Week Thirty

Mammy on a snowy first footing only about 6 years before…

The dementia doctor has accepted that Mum will need fully funded Health Care and that ‘Gold Acre’ is the best place for her. She has agreed to apply again to Gold Acre. That means that I can go and have a look around. Hopefully, seeing the place will reassure me and at least some progress is occurring.
I’ve updated Debbie and she has spoken to Julia, who is feeling guilty for not visiting Mum.

At the hospital today, Mum was pacing the corridors and had a face like thunder. She was clearly distressed and angry, but I got her to sit down with me. She was quite unintelligible and was asking and answering her own questions with great belligerence. I got the impression that she thought she had had a fight and someone had something that belonged to her, but I don’t know. I got her to drink a glass of water, then began to massage her back and shoulders again. That did the trick. She loves the massage and her scattered words indicated that she wanted to be massaged like that forever. She smiled at me then and asked who I was. I said Dawn and she acknowledged that she has ‘got a Dawn’. I laughed and said that I was Dawn and she was Avril and she seemed to accept it and be happy. Whatever had distracted her before had now been replaced with a feeling of well-being and she was warm and responsive again. I kept up the massage as much as possible, whilst she soliloquised, “Who are you?… Avril… Oh, I see…and ‘Kaka?… I don’t know…It’s mine though… Over there…I’ll get it back.” The rest I couldn’t follow.

On Thursday evening I was at a ‘girls’ night. One lady asked how I know Isabelle and I was telling her about being disowned by Mammy, and Isabelle and her dad taking me in. The lady was horrified that my mum could have disowned me and, like many people, couldn’t understand why I then chose to take her in and care for her when she was in need. Immediately two Bible scriptures came to mind – “Honour your father and your mother” (Exodus 20) and “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23v. 34) I note that the 5th Commandment did not say, “Honour your father and your mother, only if you think they deserve it”. No matter what she did or does, she is still my mother, who brought me into the world. She did what she could, and it is for me to do the best with what I have and give all the love and support that I can.

The electric light outside makes the snow flurries dance and swirl like fireworks. This fabulous display lasts so much longer though. This winter has been so much colder than the last. Apart from my one ‘snow-drop’ there are only a few buds, no flowers at all, and it is already February. Today the garden is hiding underneath a thick blanket of snow. The path looks like a giant hop-scotch, marked out by thick white lines. It’s like Narnia, but without the white witch and with hope.
Today is day three of settled snow, but the sun has been shining and most of the roads are clear, although the pavements are still treacherous. The rooftops are dripping and all looks beautiful.

Yesterday Isabelle went to the hospital for her test results. I thank God she no longer has breast cancer. It has not spread. She has chosen a difficult path of chemotherapy and other drugs, which will continue over the next five years – to improve her chances of a long life with no recurrence of the cancer. We are going to celebrate tomorrow with a day of luxury at Eden Hall Spa.

More snow is forecast, so I went to Mum again this afternoon. She looked disgruntled and lost.
I approached with a “Hi there, you! Can I have a hug?”
She allowed the hug, but began to say, “No, it can’t…I’ve got to stay here…forever…I think…and Cacker and Tatter and Mammer…so they do!”
She looked as if she was going to cry, so I led her to a chair and we had another long hug. She indicated that something hurt in her body. I think it was her lower abdomen, so I told the nurse and tried to reassure Mum that maybe she is constipated again. With hugs, kisses and soothing words she soon cheered up. They gave her a banana flavoured ‘Fortisip’ shake, which I helped her with. She loved it. “What is that?” she kept repeating with sweet smiles. The smiles turned into giggles and raptures as I started to massage her back and shoulders again. Meanwhile, a lady with pink rimmed eyes and lilac eyelids sat smiling over at me, bemused by Mum’s changing expressions.
Another lady, who has been there nearly as long as Mum (I’ve never seen her with a visitor) hurries along the corridors, whimpering “Nobody wants me…nobody wants me!” Sometimes she will say that to a resident, but most of them do not know how to respond, so she rushes away again with a pouting, sad bottom lip and runs into the toilet. Then she starts again. She needs a hug too, I’m sure. Two of the men in there walk around trying to fix things and straighten it all out. They think that they are in charge. Nothing new there. A different lady was clutching a baby-sized dolly. She asked me some questions and I did my best to converse and to agree with her as I had witnessed her, moments before, having a shouting match with another resident. At least we were not in the room with the lady that always screams, “HELLLLLP!”
Suddenly Mum jerked and made as if to jump up. “I’d better get on with it!” she announced.
“What have you got to do?” I asked. “I’ve got chores to do… and the babbers!” she smiled.
I went to get the laundry and then left a more positive Mum to get on with her ‘chores’.

