if necessary. That was what they did yesterday – injected a dose of Lorazepam. I asked why they didn’t give it more often, as she seemed so responsive and happy on it, but apparently it is addictive, which I wouldn’t have thought matters too much at this stage, but it therefore also loses its effectiveness when used often.

It is too soon for them to know what is best for Mum, but they will do the NHS ‘continuing care checklist’ themselves and that will then be sent to Social Services. I asked about Mum’s room at Broad Glade and she suggests that I speak to the Social Worker about this. It was good to speak to the nurse. She said that I must always find someone to speak to before I leave, rather than bottling up questions and issues. I feel a bit less lost now.

***

On Friday night I was at the hospital again. Mum had had another shot of Lorazepam and was ‘chilled out’ on the bed. I found happy ways to keep a conversation going and wished I’d brought Conor with me. I took a photo of her smiling, to show him.

I’ve noticed that she seems to be becoming racist. She told me last week that she can’t stand the staff nurse and today she was negative and unresponsive towards the carer coming in to offer tea and sandwiches – both of these ladies were friendly, gentle and brown-skinned. When the ‘tea-lady’ left, I asked Mum did she want some tea.

“Coffee please. And a sandwich if there is one,” she replied.

So I went out and told the lady that Mum had changed her mind. Mum was huggy and sweet to me and she seemed to remember a lot from early days again today. It’s a shame that she can’t stay like that.

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