Week Seventeen

The Rock n Roll Dancing Queen

Yesterday Mum’s Gynaecology appointment was for 1.45pm and I had to be back at Conor’s school for a show at 3.30pm, followed by a performance at Joshua’s school at 7.30pm.

I was thinking that the Gynaecology appointment might be a waste of time as the problem came and went about a month ago. The waiting room was packed when we arrived, and filled to overcrowded whilst we waited. Thankfully, she was called first and sent straight for an ultrasound scan. They had to do the scan internally and she didn’t like that at all, but was very patient.

The waiting room by now was standing-room only. Again Mum’s name was called immediately and we were seen by the doctor. The process that followed was lengthy and confusing. The doctor thought that Mum did have a problem, but she was more concerned that the scan had shown her womb lining to be much thicker than it should be. She tried to take a sample of the womb lining with a very long and very sharp looking instrument, but to no avail. After consulting a higher power, she returned to say that it is very important that Mum has this sample taken on 28th March, that it must not be delayed and that she will need a local anaesthetic and will feel very uncomfortable afterwards.

Unfortunately, I am supposed to be in Newcastle that day, but the doctor stressed that this is more important. Mammy was very jolly and compliant, but had no idea what was happening.

Disappointingly, and despite our relative swiftness, we got to the school just after Conor’s show had finished, but he was so pleased to see his Nana and insisted that we brought her back home for a cuppa. It worked out perfectly as I was able to take her home, have dinner and then out on time for a brilliantly staged performance of ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ at Josh’s School. I felt grateful.

I was left feeling very strange about Mum. I suppose the awareness of her mortality and other health problems hadn’t occurred to me. I was looking only at her dementia, as she is so strong physically.

***

We now have a date for the ‘Broad Glade Review’ – her six weeks’ assessment. It is a fortnight today – Wednesday 26th March.

More good news is that the Gynaecology appointment has been rescheduled for Thursday 20th March; so I can still go to Newcastle.

Monday night I had an unpleasant dream – all my family and friends were looking down and shaking their heads at me, as Mum sat depressed in the corner. They were blaming me for Mum’s misery and trying to guilt-trip me into taking Mum out of Broad Glade. But I knew that to bring her back to my house was not the answer and so felt confused and upset in the dream.

I spent the morning sewing in name labels and beginning some spring-cleaning. There is much sorting and reorganising to do, especially in what was Mum’s room. It felt very strange to finally remove the room labels.

I have been pondering something different to do with Mum this week. The forecast is not for pleasant walking weather, so I opt for another trip into town, where there are more diversions and shelter. I picked Mum up after lunch and she was argumentative – about putting shoes on, going to the loo, etc.

We had fun in the lifts in town, looked at some sewing machines and went to ‘Waterstones’s’ irresistibly aromatic coffee shop.

Earlier Mum asked me “How are the boys?” and I was struck by how fully cognisant she seemed, about who I am.

As she laughed and we conversed, I thought how I really do love this lady now.

Later, Mum said “I’ve missed you, Dawn!” – as clear as that. I asked her why and she replied ‘all the things we did’ – and that it ‘seems a long time ago’, although she knew ‘it wasn’t’…

I asked if she liked it where she lives and she affirmed that she did, but…there was a but…

“Should I try to come more often, Mammy?”

“It would be very nice, but you are too busy. I only have me to think about.”

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that the past has gone and it is today that matters. I want to make today count for something. If I can add value to her life, show me how.

Chapter 12

Mum’s appointment last week was for the Hysteroscopy (sample of womb lining) under a local anaesthetic, but now they say they will need to give her a general anaesthetic to do it, as it turned out to be far too tricky. So we await appointment number three.

We came back from hospital via Isabelle’s. Mum made a comment about how nice it was to be around ordinary life, because otherwise it’s just her alone. I think she is bored and lonely at Broad Glade, but then she was bored at my house.

Yesterday I took the boys, Mum and Monica out to Newstead Abbey. It was very cold again but Mum appreciated the arrays of daffodils and the entertainment from Conor and Monica.