I’m glad I saw Mum yesterday. It looks like Nottinghamshire has closed down today due to snow. Most schools have closed as have lots of roads, so our day at the Spa has also had to be cancelled. Of course, Simon has gone to work. He will probably be the only one in the office.

Last night I watched a TV Programme – it was about Terry Pratchett and his fight against Alzheimer’s. (See Notes 4) He said that he wants to ‘make Alzheimer’s sorry that it ever caught [him].’ It is fascinating for me now to see someone in the very early stages of the disease, observing the first signs of deterioration. I was also interested to note that he was diagnosed as having the symptoms of a ‘variant’ of Alzheimer’s, known as PCA, where the back of the brain (normally associated with vision) is most affected. Listening to him describing his difficulties with hand-eye coordination, I was reminded of Mum’s earlier problems, although she was suffering definite memory loss too. Researchers on the programme were saying how ‘close’ they were to a breakthrough in finding a cure, but even Mr. Pratchett, in the early stages of the disease, admitted that he cannot wait that long. He had heard of a possible ‘cure’, – a LED light helmet – which he asked to trial. Subsequent tests revealed no further deterioration, but no improvements either. However, no deterioration is very positive, given the nature of the disease. I wonder whether he continues to use it. A doctor commented that he had probably had the disease for ten years before it was noticed. I don’t know whether that means that you either have it in you anyway (genetically), or that you somehow ‘get’ it and it takes a long time to manifest. I find that opens a string of fascinating and important questions. Anyhow, it also means that there must be a lot of people out there with Alzheimer’s, that don’t yet know it.

Now the heating has broken. Conor has lost his mobile phone whilst sledging in the thick snow and he is raw cheeked, cold and soaked through. But we had lots of fun and he is now outside, building a very tall snowman.
I did not go to see Mum yesterday as the trouble with the heating has meant that Mum’s clothes were not dry. Happily I could go today. Mum is still only sixty-two, but looks ninety-two. She appears to have shrunk even more – head bowed pitifully low, shaking, and shuffling along in green slippers, with the pockets of her cardigan scrunched between grubby, fumbling fingers. As I approached I watched her snap at someone, her greasy hair flat and wispy over her eyes. Despite her protests, I hugged her, her head buried in my shoulder bone. Her speech is becoming more unintelligible, but I knew she was distressed. We found a place to sit and I gave her some more banana milk-shake, lots of kisses and words of reassurance until she had melted again. She said she had five daughters and had lost them all. She was looking for Avril, Kacker, Tater, Acklewer and Wallerker…I told her that her daughters were safe and well and that she is Avril. Sometimes she smiles at me with a warm love and gratitude that is so beautiful. She is very receptive to hugs and affection at those moments. Other times she looks at me like I have three heads and horns…

I spoke briefly to one of the carers to ask him what he knows about Gold Acre. It is another hospital ward, so she will only stay there until her mood and behaviour are stable. Then she will have to be moved again. I thought that she was being kept at St Peter’s Wing until she was stable and then they would find her a permanent placement. He said Gold Acre is about two miles from the East Hospital. I don’t see the point in moving her twice.

When I returned from sorting her laundry, Mum was standing singing to a table full of people.

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