Monica had picked out lots of photographs. It was good to see them – especially the older ones of my Dad’s family. Granddad looked so old at 43 and my Dad was not even born then.

Monica remarked how neglected Mum appeared. Her hair did look terribly greasy and her white beard has grown long again.

We got back to Broad Glade about 5.30pm and had missed tea, but the lady kindly said she’d get her something; meanwhile Mum was grumbling, unaware of my attention on her. She said it was ‘not a good idea to make a fuss’, that ‘it would only make it worse’, that ‘some people are just not very nice’…

I’m wondering what is going on, or is it all in her head?

***

Mum’s review at Broad Glade this afternoon went well enough. Although they acknowledge that Mum has deteriorated substantially, they do think that they have the resources to care for her. The two senior representatives from Mum’s unit were honest and positive. I was taken aback when one said that she loved Elvis too, that they were of the same era. I looked at her, fit and working and again felt sad for my Mum, so old before her time.

The constant coughing has been bothering them all. Apparently the GP has given Mum a prescription for more steroids, but did so over the phone without even seeing her. I shall take her to the GP next week myself and the staff also want me to insist that she has another X Ray.

Monica said that when she was living in Orkney, in 1995, that Mum had had to go to Aberdeen for a Bronchoscopy, because they were investigating the cough then – that was 13 years ago. Apparently they wondered then whether it was a nervous condition/habit?

Whatever it is, it sounds like she smokes 40 a day, according to the care-workers at Broad Glade. They also said that there had been an incident last week, whereby Mum was found standing facing another resident; she was apparently wringing her hands and saying that she wanted to strangle the lady. They did say that whilst this lady could be extremely irritating, it was totally out of character for Mum to behave like this and that they had to write an incident report.

I felt overwhelmed by it all and looked at my list of dry, academic questions as I tried to engage. I didn’t ask what kind of ‘dementia training’ the staff undergoes, nor about ‘contracts’ and ‘financial agreements/payments/petty-cash’ and asked instead about the activities that are provided and whether Mum joins in with anything.

They talked of coffee mornings, bar evenings, music and reminiscing. They said how they put her CDs on in her room, whilst she gets ready for bed. They said they have a new TV channel that has black and white films every afternoon and spoke of bingo and giant tennis. But I know that Mum doesn’t enjoy TV anymore, that she never liked bingo and, as for tennis…

I know she likes her music, food and lots of attention.

I asked if they keep note of her visitors – there was only one (her sister), who came during the first week. I suppose people think that if Mum is going to forget that she’s had a visitor, it isn’t worth making the effort? Personally I think, as Conor put it to me once, ‘at least she enjoys it at the time!’

I did mention the hair washing. It seems that the ladies do not get their hair washed as part of the daily or weekly wash routine, but only by the hairdresser on a Wednesday, which means they have to pay for it. I emphasised that Mum needs her hair washing more often than that, because it gets greasy and itchy, but that she is not used to having rollers, curlers or a fuss made. I don’t know as she ever went to the hairdressers in her life. It seems that the carers have a problem with this. I’ll have to work out how I can do it for her myself.

Anyway, she apparently became a permanent resident on 16th February 2008, so I now have to inform the DWP, DLA and various others about her new change of address.

After the meeting, the Social Worker and I went in to see my little Mum. The Social Worker will email Debbie with the update and hopefully she will respond.

I took Mum into her room and plucked her beard, which someone must have trimmed this morning. She had also been to the hairdresser and smelled lovely. We danced to some Elvis songs and talked about his life. She is very resentful of Elvis’s manager and has blamed him for everything that ever went wrong for Elvis. I suggested that perhaps fame itself was a challenge and she looked knowingly, with a coquettish grin and said,

“Fame has it’s good side and not so good. I should know.”

“What were you famous for?” I enquired.

“For my dancing… It was wonderful” she reminisced dreamily.

“And the bad side to fame?” I dared

“It’s all over so soon!” she sighed.

She has always loved dancing, but has never been famous as far as I know. I dare say she created a bit of a stir on the dance floor though.